The Promise and the Disappointment

Something I’m coming to terms with is that the first photo shoot at any location is likely to be disappointing. Photography is a low-percentage undertaking; perhaps it’s inevitable that one visit’s worth of shots can only yield so much. But the first time at a location has the unique hurdle of being a bit too fresh and stimulating. One can try to take in everything and anything all at once, with the result that everything in the resulting photos is hunting the big, obvious and grand scenes, while overlooking the details that can yield the most affecting shots. The question for myself is whether or not this perceived limitation can be overcome by developing a better eye, or whether this is simply the nature of the art. In the meantime, my shots from visits to Detroit and elsewhere will continue to be haunted by the ghosts of second chances.


Packard Plant, north end.




Backlit Water Tower


5 responses

  1. I find that it is really hard to go into something new and take great photos. If it is something that I already feel at home in, even if just by similarity is helps. It is said that Ansel Adams never brought a camera the first couple trips to a place, but that he just let himself take the place in first and thought about how to photograph it. Also, limiting what you are trying to do helps as well. I find that recognizing that I can’t do everything helps me develop the things I can. Anyway, just responding to your words… as you talk about a subject that I’m always thinking about. That said, you’ve posted good photos from Detroit. Thanks! :)

    November 10, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    • tabularasa88

      I appreciate the feedback! I wish I could take the place in first, Ansel-style, but when you may be making your only visit to a location, you don’t have the luxury of letting the place soak in. It becomes a struggle between “craft,” distilling your focus into a more mechanical approach of repeating successful techniques, and “art,” where you take more risks and let your eyes wander looking for the standout shot, with the possibility that you come away from the day with nothing.

      November 10, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      • Going into this I figured I’d be happy if I walked away with 4 or 5 decent photos from the week long trip. We’ve both struggled with getting it right the first time, and I’ve begun to suspect that doing so is a rarity for everyone. I think we should instead look at the shots that came out as expected, or better, and evaluate what we did, how we did it and why it works so we can apply that to the next location that we may visit only once. As we have noted in previous discussions it often seems like the photo we thought was going to be a “throw away” (yet we took for some reason anyhow) turned out to be the star of the set. I suspect in part it is because we are not over-thinking the shot at that point.
        I’ve only got 2 locations in Detroit that offered up gold while the rest were pretty much busts, and I suspect it is in part because they were not inherently interesting combined with my striving to create a technically correct image.

        November 11, 2013 at 11:23 am

  2. All this really makes me appreciate digital photography in general. I can only imagine how much harder it was before we had instant gratification on LCD screens and no developing costs.

    November 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    • tabularasa88

      Having started out with film (because I’m 25% hipster, not because I’m that old), I can tell you digital is a godsend. This coming from an atheist.

      November 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm

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