Not feeling it – or how to deal with off days

Jun 25th, 2013

When I’m engaged in a client event I can’t afford to have an off day, so I try and save them up for my recreational shooting, and to stack the odds in my favour I try to shoot as much as I can recreationally. My photography is a passion but like any relationship it needs work, care and attention, and an ability to learn from mistakes and move upwards and onwards. But I do have the occasional off day.

These generally occur when I’m not giving my craft* my full attention  – this is mainly when I’m shooting at events with my family; and it’s only right that my attention should first and foremost be on their needs, but sometimes I feel like I should be able to compartmentalise my attention. This is generally a mistake – and certainly not an attitude I take on my professional engagements.

So, does it follow that I shouldn’t take my camera out on family outings? This is a balance I’m getting better at – sometimes I’ll leave the kit at home, sometimes I’ll take it along and not use it, sometimes I’ll use it very sparingly, and sometimes I’ll be like some frenzied paparazzi on a photobug mission. I try not to be that guy too much of the time though. However, there is something vital and challenging about being able to grab a great moment or beautiful portrait on camera whilst still being engaged in the moment as a participant – these are the photographs which are truly satisfying.

So far, so inspirational. But this post has its origin in a terrible photography day I had this last weekend. My church had an outdoor service  – the weather was overcast and the weather was windy, I’d brought my camera as I wanted to get pictures of our once-a-year outdoors service and for whatever reason I just wasn’t feeling it. My composition was off; my exposure was terrible – lots of clipping at the white end and very few nice angles – the sky and ground didn’t seem to want to play together and I was convinced that I wasn’t getting any good pictures – a conviction that only got stronger as I occasionally managed to check my pictures on the camera between trying to participate in the service, hear the address and dodge the rain. Not the greatest of photographic experiences. Not the greatest outdoor experience either, all things considered – although a church service is very rarely a truly bad experience. Though when the gazebo completely flipped over and almost took out a few of our congregation, well – enough said.

When I got back and checked out the photos I was underwhelmed. I junked quite a few before committing to my hard drive. Far more than usual. I considered junking the lot – but I hate to see an event completely obliterated, so I decided to try and salvage what I could. Below are some of the results.

Of course, the quick and easy(ish) way to make (almost) any photo look better is to sling into B&W – so, with a few tweaks, some vignetting and a bit of re-cropping in Lightroom of the already pretty heavily worked images above we get:

Although the second photo definitely works better in colour.

Venue –  Osterley Park. And this is exactly where we were.

This post is dedicated to my wife, who only reminds me occasionally that she shared our honeymoon with my camera.

* I am aware that using “craft” to describe pointing a bit of technology at something (subjectively) interesting and pressing a button and then doing some post production is a bit of a stretch. But I am writing a post  which is sort of about failure,  so I’m going to allow myself a little ego massage in amongst it all.