Someone Has to Look at All That

Ten thousand. That’s what got me listening. I was in a workshop, during a break, and a group of students were chatting in the corner. Someone said he had been on a winter photo tour to Yellowstone National Park recently, and in four days, shot three thousand photographs. Okay, I think it was at that point I started to listen. But then he went on to say he wasn’t the winner. (Gotta love that choice of words, because it completely reinforces the idea I am approaching here.) The winner, he said, shot ten thousand photographs in four days. I froze. My god I thought, who is going to look at all that . . . and then I realized I had to turn that number into something I could touch. Ten thousand clicks of the shutter is seventy rolls of film for four days. Wow. And in winter with short days up there in Wyoming. That’s a lot of visual diarrhea, to borrow a phrase from a buddy who heard Ernst Haas use it years ago. If you have hung around photographers using digital cameras recently you know they are making a ton more photographs than they did several years ago. Consider the workshop world. Five years ago if someone turned in five rolls at night you knew they had some serious eyeball work the next morning. Ten was almost unheard of. Seventy? And here’s the thing. Are those two hundred and eighty rolls pushing out of the box into new and experimental ideas? Are they really nailing the finished, thoughtful image that comes from working it, paying attention to the moment, grasping the essence of the place, and thoughtfully pushing down the shutter to say “This is the moment, yes, this particular moment.” Or is it, and I can only guess from seeing it first hand time and time again, a lot of visual diarrhea?


~ by eddiesoloway on April 5, 2010.

6 Responses to “Someone Has to Look at All That”

  1. I must admit that I tend to take a lot of shots, but not to the extent of what you described above. Everyone is different and I don’t knock anyone for doing what feels right, but there comes a point where you step from behind the lens and look, REALLY look at the beauty around you. Then… can get some pretty amazing shots and it doesn’t take thousands of so-so shots to get there.

  2. Well expressed! Really enjoyed your essay and agree with your philosophy.

  3. so true…do people really know how to even capture, absorb, savor, and then thoughtfully and artistically express the moment anymore in an artform, particularly photography? Life seems to be all about volume and speed these days…you miss the richness if your goal is volume (shotgun approach). Taking time and training your senses to make the most of moment with your lens–no waste–and focus your energy on one superlative image is key I believe.

  4. There is an philosophy that says it takes 10,000 hours to learn a craft well. I do not know how that translates into number of photos taken but my goal in the next year is to really learn to take excellent photos. I want to learn every thing about my camera and light. There is only one way I know to accomplish that goal and it is to take photos, evaluate and take more photos. Several months into this process one point has become clear as the number on my camera counter ticks away I am becoming more mindful of the photo before I take it. My camera is on manual so I am forced to deal with shutter speed and aperture and their relationship to the exposure. I have turned off the auto focus.

    Thanks for your posting.

  5. Thanks for bringing this up Eddie, a very valid point, if not the most valid one for people who believe in the shoot and delete theory. Many will argue that with digital it doesn’t cost to shoot more and more pictures plus you can always delete them and we have always heard pros saying ‘the more you shoot the more you learn’. Well, certainly, but only if one has a very clear thought of what he wants to achieve thru’ a particular frame and then evaluating it post shooting. Imagine going thru the EXIF of ten thousand frames and evaluating them…It would take me almost a year! And then to bear the pain of seeing most of them in the thrash. It’s better to take a little pain and make pictures which would stay forever. Happy pic making 🙂

  6. Unbelievable, I am sure that not ONE of those images was any good. A few years back, I was at a popular bird rookery site, when this Guy with a high-end digital camera approached as loud and as pompous as could be, essentially talking to himself about how many frames a second he could shoot with his new auxiliary direct camera cable attachment. He proceeded to handhold his 500mm lens and fire off about a hundred shots. He stayed for all of two minutes, proclaiming that he had his shots. Mind you it was about three o’clock in the afternoon and the light was terrible and that absolutely no noteworthy action at the rookery occurred during his brief stay. Some people have no clue, just deep pockets, but I guess these types keep photo workshops thriving:)

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