Ruthless

23 May 2017

Over the years I have shot a lot of pictures. Many of which would not pass today’s muster. When I started with a small Point and Shoot, all my pictures were important. Every. Single. One. Unless they were completely blurred and unrecognisable. Fun fact for pictures taken with a point and shoot: 99% of the pictures are usable. Or so it seems. Then I bought my first DSLR, back in 2008. I had been shooting with this type of camera for years during the 70’s and 80’s but had not had a chance for a long time.

American Redstart

My first setting on the D40X was… Auto. It seemed like the best transition between my Coolpix and my new, shiny, beautiful, professional camera. Don’t get me wrong folks, everyone who buys a DSLR as an upgrade from a point and shoot feels himself or herself an immediate pro, ready to shoot weddings and put Joe McNally out of business.

I guess that by now you have an idea as to where I am going with this train of thought, right?

When I look today at my picture perfect photos of 2008, let’s not include the Coolpix era to be fair, it seems to me that if I had taken these pictures today, they would all end up in the garbage. For a while I have been blaming my dwindling number of pictures per month or per year in my Lightroom Catalogue on the time my day job leaves me. Or the lack thereof.

Pine GrosbeakPine Grosbeak

Last weekend I went out with a friend to shoot birds. Nothing new there, I do that most of my weekends, just to keep a bit of sanity. I know, there’s already not much left, but let’s leave that for another post. During the day, I had shot a whopping 750 pictures. You’d need to understand how I shoot. Coming from the film era, I was never (and still am not) the type of Spray and Pray. Push that machine gun trigger, close your eyes and pray you hit the target. I have blogged about that before here.

Evening GrosbeakEvening Grosbeak

Don’t get me wrong, some sequences in nature would make you wish for a high speed film camera, something your DSLR will not do. The next best thing is the burst mode, which I use sparingly. Using burst mode on an inanimate object like a building seems ridiculous to me. Others may disagree.

Great Grey OwlGreat Grey Owl

Over the years I have noticed that I seem to take less and less pictures, making me wonder if I am not losing my interest for photography. Yet it doesn’t feel that way. I needed to look at this demotivation from a different angle. What I found was kind of a surprise. While back in the day there was no way I would discard a film negative, today I seem to throw away quite a few.

Mourning DoveMourning Dove

From the 750 pictures I came home with, only a mere 400 survived in my Lightroom Catalogue. I deleted the duplicates and triplicates I had of birds, selecting only the best picture of the sequence. Fast wildlife needs burst mode from time to time to capture action. Did that mean I was getting worse and worse at it? To find out, this time I decided to simply mark the pictures instead of deleting them on the spot. The next day I went through those remaining pictures and marked another 250 for deletion. This time going through them on a 1:1 display to check for blurry elements.

Tree SwallowTree Swallow

From the remaining 200 pictures, most will not see the day of light in the foreseeable future. Only a handful will be published or printed in some form. Back in 2008, I was proud of every single frame I had shot. And I kept them as well. Sometimes I go through these pictures and I cringe at what I once decided were good pictures. But even today I will not delete them, by now they have become relics of a previous skillset, one that needed to grow and develop.

Yellow WarblerYellow Warbler

Over the years I have become much more aware of the quality of images that I am looking for, making sure that only the level I want will remain in my catalogue.

All the rest gets ruthlessly deleted forever. From the original file on my drive to the backup copy I have Lightroom make upon import, all gone if it doesn’t pass my quality control. Does that make me a worse photographer now that I have less keepers from my sessions? I’m not sure. I only get more and more strict, you could say ruthless, with the quality of my pictures. Climbing up from here will be hard, but rewarding.

Yellow WarblerYellow Warbler

Would I be putting Joe McNally out of business over time? Not a chance, I don’t do portraits at all Open-mouthed smile.

Until next time…