Learing from photographic mistakes

Being in a room full of butterflies last summer was quite an experience, one that I wanted to capture in photos so I could remember, so I could share it here. 

As I continue to learn and grow as a photographer, some lessons keep coming along, mostly in the form of mistakes. In the Find Your Eye Photo Course, Journey of Fascination, Kat invites us to look at those mistakes.. and then let them go.

My 70-300mm lens is great for situations like this one.  I have used it many times in different situations and had great results with crisp, sharp images.   But I can’t tell you how many images I have discarded for the simple reason that the focus is just too bad.   This image is a prime example of that lack of clear focus. 

I tend to push that lens to it’s very limits. In other words I often try to zoom it out as far as it will go.  Many times this is not a problem, especially if I am in bright light.  But in a lower light setting like this conservatory, I was trying to push it to it’s limit and shoot while simply holding it in hand, not using a tripod.

Hurry and get that photo.  That seems to be at the heart of my mistake.

Yet that is not the kind of photographer I strive to be.  Contemplative photography appeals to me, a style the invites one to be still.    

So that means I have had to learn to let go of that hurry up attitude.  Is that easy? Nope. The hurry ups keep coming back and I kick myself in the backside every time; however, there is hope.   From all this lack of focus has come some valuable insight and new habits are emerging….

  • My tripod comes with me often these days.  (Thank you, Becky, for your example!)  
  • I am learning about the sweet spot that each lens has and how to take advantage of that. 
  • And for me there is a link between focusing and contemplating…focus the lens, focus my mind.

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13 Comments

  1. Interesting lessons Deborah. I too tend to push my lens to extreme. I'm only working with a kit. I find myself at 400 ISO and f/5.6 too often. Something I'm trying to be aware of and repair.
    Rushing too is a bad habit, especially in a new environ or one that stimulates inspiration.
    I'm glad you are taking this journey. I wish I was, but I will live vicariouly thru you and others. Money, it's just too tight these days.
    Enjoy the ride.

  2. I know what you mean about rushing the shot! I do this constantly! I have to take the picture now, click, click!! You've given me something to think about…contemplative photography. Slowing down, absorbing, thinking about, and then pushing the button! Carrying a tripod, I'm still working on that one!

  3. I love coming here & hearing about all that you're up to, all that you are learning, Deb.

    "So that means I have had to learn to let go of that hurry up attitude."

    This one line speaks loud & clear to me right now…it can be so damn hard to be patient, to steady ourselves, quiet things down & focus–how I can relate.

    I love your little birdies (below) and those tree photos stirred all kinds of things inside of me.

    I'm so happy I came here today, it feels so nice to bask in the beauty of Deb.

  4. Deb, I love the way you've brought out the double meaning of "focus." I struggle with this too, both kinds, and am often frustrated with "soft" images that were meant to be crisp and sharp. Carrying around a tripod doesn't fit my style at the moment, so I'm still working on finding other solutions. Simply not hurrying could be a good one.

  5. Focus is a big issue for me too. Sounds like you know all the right things to do to correct it, but following through with it is hard. You photographers out taking hand held shots and it looks so fun, but so far for me doesn't have the reliable results as the steady tripod. Your words resonate with me " focusing and contemplating…focus the lens, focus my mind." Terrific mantra!

  6. A great post and lesson. I try to make my daily photo walks my daily mediation – but I am often rushing, trying to get that one photo for the day so I can move on to all the other things on my "to-do" list. That rarely works for getting a good shot. And I often take a shot and move on to the next thing, instead of slowing down and really studying what I am looking at – determining other ways I could present the scene in front of me. I will remember your mantra as well – "Focus the lens, focus my mind." Thanks for sharing your "mistake" and the lessons learned.

  7. Nothing beat a tripod. I use to hate to use it and now I embrace it. To be in the moment, the hurry ups have to go bye-bye 🙂 I love simple days out hiking with my camera and always alone for best results. No pressure that way.

  8. Yours is a nice butterfly. I have many butterflies on my current post because we went to a butterfly observatory and I took many pictures – but I had no special lenses or tripod, but since I took so many I did find some passable pictures..

  9. This was excellent! I never use a tripod on the same lens you use, I just don't find it convenient. And just like you mentioned, my focus suffers. I have found the sweet spot on my lens and that helps a bit. I do have a new monopod…but I haven't taken it out of the case yet! (o:

  10. Great reflection, Deborah. There were so many things coming into play in that missed opportunity of the blurry butterfly, and you could have just waved it away as missed focus. You really broke it down nicely into the multiple things contributing – that takes both knowledge and awareness. I like how you listed the things you can do to avoid having these results, as well as become the kind of photographer that you want to be. Wonderful example!

  11. Consider me right there with you on that journey! I have really struggled with the same, but have made myself slow down. It's always easier said than done though, especially when the excitement overrides the contemplation! Great posting that so many of us can relate to!

  12. A great post Deborah, I know exactly what you mean about needing to slow down, I do the same, I don't wait for the perfect moment especially when taking macro photos. Using a tripod all the time is a good idea (not that I always do!)

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