In The Artist's Way at Work, the authors provide an interesting analogy in which they describe the difference between novice and experienced kayakers.
Novice kayakers, they say, have a tendency to give their attention to the rocks, trees, and other things that seem to rush toward them, threatening to crash or overturn their boat. And because we usually end up going where we are looking, they have a greater likelihood of hitting one or more of those obstacles.
Experienced kayakers, on the other hand, tend to focus on the flow of the water instead of the rocks. As a result, they are more likely to stay in the flow and avoid hitting any of the many things that threaten their progress.
When I first started taking photos and learning about fine art photography, and for many years after, I tended to look at the rocks. I tried my best to avoid doing the wrong things, or even the right things in the wrong way.
One of the things I made sure to do was to avoid producing blurry photos. I had learned that photos with sharp detail were always better than those that were soft, or blurred. If my photos came out blurry it meant that I didn't know how to manage focus.
Here is a photo I took a few weeks ago at Sculpture Falls on the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin. Notice that it lacks the sharp detail that I used to find myself bound to produce.
I've photographed at Sculpture Falls many times in the past, and more often than not, have found myself unsatisfied with the images I produced. I don't think they were bad images, they just didn't satisfy me for reasons I didn't fully understand. So this time I tried something different.
Over the last year, I have found myself experimenting more and more with adding blur to photos by moving slightly as I take the picture. And in certain cases, I've discovered that I like the results much more than those in which the focus was sharp. This is one of those cases.
I think that many other people might prefer seeing sharp detail in this photo, but for me it feels better to have the cracks and crags softened a bit. My favorite aspect of the photo is the wavy shape of the rock and waterfall, and I think the softness helps bring that out. Certainly, it may be true that this photo is better viewed on a wall, from the distance of a few feet, rather than on a computer screen, but I don't think that diminishes the photo in any way.
I'm finding that it takes a bit of courage for me to stop trying so hard to avoid hitting the rocks in my path; to stop trying to avoid doing the things I'd learned were 'wrong.' But, when I find the courage, I tend to like the results better because they feel more natural for me.
I'm learning that the 'right' way isn't always my way, and I'm learning to respect the value of my way. What's your way, and how often do you compromise what feels natural to you in an effort to avoid hitting the rocks?
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to reach out to me at any time with questions or comments. And, if you would like to read other stories about photos, click here, or here.