Revisiting A Shelved Project... and finding a way to finally use it
We've all been here before. You work on a project that seemed promising, only to end up disappointed by the results. Feeling awful, your first impulse is to trash all traces of your missed expectations. But since you spent a considerable amount of effort on the project, you kept it in a pile. Throwing it out would be tantamount to admitting the project was a total waste of effort. At least if it's kept somewhere, there was always the possibility that the project would eventually be put to good use.
Hope springs eternal.
A year ago, I worked on a project that didn't turn out the way I had hoped. At the time, I had only blogged for a couple of months, and I guess I was still developing as a content creator. Being new to this undertaking, finding an excuse to publish content wasn't always immediately obvious. I mean, if there weren't any new product releases, I had to rely on my imagination to fill in the gaps.
Given the need to come up with content, I became preemptive. I started to plan for contingencies, in case I needed to provide content when the news cycle dried up. This is why I hatched up this project. Although to be clear, I really didn't hatch up anything substantive. All I had accomplished was arrange a time and a place to meet up with my collaborators to take some pictures. In other words, I didn't have a clear objective.
In retrospect, I seriously wonder what results I had originally hoped to achieve, if I didn't plan on a specific objective? So as you could imagine, the image capture reflected a lack of intent, and suffered as a result. I can't tell you how often I've revisited this project, in hopes of finding a way to backward engineer a purpose. Sometimes when I do that, it works. But in this case, it didn't. The more I looked at the image capture, the more I realized how much a lost cause this project was.
Still, I was determined to do something with this project on this latest round of wishing and hoping. So once more, I went through the painstaking process of evaluating each image to see which ones were usable. At best, there were a couple... maybe a handful. As for the rest, every one of them had some issue that made me cringe. From the perspective of my compulsive obsessive nature, those issues were too much of an an eyesore to overcome - so much so that I couldn't keep my eyes off my many errors in composition.
At that moment, something occurred to me. I've had it all wrong for almost a year. I've been obsessing over all these eyesores that I couldn't see the forest from the tree. What has happened has happened. And if I ever hoped to use any of these images, then I better try harder to keep my eyes off the distractions. Or better yet, just edit them out completely, or at the very least minimize their impact.
As photographers, we tend to believe that the captured image is sacred. Moreover, any editing beyond the original intent of the documentation is frowned upon. How an image is photographed is the way an image should be. Any editing beyond tweaking light and dark values is regarded as a demonstration of poor shooting fundamentals... or at the very least, an over reliance on software after the fact.
However, there are times when life happens, which might prevent the perfect documentation from happening. Perhaps the decisive moment was a step too far. Or maybe the exposure hadn't been adjusted to the sudden change in light. Or in the case of this particular project, it might just be possible an oversight was made. Honestly, I completely forgot to provide specific direction, resulting in asynchronous interaction between my collaborators in the documentation.
Mistakes are a part of life. So you learn from it. And you try to make the best of what you have. Nothing is always as bleak as it seems. When I think about my disappointment, I realize where it's coming from. I like many of the photos I captured for this objectiveless project. I just cannot reconcile my appreciation for the parts I like with the parts I don't like. But more to the point, I loath the fact my only recourse is to go against the conventional belief that the captured image is sacred.
When I frame my disappointment in this way, I now know why I haven't put this project to good use. It's pride. It has always been pride. I just cannot believe I didn't do an adequate job for the best possible image capture. Instead, what I ended up with were pictures blotted with warts and open sores. And because of that, I've been dragging my feet, visiting and revisiting this project, without making any progress.
Upon realizing this, it became abundantly clear why progress hasn't been made for so long. It meant I had to own up to the many eyesores, and admit to photographing substandard work. And because I didn't want to accept that, I opted to do nothing instead. To do that is like throwing out the baby pictures with the stop bath. I was literally foregoing the opportunity to put these pictures to good use, because of pride.
I don't know what disappointed me more - photographing substandard work or doing nothing because of pride. In any event, it made me think, and it made me do some soul searching. The thing is, I had placed greater importance on my feelings than my work. In doing so, I forgot a conventional belief more sacred than a captured image's integrity. Photography isn't about the photographer, but rather the final presented photograph.
In the end, I am happy to finally put my project to good use. I cannot believe it has taken me close to a year. Had I known how well it turned out, I would've done something sooner. But then again, what would I have blogged about without going through this introspective process? I suppose I should be thankful for being so short-sighted. It allowed me to backward engineer something to write about, during yet another dry spell in the news cycle.
Better late than never.
Still, I wished I had done a better job at the moment of documentation. Nothing beats a well photographed image. With that said, a well processed image is a close second. If what you photographed missed the mark, it's not a sin to rely on software after the fact. It's short-sighted to forgo all the tools at your disposal for the sake of pride. Remember, nobody will think less of you, if the final presented photograph looks amazing.
All images have been optimized in Lightroom - obviously.
Last, I would like to thank Olga, who helped out almost a year ago. Sorry about the delay in posting. Like I said, it didn't seem timely until recently... plus the fact that Anna has been on holiday since the beginning of the month. That made backward engineering essential for the sake of timely content creation.
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