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on Sep 2, 2006 in Thought of the Month

When All Else Fails – 09.02.06

(c) Moose Peterson

Ever noticed how there are some days when you can’t do nothing right. You ever set up your tripod and getting everything just right, just about to press the button and one tripod leg slips messing everything up because you didn’t tighten it enough? Here’s one everyone can relate to. You’re out shooting a sunset and dial in minus compensation to capture the perfect color. The next day you review your morning images only to find you forgot to dial out that minus compensation from the sunset. How about you put your normal body cap on your teleconverter by mistake?

The list of technical errors can go on and on but they are nothing compared to mental errors. We all know about trying to shoot a series of shots when the film counter was at 35 (yeah, talking about film). There’s always that time when you took one extra step closer to a subject, one your gut said not to take, only to be taken and the subject takes off. The mental list is for me longer than the technical one, but that’s all part of being human and a photographer. Sadly, they all come down to thinking, or not thinking.The one thing that kinda gets under my skin though is when these things happen and photographers start looking at the camera gear as the culprit of the dirty deed. It is as if the camera wakes up and says to itself, “I’m going to mess up my photographer today!� It’s gotta be the cameras fault! But when you look back, it all comes down to us.

I was recently rebuked because I couldn’t give a photographer the golden answer to their problem. The problem, a sharpness one, the photographer couldn’t get an image sharp. The golden answer; a list of possible camera/settings that were wrong that when set differently would cure the focus problems. The answer I gave, go back to basics and practice, practice, practice, was discarded as brush off rather than the solid advice it was. The problem must be a setting on the camera, or environmental or perhaps the lens, anything but PILOT error! What did I know?

There was a time when AF was thought to be a joke, not a viable tool. In fact, I think I wrote something like that back in the days of the F3AF & F4 when we had just one, dead center AF sensor. Now, if we don’t get a sharp image, it must be the AF system, or a setting, or a lens not locking on (does this on purpose you know). There’s no way it could be pilot error!

Photography in all its grandness requires a firm basics foundation for success. That foundation covers everything from camera operation to light to simple technique to monitor calibration. This firm foundation gives us the ability to grow with confidence, build on the last success and learn from the last failures. The firm foundation also gives us a place to go back to when things for wrong, permitting us to back engineer and find the problem. While it is easier on the ego to blame everything else but us, heading back to our foundation often proves otherwise. When things go wrong, I know I RUN back to the basics when all else fails!

Photo captured by D2Hs, 200f2AFS on Lexar digital film.