28 tries 2 finalists and a tie for 1st

Are you wondering what I might be talking about? Photography. Yes photography. More precisely I am talking about what goes into getting a composition that has that special zing!

I recently complimented someone on what I felt was an excellent capture.

The reply was – yes but do you know how hard I worked to get that one shot? I took tons of photographs and only this one turned out.

Have you had this experience too? I know I sure have! For some reason when a person is a “professional” photographer, loosely defined as a person with a camera that sells her work or is commissioned to take photographs, it is assumed that this person just picks up her equipment and goes out to take great photographs. Not so.

Let’s look at some round numbers. I usually photograph something every day. Most days I take between 50 and 200 images. On a full shooting day I might take 500. These are small numbers for a full-time photographer. But none-the-less these are my numbers. If I take an average of 100 photographs a day times 365 days a year that would be 36,500 photographs. In the past two years on my redbubble site, how many images do you think I have posted for sale?  10,000? A 1,000? 500? Lower still. I have 335 including today’s two winners. Yes I have some keepers that are not for sale. But still – you get the idea. To take good photographs a person must take photographs and a lot of them. Not in a shot-gun style hoping that you get something. But with purpose and intention, building on our learning as we go.

How about we get more specific? In my humble opinion, the most critical decision photographers and artists make is the composition of their subject. For example, after 28 tries at photographing the fog drifting through the trees across the valley, I came up with four compositions I wanted to work through the editing process. I am going to  share with you my personal critique so you can see how I chose the two winners. This doesn’t necessarily make my decisions right. In fact, you might have made different decisions. We each have our own eye and our own intention when capturing an image. However, humour me for a moment and if you like, argue later in the comments.

The first image – A Time to Wonder.

Yes this first image is okay. I like it but the overall square composition is indecisive about whether the darkest tree is the subject or the fog. There is too much room over the top of the trees and my eye keeps wandering around in the fog in the middle wondering what to look at. I will keep it though because if someone wanted to put words at the top as in an advertisement, it would work well. But it is not strong enough to stand on its own.

The second image – Fog Sun Trees

(image is available for purchase HERE)

It is much like the first but with a landscape composition rather than square as in the other. These are typically easier dimensions to work but I have been enjoying exploring the square. The darker tree is dominant with the fog providing a supporting role. With the space on the right it provides visual room for the fog to drift which is underpinned by the tree branches that have been shaped by the predominant winds. The image breathes. The sunlight is catching nicely here and there like frosting on a cake. The frame is tight and dramatic. It is a winner. Off to my  redbubble TREES portfolio it goes!

The third image – Where Our Dreams Go

Yeah, well what can I say? The composition places the significant tree to the right. The front trees take up two-thirds of the image. The fog is nicely dispersed in the background. It is a “nice” image and it should have worked but it doesn’t. There is no “zing.” The image remains flat, dead and uninteresting to my eye. So what is wrong? Huh-uh! There are too many trees the same size and value as the tree I want to stand out. There is the one in front on the right, part of one on the left and two overlapping on the same plane of the photograph on the left as the tree I want to hold our attention. My tree of most interest is lost in a crowd of trees. Trash bin here we come. But I am going to keep the title. I like that!

The fourth image – Lifting

(image is available for purchase HERE)

This is my other finalist. It was one of the last images I shot and was an after thought. I had been at the farthest reach of my new lens. I was loving being able to get up close and kiss the trees in the mist across the valley. But I pulled back and took a couple more shots. One of which is this image. So why is it a winner? My special tree stands out amongst its cousins because now there are many more shapes surrounding it – building towards its uniqueness instead of competing with it. The fog is even more dramatic in this frame because of the heavy mass in the background on left accentuating the steepness and mystery of the hill in the background to the right. The little trees in the foreground left, though not a star attraction, keeping my eye moving back into the frame and towards the tree with the most personality. There is enough context in this frame that the eye lingers and muses on the scene. To put it bluntly, it can’t be eaten in one bite. I like that about it. A way to my redbubble TREES portfolio it goes!

So next time you take a hundred or five hundred photographs to get the one you want, remember – that is what photographers do. They take photographs – a lot of them. Everyday. For years. As we take each photograph we keep learning, studying, critiquing and deciding which ones are keepers. Overtime, our photographs improve and keep improving for as long as we keep taking them. There really are no experts just willing learners.

Well, what do you think?

Sprout Question: What are you willing to do a lot of to get the results you want?

News Flash: Our good friend Patricia from Patricia’s Wisdom has a special Thanksgiving guest post with yours truly and she is giving away a copy of Precious Seconds to one of the people who comment on For Such Beauty is Mine ~ A Guest Post. Might as well take a moment and get your name in the draw.

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at http://terrillwelchartist.com

16 thoughts on “28 tries 2 finalists and a tie for 1st

  1. Terrill –

    Gosh, but it was fun to read down to the nitty gritty this morning, to learn about the decision-making process that goes on behind your lens! And while I like each of the photographs, “Fog Sun Trees” is the one that calls to my heart.

    Sprout Question: What are you willing to do a lot of to get the results you want?

    Write 🙂

    • Laurie I wasn’t sure if people would be interested but then I though about how I share my painting process and decided, why not give it a try. Yes “Fog Sun Trees” is from my perspective the strongest of the four as well. If I was being really cleaver I would have put it at the end.

      And if you had said anything other than “write” in answer to this question I would have thought you had eaten something bad for breakfast! Have a great weekend!

  2. Terrill,

    I did not know I was having an “artist date” with you this morning! What wonderful surprise! Thank you for the photography/composition lesson!
    I just viewed and commented on this two photographs on your redbubble store front!
    I don’t always have the language of why some shots work and others do not, yet my eye will tell me or my intuition will inform me why or how some photographs/paintings are “better” than others.

    I had to stay focused on your blog, all those numbers began to saddened me because I still have not figured out where my photographs have disappeared to! Most all of last years, over 12000 have vanished off my lap top. Thank goodness for redbubble, and for me blog, some are also saved on files other then in iPhoto!

    Yes, a trip out the take photographs usually ends up being any where from 20-50, with many angles of the same subject or object. I think it was Minor White who has said, “walk around the subject taking as many shots as you can, feeling the moment…” paraphrasing here.

    Brilliant work!

    • Jeff that is so sad about your photographs. This reminds me I need to back up the last few months work. I can’t always put it in words what makes a photograph or a painting “zing” for me either. But I insist on practicing. It is a good way to train our eye to “see” as an artist.

      I am sponsoring Waterscape Art Wednesday as part of the Daily Fine Art Themes on Google Plus and commented on over 50 entries of paintings, drawings, encaustic work and a few fine art photographs this past week. It is demanding work but like super charging our eye to see beyond its usual way of viewing the a work. It is like going to artist or photographer boot camp or something with the training have a direct impact on my daily work. So much fun!

      Thank you Jeff for sharing about your process as well and Minor White. Good advice.

  3. Terrill
    I love how your images take on a special life and light as you edit and explain your process!Your natural curiosity and delight with our natural elements are
    Inspiring!Thank you for sharing your Zing. ,
    I am inspired to paint again!

  4. excellent lesson on composition and photographic outcomes here. I so love the fog and then again trees – it just all touched base with this post.

    I am having computer connection problems today = someone suggested it was because of Black Friday and all the on line shopping taking place today???? I can not tweet at all…I was so happy to get here to read your words.

    My computer feels foggy today! maybe the sun will break through?

    Thank you for the shout out on our joint effort. Still not getting a great many commentors but it has had over 300 readers…

    When I am not getting the right results with my writing – I usually leave it alone for awhile and then often start over again – but I am willing to keep trying until I find the clarity of what I want to say…then I wrestle witht he beauty of the words.

    knitting on the other hand, I just give up on if it is so off…and cooking – I just serve it up! it is full of good ingredients = I am sorry if it does not look good too!

    Thanks for sharing Terrill

    • You are most welcome Patricia and I did share your blog everywhere I could think of… stop short of putting a big sign on the roof for travelers in low flying planes to read. It sounds like you have a very good idea about what you want to keep going at and what should be put down for later. By the way, it was really fun to read all the comments coming in. I feel so honoured. Wow!

  5. Thanks for the insightful commentary, Terrill. I see your points in each composition, but the first one is the one that grabs me because of the activity in the fog and the light along the rim of the tree on the right. It gives a feeling of life.


  6. I’ll surely head over to Patricia’s place Terrill to read what is sure to be a most deserved glowing appraisal. The fog seems to give those photos a sense of movement, but they are ravishing in every sense.

    I’m afraid that I too must answer with “writing” to that sprout question! LOL!

    • I am not surprised by your response to the Sprout question Sam. You spend so much time writing and it is a pleasure to read the results. Yes do head over to Patricia’s blog. I think there is still a little time left before she makes the draw.

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