Sea Blue Lens

Getting Over It


Yay, it’s finally here! I’m taking a new class in Kat Sloma’s Find Your Eye series, called Journey of Fascination. We received our first lesson yesterday, “Letting Go.” It’s about learning from our photographic mistakes and missed opportunities and then letting them go — not continuing to beat ourselves up about them. Our assignment is to write a photojournal entry about one of those mistakes, what we learned from it, and whether we’ve let it go.

Let me count the ways . . .

Oops . . .

Probably like most photographers, I’ve missed a LOT of shots for various reasons. Driving by and not being able to stop. Not being able to get to my camera quick enough. Losing the light. Dead battery. Wrong lens. Wrong settings. Operator error.

Where'd he go?

Where’d he go? Note to self: practice panning.

Some of those I can’t do much about. Sometimes you just cannot pull off the road to get that photograph, no matter how badly you might want to. Clouds and light change in an instant, and there’s no controlling that — not for the average human, anyway.

I try to keep my camera close at hand now. It’s usually on my desk, with the lens on it that I’m most likely to want in a hurry. These days, that’s my 55-200mm zoom, for capturing the birds that fly in and only stay a moment or two. I keep my battery and a backup charged and change it before it runs completely out of juice.

Darn it!

Darn it! Wrong focal point.

The mistakes that bother me the most are the ones I make due to lack of technical expertise or knowledge of my camera. When I read over this lesson, one very painful one leapt to mind. Several years ago, some dear friends asked me to attend and photograph their wedding. It was a weekend-long event at a beautiful location, and began on Friday evening with a dinner for all the guests in a dimly-lit restaurant.

I arrived late, as I had to drive a long distance after work to get there. For some reason, I decided to change my camera’s flash setting to “rear curtain sync.” What I wanted was to capture the ambient light, then add a pop of flash to capture the details. (I wanted a more natural atmosphere than straight flash would give me.) What I didn’t take into account is that this might work fine for a stationary subject, but not so well with moving targets.

Here’s a photo from that night:

Makes me want to cry.

Still makes me want to cry.

Actually, this image (cropped to just the instrument and hands) doesn’t look that bad. You might almost think I’d done it deliberately. But, believe me, the blurred pictures of people sitting around tables, eating, chatting, and laughing, were not pleasing. The worst of it was, of course, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. There could be no do-overs.

Fortunately, I realized my mistake right after taking the image above, and the rest of the weekend and the photography went fine. But by then the dinner was over and the damage done. My friends were gracious and forgiving, but my stomach still clenches whenever I think about it. Clearly I have not let it go, despite knowing there is nothing I can do about it.

The takeaway lesson for me was to never, EVER experiment with the unknown when the results are critical. Don’t guess, but plan ahead of time and KNOW what is going to happen if a setting is changed. Look up what I want to do and how to do it. Experiment on my own time, ahead of time.

If those photos had been for myself, I’d have been disappointed and probably angry with myself, but I’d have gotten over it. What’s done is done, and there’s no point in brooding about what can’t be changed. But in this case, I disappointed someone I cared about who was counting on me, and that’s the part that hurts. That’s what makes it hard to let this one go.


22 thoughts on “Getting Over It

  1. This class sounds like fun!

  2. I’m so glad you’re taking Kat’s class. I’d like to be joining you, but seriously, I am just OUT of money. Between tax changes and increase in insurance, I’ve lost $200 a month in what’s coming in. So……I can live vicariously thru YOU!
    This looks like a great lesson. You were brave to even tackle a wedding. I’ve had a couple people ask me about baby showers and engagement parties and I’ve refused because they were a one time event never to regain if I screwed up. I’m glad you caught your mistake. One “stop” on the Cuba tour I made a setting error. It was in a room filled with people moving around, harsh sun, etc. I set my ISO wrong and missed a lot of rich opportunities. Fortunately I had enough to keep me covered, but it was a note to self to check and double check as shooting-use that histogram.
    Your panning shot is too funny. It’s a road runner. No need to beat yourself up over that one. Beep beep. And I totally get the flying seagull-whoops for focus. I’ve done that a gazillion times and moving objects-geez, it’s going to happen. That looks like a pretty day though.
    I notice you didn’t put “remembering to put my camera in the camera bag” as what you’re doing (just had to bust you for that one, one more time).
    Looking forward to further posts from you, and hearing your thoughts. Part of the great thing about Kat’s classes is the chance to express in not only images but writing too.
    Missing you all the time.

    • You really did NOT have to bring up the no-camera-in-the-camera-bag incident again. But I learned from that one, too…that the iPhone is a pretty darned good back-up camera.
      And somehow I still miss you too! 🙂

  3. Funny thing about this exercise…we all get to learn that we all make mistakes! May sound kind of silly to say that, but look at what we usually let the online world see…nothing but our best images. And here we are talking about and showing what went wrong and what we learned from it.

    I appreciate your examples here, and how you got past it: “there’s no point in brooding about what can’t be changed.” Meanwhile, your valuable lesson about trying something new is one I will keep in mind.

    • It is nice to know we’re not alone, isn’t it? I admit to feeling a twinge at the thought of “publicly humiliating myself” but it only lasted a second. Everybody makes mistakes, and I trust you’ll all still love me anyway.

  4. Those once in a lifetime missed opportunities are so hard. I agree that letting go is so hard. The best we can do is learn from our mistakes and move forward, because we can’t go back. Wonderful post!

  5. This image actually is really great, with the blur of the movement! However, I understand how frustrated your were when you messed up the other shots. It’s hard to disappoint friends, but I’m sure they’ve forgiven you and you need to forgive yourself. I read an interview with a National Geographic photographer, and he said sometimes he takes 600 photos before he gets it right, so we’re in good company

  6. It is so difficult to let go when we make these mistakes, the photo above does convey the atmosphere so let it go! Great post.

  7. Oh, I feel your pain, Lee. It is hard to be the one photographing a once-in-a-lifetime event. I have so much respect for wedding photographers! But you learned a really great lesson, and you caught it before this affected the rest of the weekend’s photographs. I think it’s time to take a deep breath, and let it go.

  8. Once-in-a-lifetime events…I think I’ll shy away from those! So thankful, you were able to realize and correct your mistake!! I’m like Deborah, this exercise makes me not feel so alone in making mistakes. Sometimes I fell like I’m the only one! Your images made me smile, I trashed all of my bad ones!!

  9. Lee – oh, I completely understand that clench in your gut. As you said, to make the mistake for yourself is one thing – but to disappoint people close to you is another. I would have a hard time letting that one go as well. But you did learn important lessons from your mistake and here you are sharing them with the rest of us so that we can learn as well. Thank you for sharing.

    One of the many, many reasons why I stick with non-animate subjects.

  10. Bravo for going through with the event, I probably would have been too terrified to do it. What a very stressful learning experience. I would have a hard time letting go of that too. But on the other hand, wow did you learn a lot!

  11. I love the one of the road runner! Now where’s half the coyote? 🙂

  12. Thanks so much for your insights, i did a wedding once last minute with no prep, and maybe 5 memorable shots from the whole ceremony and reception that came out, only one of the bride and groom and at a bad angle. I just put myself in a no win situation. Better to say no sometimes.

  13. I can understand your feelings about this. I would have been so angry at myself. It certainly was a very painful lesson, but you also learned from it. Good friends are gracious friends – and they were.
    I do mistakes as well. I have learned to not be angry at myself but instead to learn from it. Good lessons, I have to say.

  14. Lucky you, taking another of Kat’s classes, so good to look at those mistakes & move forward.

  15. Thank you for sharing your mistake here – I’ve definitely learned something from it too. 🙂 – I have a hard time with letting go, especially when other people are involved. Kat’s course sounds great, looking forward to seeing some of the other exercises you do for it.

  16. Sounds like Kat Sloma’s Journey of Fascination is a great learning opportunity. And, yes, nothing is better than learning from one’s mistakes. As for the picture of the guitar player I actually think it’s great and I generally love the combination of blur and freeze by flash that this technique offers with moving subjects.

  17. I hope that sharing your experience here has made it a step closer towards letting go. I can really feel for you, how difficult that must be. I shot a friend’s wedding and found it to be the most stressful thing I’d ever done. I would not want to do that kind of photography for a living.

  18. Oh yes I too suffer from the shutter going off too soon and bad focusing, but hey at least it’s digital all we have to do is delete and play again…

  19. Oh, gosh do we all relate to your “missed opportunities” for whatever reason. That is the one thing that all owners with cameras experience. We have tons of company. I think it is super fun that you POSTED yours….good for you…..birds, if you get one in 100 I figure I am doing good. Lots of blurred wings, beaks and tails…. then the important ones like a child’s school program and everything is off and you get blurry yellow photos…ugh. Yes, it was super fun to read your post. smiles: sharon

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