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Dan McCloud's picture

Sea Stacks and Personal Growth

This is a beach sunset in Olympic National Park last month. Fortunately, I was there before the heat wave. Aside from the occasional light shower, the weather was almost perfect for camping, hiking, and the general outdoorsy life.

I like this image. It is high in my personal ranking and I've hung it on my wall.

The image required advance planning, scouting, a three mile hike through sucking, rocky sand, and a patient wife. It represents significant technical and artistic growth and the increased commitment born of years doing what we on this site do. It is the sort of image that, had I seen it when I was just starting out, would have blown my hair back. I'd have marveled at it, in awe of the photographer, barely comprehending how such a thing could be done.

The trouble is, none of that matters. I can't feel that way about my own work, seemingly no matter how far I come. I do not for a moment imagine myself to be alone in this. As I sit in here awash in the monitor glow, listening to a neighbor rev his ridiculous tuner car at 9:30 at night, I circle back to everything I don't like about this print on my wall. The sky never really kicked off, I crowded the wave line at the lower right, the glow behind the distant sea stack is good but wasn't my original plan so can I really take credit?... on and on in a similar vein.

None of this makes me at all unique. You certainly all know what just what I'm prattling on about, thus, maybe there was no point in writing any of this. Preaching to the choir. Of course, without that critical eye, I would not have gotten better. But, damnit, sometimes I'd just like to feel satisfaction about the product of years of effort. To step back and tell myself I did well and feel it.

Provided you've made it this far, thank you for indulging my not entirely planned stab at catharsis (it's cheaper than a therapist). I'm sorry I offer no resolution, no hack for wellbeing, no cheery wrap-up for what, at this point, is looking more like an article than a group post. I still dwell on the flaws and probably always will.

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5 Comments

Chris Jablonski's picture

Well, Dan, at least you "like this image" and have hung it on your wall. It's well up to the standard here, especially in terms of doing justice to awe-inspiring beauty in the natural world. I might agree about the crowded wave line (sorry!) but it doesn't ruin the image, or anything like it.

Reflecting on this point, I realise that when I peruse the many photographic and other art portfolios I've accumulated, those I keep because they are satisfying to behold and inspire me (I discard those that don't do both), I'm not as critical as when I'm on FS, where CC is a large part of the deal. I might idly note that wave line, and not give it a further thought, or think it's a minor flaw, when nothing's ever perfect. There IS a limit: for instance I was very disappointed that the only Ansel Adams image in our national gallery when I visited was one of his clunkers, a poor composition to my eye.

Five years ago, I hung eleven images in my office. I've reprinted one, because I'd unwisely listened to a friend's reaction rather than following my initial instincts about how to portray the scene. I see flaws in some others, and some I still couldn't improve on. I suspect that like many somewhat perfectionistic people with high standards generally, you're hardest on yourself. Remember, some "greats" have destroyed vast parts of their archived negatives, to their fans' great regret (I wouldn't mind if Ansel had ditched THAT one...).

The glow behind the stack? Well, that's a bit like when people say it's "just luck" when someone captures a rare moment in a photo. The smart-arse critic wasn't there at the scene with a camera to get lucky. "The more I do, the luckier I get". "Chance favours the prepared mind." You were "lucky" it wasn't pouring. You don't mention here all the times you've gone to some trouble to catch a scene only for the weather to dash your hopes.

Good on you for your honesty & striving, and keep at it. Maybe you'll wow yourself.

Dan McCloud's picture

Thank you for taking the time for a thoughtful response. I felt a bit self conscious posting this. No need to be sorry for agreeing about the wave line. I didn't watch my horizon in the field and straightening in post pushed it to the edge. Rushing leads to the silliest mistakes.

Chris Jablonski's picture

With an image like this, Dan, you could use Warp/Liquify or whatever it's called in your program to straighten the horizon & leave the wavefront intact, or perhaps just to pull it back in after rotating to level the image. (In my program I think I'd need to put a border around it first to do the latter, so that rotation didn't irrevocably crop out any of the original image.)

Unlike with, say, a building, the resulting distortion would not be visible as such in the final image - except perhaps to you, who knows how it "really" looked.

James Cowman's picture

Beautiful photograph!

Eric Zaal's picture

It's unique it's interesting it's interesting and it's beautiful.