the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

MITIGATING FACTORS

By MICHAEL PERKINS

IN LEARNING HOW TO MAKE PICTURES, we progress from the general to the particular, in that we initially learn formalized rules that apply in many or most situations, and then develop our own, shorter list of more rubbery regulations that most precisely fit our own approach to creativity. We learn from rigid do’s and don’ts, “always” and “nevers” that gradually bend or dissolve in deference to our fully realized style.

That means that, in photography, all standards are negotiable, even disposable. Think what freedom that sentence implies. In architecture, such a thing is not possible, since a building either has support or doesn’t. In math, such leeway is nigh unto unthinkable, because the specs in a space vehicle are either in tolerance (people survive) or out (people don’t survive). However, in a visual art, things work when they work, whether they adhere to a formal technique or not.

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Because of its fairly soft focus, this picture, according to some who may view it, is imperfect, flawed, or what might term a bad photograph. It had to be grabbed in a second of impulse because everything in it was perishable. Things like the approaching auto, because it was needed for scale, composition, and a sense of urgency: the storm, which was refracting the dying sunlight of a late afternoon in amazing, but fleeting contrast: even my car, since I was shooting out my driver’s side window and would soon have to move on to avoid snarling traffic. It is not a precise picture, but instead it is an image of an opportunity. I might, with an additional second or two, have guaranteed the sharpness that, for some, disqualifies this shot, but I was shooting one-handed, and on full manual, and the oh-what-the-hell rule trumped everything else.

But for me, everything else except the lack of sharpness works powerfully enough to “sell” the picture, to convey what I felt when snapping it. Crispness might have been an additional plus for the final image, but I will never know. I do know how rotten I would have felt if I hadn’t had a go at it. Emotions can often carry a photograph where mere technical precision can never reach, and you’ll know when the time is right to choose one or the other.

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