Sometimes we’re too close to our work to make the right judgment about whether it’s good or not good; whether an image is a keeper or destined to a life of obscurity in the deep recesses of a hard drive. More specifically I think we’re too close to the event or experience to make these critical decisions. We often return home from a trip or even just a local evening shoot, upload our images and start right in on the editing process, usually selecting one or two that jump right out, ones that we knew in the field held the most promise. Sometimes we don’t select any as “keepers” because the sunset was a “bust” or the light didn’t “go off” like we had hoped. These images inevitably sit around waiting to be “discovered” like the rejects on the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer (the Burl Ives version of course).
I’ve been laid up recently with some torn ligaments in my ankle, funny story actually as it directly relates to photography. I was walking down a flight of stairs and became distracted while looking up at the pretty sunset clouds overhead and thinking I should have gone shooting instead of going to the gym. The next thing I knew I was in a pile of pain on the sidewalk with some random passerby extending a helping hand and commenting about how much it looked like that hurt; occupational hazard I guess. It would have been a much more exciting story if I had been mauled by a grizzly bear while capturing 16 bracketed shots to tame the extreme dynamic range of my otherwise extreme composition. But I digress…
As a result I’ve been trying to finish up and/or catch up on editing and processing images both past and near present; a process we photographers refer to as dumpster diving (aka looking through folders for the images that didn’t make the first cut of our editing process). The thing about doing this periodically, which always amazes me, is just how many images jump out once I’ve had some time away from them and the experience of making them. There are of course images that I know the moment I press the shutter will become instant portfolio pieces and personal favorites. But then there are others that with time and fresh eyes work their way into favor. It’s not because we become desperate to find fresh work or perhaps lower our standards for what makes a great image. It’s because they are really good images and for whatever reason we passed them by the first time around in hopes of finding something better or god forbid more dramatic. You know, the ones that will garner more attention online.
This image was made during a trip to Belize back in February of ’12. I got home from the trip and was eager to select, process and start sharing my favorites. It’s a great example of an image that was overlooked during the first round of editing. My friend Ian and I had originally hoped to spend six days kayaking and photographing the barrier islands about 25 miles off the coast of Placencia, Belize. However, a number of variables conspired to thwart our plans and forced a plan B (suffice it to say that Trade Winds and leaky kayaks are not a recipe for success in the open ocean… ). We did however spend one night on Moho Caye, about 20 miles off the coast. Sunset the previous night had been a bust and with as much promise as these clouds held at sunrise the light I had hoped for didn’t materialize. With a little time under my belt since getting home and a softening of the unfulfilled expectations I had for the trip I have grown rather fond of this image. And after processing it have moved it over into the “keepers” pile. I love the soft arc created by beach and hint of contrast added by the breaking waves. The arc leads the eye nicely through the frame to the distant cumulonimbus cloud catching the only sunrise light to be found. Although it might not be as dramatic as what I had hoped for, overall the image works well; good light, composition and mood.
“Light on the Horizon,” Belize, Canon 5DII, 18mm, f16 @ .6 sec. ISO 100