"Facepalm" or Sometimes, you just gotta wonder: 'What was I thinking?'

There are two adages that I’ve heard over the years I’ve been photographing; there are many more, these are apropos to this post.  I remember reading in some book on technique:  
“If you’re walking forward, turn around and look backwards.”
 and hearing at a photography seminar: 

“Review your rejects. You just may have overlooked something in those contact sheets.”
I’d finished the edits of my Toronto trip and was at a bit of a loose end. It was late at night in the OCC and I had my laptop with me and noticed that I had this folder in Lightroom called Uncataloged.  I remember that I had done some work there, but for the life of me I couldn't remember what. Stepping through the Lightroom catalog in a kind of desultory fashion, not really looking directly at the images but seeing them out of the corner of my eye I was looking for something to jump out at me. They say that if you want to see an animal, you’d see it best by not looking straight at it, especially if it was hidden. Although this is best for detecting motion, it was late in the evening and I wanted to see what would pop out of the thickets.

About half way through, I came up on two images. The first had me doing the proverbial facepalm. I had given this image one star and for whatever reason it never progressed further. I don’t know why. Other images did rank higher and may be slightly stronger; this image is, in retrospect, strong as the others. 

It was early April when I made this image. I do recall turning and reacting to this “homme d'affaires” striding through spring sun. I had metered on the sidewalk earlier and as I turned to look back, there he was. In post, I cropped a bit and then ran the image through SilverFX.

A little later, I ran into an image made about seven month earlier. Again it was one of those where I had metered on the sidewalk and turning around and looking backwards to where I had come from, there she was on her bicycle. Those of you who know Calgary, will know that this street corner is usually quite packed with traffic and yet here she is, serenely cycling on a September afternoon.

I can understand why maybe this one ended up on the cutting room floor as the woman is slightly out of focus. I cropped and straightened things out a bit and again ran the image through SilverFX. 

Always turn and look, you never know what is going on behind you. Turn back the pages and look at what you’ve discarded. You’re a different photographer today than you were yesterday, last week, last month. Go back a year and you’ll see how your sensibilities have changed and that dog of a photo may just be the one that shouldn't have gotten away.

New on the Bookshelf

I love books about photography, books of photographs and books about photographers. Reading other photographers insights into the craft, criticism of the craft, deconstructing other photographers images all help me on this odd journey that I'm on. Unlike some photographers, I don't have GAS, I suffer from BAS!  In the past month or so lots of new books have arrived on my desk. I might comment on some of them more formally in the future. (The books with a * next to the title are in process of being read, the books with a # next to them have been read)

  • *"Road to Seeing" by Dan Winters. A massive book, wonderfully printed, chronicling the events in Winters' life that had an impact on how he views photography and his image making process.
  • #"Here Far Away" by Finn Thrane, Images by Pentti Sammallahti. I'm always on the look out for books by photographers of other nationalities. Again, a wonderfully printed book and Sammallahti are fascinating to study.
  • *"The Digital Print: Preparing Images in Lightroom and Photoshop for Printing" by Jeff Schewe. An excellent resource and I've learned an amazing amount already.
  • *"Why Photography Matters" by Jerry L. Thompson. A slim volume of less than 100 pages. It's one of the few books I started re-reading the day after I finished it. Commentary coming soon.
  • *"Believing is Seeing" by Errol Morris. Examines the back stories to photographs such as Fenton's "Cannonballs in Crimea" and examines the"received wisdom" regarding the photos.
  •  #"About Looking" by John Berger. Although I don't care for Berger's Marxist theory of criticism, at least he's honest about it and doesn't come across like a clever boots like Sontag.
  • #"Understanding a Photograph" by John Berger; Edited by Geoff Dyer. See above
  • #"Ways of Seeing" by John Berger. Neatly kicking Sir Kenneth Clarke's traditional view of European art in the groin, it's a companion book to his BBC series from early 70's. The series is up on YouTube and the book and series is worth a read/look. It's available at Amazon, I found my copy in a used book store.
  • "Camera Lucida" by Roland Barthes. I've been beating my head on this one for over a year. I will get through it one day, honest. Even if takes a bottle of Absinthe!
  • *"Aperture Magazine Anthology - The Minor White Years" Edited by Peter Bunnel. Interesting read to be sure. Looking back at the issues facing photographers in the 50s, they're not all that different from now in reality. The advent of relatively inexpensive high performance cameras where bringing a lot of amateurs into the professional ranks, undercutting them on price for portraits, weddings and the like. Sound familiar? Articles by some of the great photographers and photo editors of the time on composition, captioning, photo critique and the like are a very good resource and refresher.
My son went on an exchange program to Japan and brought me back these two jewels. Both are beautifully printed on heavy paper. If you can find them, they are a delight to look at.
  • "Ephemeral Dreams - Building 30 on Battleship Island" by Masashi Takahashi. Photos of an abandoned industrial island off the shore of Japan. The book takes images from 1972, just before the island was abandoned to images taken this year.
  • "Sleeping Beauty" by Shozo Maruta. Very interesting collection of images of old Japanese street cars rotting away.   
Once these are read, I'll be diving into the reading lists that MIT has provided with their photography course outlines.