Rule 47: Adapt

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Less than a week into 10,000/365, I’ve come to realize something that I think was always somewhere in the back of my mind, but which is becoming more and more a part of my photographic practice. For one thing, I tend to shoot without any ideas in mind, or any particular agenda. Setting myself a series of small projects as part of a much larger project has been helpful to keep me shooting, and to see opportunities in places I didn’t before.

There’s another side to that, one that can end up becoming a downside if you’re not careful. You think your shoot through; you have an idea of what you’d like to get, and how you’d like it to look. All well and good, because all you have to do now is proceed to make the photos that you set out to make, right?

Uh, no.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it will work that way. You will have planned well enough, and covered your bases well enough, that no matter what the day throws your way, you will be ready for it. But those days will, in the main, be the exception, unless your expectations or planning are such that you really don’t care what you get, so long as you get something.*

Let me give you an example. I thought out what I wanted to do for the third day’s assignment (the view from your window). I knew where my shot would be, the lens that I would need to get the shot I envisioned, and even what times of day would put my subject in the best light. I was, in other words, ready.

And then the subject wasn’t there. Rather than declaring the day ruined and packing the camera, I had a plan “B”, where I’d also decided on the kind of shot I wanted, the framing, the shutter speed, the lens… And then that didn’t quite work out, either. The idea was to use the shapes of my street’s brick crosswalks as a strong compositional element, and to have the lights of turning cars trace abstract forms over the crosswalk, neatly bisecting the segment I’d chosen.

Only that didn’t work, either, since no matter how I exposed, I couldn’t get the crosswalk to show properly while also catching the lights the way I wanted them. Time for Plan C, which involved the same elements from Plan B, but with a different compositional focus; this time I’d play entirely with the car lights, and make those the center of attention.

The photos that I made as a result weren’t anything like I’d envisioned, but they got made nonetheless. It’s easy to be frustrated when you plan something and it doesn’t go according to plan; we know what we want from our photos, and also what we expect from ourselves. However, I’d caution against letting the frustration be the end of it; let it, instead, be a starting point. Just as we talked last week about experimentation, a good part of photography involves being able to adapt. Sometimes that means changing your camera settings in a different light, seeing your subject in a new light, or realizing that what you had in mind isn’t working, so it’s time to get something new in mind.

*Not, as I’ve mentioned before, that there’s anything wrong with that.

The First 10,000 runs on passion (and an awful lot of caffeine). Buy me a coffee.