Sharp, Well Exposed Failures

An osprey soars over the Bolsa Chica wetlands.

An osprey soars over the Bolsa Chica wetlands.

I broke away from my owl obsession by visiting an old favorite location, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve. And there, armed with a Nikon D500 and the previously praised Nikon 200-500 f/5.6, I got some nice BIF (Bird-In-Flight) images.

These guys are fast, but the Nikon D500 is also fast.

Terns are fast, but the Nikon D500 is also fast.

A year ago, I would have been thrilled with these two images, because I struggled to get sharp BIF images that included the whole bird. But my standards have changed dramatically in the past year.

On September 20, I’ll be lecturing at the Ojai Photography Club. The presentation is sub-titled, “When You Can’t Be With The Light You Love, Love the Light You’re With.” I’ll be sharing the story of this last year, when I pursued three photographic paths with new energy, time, and interest: Assignment Work, Wildlife, and Fine Art. After 45 years of photographic activity, I spent a year learning who I am as a photographer. And it has dramatically increased my joy quotient.

Part of the story is that I spent three months reviewing over 250,000 images from the last seven years and ruthlessly edited down to 20 images to print and show. The process enabled me to articulate my own criteria for evaluation of a photograph. Under my newly articulated criteria, the osprey and tern images are exercises, not photographs.

I don’t want to spoil the presentation a month in advance, but I now know that my best photos are limited to one or two elements and two to three colors, are technically flawless or flawed to a purpose, and instantly/intuitively communicate a sense of moment and/or emotion. It’s that last one that matters most, and which these images lack. I’m happy to have made these, but they are practice, not product.

I have now proven to myself that I can make technically competent images of birds standing around or flying. So can thousands of other photographers. Thanks to a year of serious self-critique, I aspire to create something more.

I expect it will be a fun evening on September 20, so I hope you’ll join us if you are in the area.

I love my owl friends, but I think we both needed a break.

I love my owl friends, but I think we both needed a break.