Learning Through Failures

    I have tried and failed in a lot of ways while practicing photography. Some have been more intense than others. I have made some more public mistakes and many more that nobody has seen! I would like to argue, however, that it is these failures that make me the photographer I am today.

 Before shooting this image, I had a lot of out of focus shots of the slot canyon. I had forgotten to re-focus the manual lens!

Before shooting this image, I had a lot of out of focus shots of the slot canyon. I had forgotten to re-focus the manual lens!

    Some errors are smaller and cause a temporary setback. Others may feel more like fatal misjudgments or false calculations that make you miss the image of a lifetime or worse. Whatever the size of the failure, there is always that split second to hours afterward where you are thinking to yourself “What have I done!”.

    When something goes horribly wrong there is inevitably a sinking feeling. There are few things that make me remember better than that sick feeling after leaving the ISO too high, shooting in JPEG, or having a camera drop in an icy cold river (all of which have happened to me before). I never want to make the same mistake again because I know that the second time is even worse. 

 I learned that when focus staking images with flowers that you need to have a narrow aperture anyways because they move and the focus breathing makes things very difficult otherwise. This shot would not have worked had I not learned that before making the journey!

I learned that when focus staking images with flowers that you need to have a narrow aperture anyways because they move and the focus breathing makes things very difficult otherwise. This shot would not have worked had I not learned that before making the journey!

    Failure is a major opportunity in disguise, though. We all have them. It is what you make of them that makes you a better photographer. You aren’t always going to have things go perfectly with photography. You can learn to plan and prepare to avoid failure. Double checking things before relying on a piece of equipment and having checklists are always great things! It is an ongoing process of tweaking and fine tuning how you work to optimize your defenses against failure.

    Even when everything is in your control, there are wild cards you only learn to work with through experience. A good example is the weather. Landscape photographers are especially susceptible to the weather not going as planned and ruining a photo shoot. You might be able to shift focus and try something else, but there is a point at which average or slightly less is going to be the best hope on a trip.

    Lastly, since there are times where ‘failure’ is outside of your control, you will have to learn to accept it. It is ok to not come home with an award winning image every time. Actually, this would be setting yourself up for failure because of the unrealistic expectation of exceeding what is actually possible! Allow yourself to enjoy photography and being in the outdoors even when and where the ideal conditions don’t present themselves. Its not a bad thing to have a nice hike!