Over the winter break I had the opportunity to observe my nine-year-old daughter using one of my cameras. The image-hungry girl greedily photographed anything and everything from all angles in every type of light. The sight of her made me enormously proud but also surprisingly jealous.
All too often I find myself in the same high-noon sun as my daughter. The difference, however, is that while she was able to capture everything that caught her interest, given the same situation I focus with laser-like intensity on getting out of the sun to capture an image of some soft light falling beautifully on one of the locals. That process is a far cry from my daughter joyfully filling up memory cards unconstrained by any photographic bounds or limits. Yes, I was jealous.
I started my photography career attending camera clubs with judges critiquing my images. It was a great way to learn and it worked. Both a positive and negative result of those competitions, however, is that it makes me strive for perfection in every scene. That intense focus on the perfect photo can actually get in the way of capturing spontaneous scenes that are every bit as interesting.
While editing images from a recent trip to Romania, I kept coming back to an image that I would normally immediately reject. It was taken on a Sunday at noon when church was letting out. I had expected the people in this small village to mingle after church and waited for everyone to leave before I went outside. To my surprise, however, everyone was walking home by the time I exited the church. I hustled and followed the townspeople down the road into the bright sun. I felt slighted. My grand plans for photographing after the service were ruined but I still had to shoot, regardless of the lighting situation.
I wound up converting this image to a black and white, letting it remain full of contrast. Instead of trying to play down the sun, I embraced its harsh light and shadows. The emotions, mood, and elements arranged in the frame ended up trumping what many would consider the imperfect light that they were captured in.
My resolution for the New Year is to remove some of the photographic limits engraved in me. I doubt I will be standing in the center of town spinning in circles spraying down the scene like a fireman, but I will try hard to view scenes through the perfection of the moment rather than the perfection of conditions.