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Human Expression Versus Human Perfection

Yo-Yo Ma makes the cello speak to the soul. I watched him play, and I could feel the sound pressing on my heart. Something about those frequencies that sound like the voice of God high up on the mountain. As I watched, he stopped and said he once strived for the perfect concert—he accomplished his goal in that performance; everything was perfect—he was bored senseless. If it is music or photography, one does not strive for perfection; that is a meaningless and unachievable goal. The goal is to take someone’s breath away and awaken the awe within them, reanimating the sleeping self, the child within them.

Photographers typically seek perfection, perfect light, lens, color, texture, contrast, and focus. Photographers worship “Tack-Sharp,” and everything is in perfect focus. Photographers name light soft, hard, or flat. A great photo cannot wait for perfect; a great photo is any picture you enjoy and strikes an emotional cord. It is fantastic if your image can do the same for others. I believe those amazing images are born only at the right time and place—some say luck, some say happenstance. Everything in-between average and perfect is fun and educational. Often a mistake can be a masterpiece.

Imagine Monet and Van Gogh as hyper-realists and photorealist painters. Would ‘Water Lilies at Sunset’ or ‘The Starry Night’ draw millions into the artist’s vision? They likely would have perished in the mass graves of wannabe artists. For me, I care less if someone likes my image. If I enjoy the moment and the picture, it is a good photo—if it gives someone comfort, it’s a great photo—if it makes God smile, it is a fantastic photo!

The winter has been brutal and never-ending. I have been housebound, sequestered to a small out-the-window world for most of these past months—past blogs and images have told this story. Ice and snow still linger, but I decided I would reignite my morning ritual to go out and drive about, smell the fresh morning air, listen to the birds waking, and sketch possible places for future sunrises. Occasionally I will stumble across a new subject with a story waiting to be told.

We have a large garden; it is separated from the rest of the world by a natural moat called Oak Creek. The water rushes this time, and the creek is full from winter melting. The road that crosses the creek is gravel; it’s a gooey, slippery mess. An old wooden bridge spans Oak Creek’s rapid waters and gives access to the farm and our family garden. The bridge is old and full of character, the perfect subject for a photo safari. “Less than optimal” describes yesterday’s photography conditions; Dull cloudy skies, dead grasses, bare trees, and a chaotic mess of undergrowth, not the optimal time or place to capture an “Epic” photo. But the Oak Creek bridge is a great story to be told and a perfect subject to sharpen my photography skills. The challenges included:

  • The composition is complicated because the scene from the bank is chaotic with downed trees, brush, and weeds.
  • The poor lighting with a  flat grey sky, yet bright enough to make slow shutter (for smoothing the moving waters) tricky without a neutral density filter.
  • Lack of vibrant and complementary colors. I tried black and white, split-toning, sepia, and color.

With all the challenges, it was a perfect challenging environment to stretch my capabilities and fertile learning grounds. If we are to wait for “Perfect Conditions,” images telling the story would never exist. I am not a YoYo Ma of photography; I am still trying to learn all aspects. This photo-safari challenge was a chance to get out, go for a walk with Linda, and tell the story. Never allow perfection, fear, or other critics to stop you from taking photos of beautiful things. Go out and enjoy the view.

These are the images we feel tell a springtime story of the bulging waters of Oak Creek, the weeds, and the bridge we use to cross over it.

Log in a creek

Fallen Tree in Creek


Oak Creek Bridge

Oak Creek Bridge in spring color

Oak Creek Bridge

Oak Creek Bridge Black & White

Rapid waters

Rapid Waters

Weeds Cockelbur

Weed by Moving Waters

Cocklebur By a creek

Weed #2