Monday, 6 August 2012

Snap decision

I once knew a lady who lived to be well over 100 years old. At least that's what she told everyone - I never actually saw any documentary evidence and sometimes wondered if she was actually trying to pull a fast one to gain a bit of extra attention. But unless she had a remarkably poor beauty regime, the multitude of wrinkles on her face were testament enough to her advanced years.

People would often ask her the secret to this longevity (adding 10 years to your real age seems easiest to me, but was never mentioned) as if she may be taking some kind of magical elixir that one may be able to purchase in larger branches of Boots.

The thing that she swore gave her these extended years was chewing each mouthful of food many times over. I forget the exact amount but 36 springs to mind for some reason. In truth it's irrelevant to me as I'm lucky if it hits the sides on the way down. Based on this old lady 's theory, I should have died a long time ago.

But I guess there must be be an element of truth to chewing your way to old age. I'm no scientist and if Richard Dawkins were to read this he may well liken my idea to that of a teapot floating in space, but I guess chewing well means you are more likely to get the full nutritional benefits of what you're eating and minimise digestive problems. Who wouldn't live longer with a life free of belly ache?

It's this idea of good digestion that I want to bring into the photographic world. It may not extend your life, but it may extend your collection of pictures that you're happy with.

If you're anything like me, you kind of classify the photos you have taken into various categories of quality. Not necessarily in a formal way with a scale of points, but just a feeling in your gut that says 'this picture is ace' ranging down to an automatic delete.

The pictures at each pole of quality are easy to deal with. It's that tricky middle ground that can be hardest to decide on. Sometimes a picture that initially comes across as being a bit 'meh' and ordinary can, with a little work, turn into something exceptional.

When I'm not sure whether a photo has potential to be shared with others, I find it helpful to walk away from it for a bit. To digest it properly after having chewed it over. It's easy to get so involved with a picture that you no longer see it how it really is. Rather than discarding it forever, leave it for a week or two and come back to it afresh. This gives you the best chance to see it how everyone else will and you may be surprised at how pleased with it you turn out to be.

Here's a picture that I initially was very disappointed with (called 'eye on the prize'):

It's so close to being fully technically competent, but alas, because of the fast moving subject (and my lens having a less than speedy autofocus mechanism), the face of the gull is a touch out of focus.

With a photo of any living creature, it's generally really important that you have the face of the subject in focus, especially the eyes. Therefore, disgusted that this had come so close, I discarded it initially. But now, several months later as I revisit it here, I'm relieved I didn't delete it.

It may not win any awards for technical excellence, but I love the spirit that it conveys. The look of concentration and determination in the gull's eyes are clear to see, even if they are a touch blurred. Given that it's clear that this is an action shot, the slight fuzziness in places adds to the drama. There's enough going for it in other ways to make it a photo that I'm finally happy with.

We all know how persistent gulls can be and here we have that captured - this wily fellow will soon be enjoying beakfuls of bread, no matter what gets in his way. Let's hope he chews it at least 36 times.

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