116/365 A Stark White Hall, Two White Chairs and a White Scarf with Colorful Baubles
Not one of my better photos.
In 2007, I wandered through Herron School of Art and Design with my newly-acquired DSLR, the Canon EOS 30D. I was with a friend and we were discussing art and what makes art. We entered a white hallway with a couple of white chairs lying about the hall. A white scarf with colorful yarn baubles draped over one chair. The hall was stark and not really interesting except for the scarf.
I wanted to show that with photography, it is possible to find beauty in the mundane so I proceeded to photograph the scarf at various angles because obviously the scarf was the subject, not the white hall or the chairs. This photo was the better of them all but five years later I find it rather mundane because what I remember is a stark white hall with two white chairs and a white scarf with colorful baubles. I failed to capture that image at all!
I am still reading Galen Rowell’s book Mountain Light. (I read a few pages every morning while drinking coffee.) He mentions a number of times how important it is to look at your photographic failures because you can learn just as much from them as you can from your successes. He says most people ignore their failures or toss them away. I know I’m notorious for deleting blurred images or too dark images without understanding why they were blurred or too dark. Yes, I most likely hand-held when I should have used a tripod for those blurred photos or I shot before checking ISO or Shutter Speed or Aperture Priority for those too-dark photos (or thinking I can recover something in camera RAW…haha!). Those are simple mistakes that are easily rectified. Though I do need to take the time to understand where exactly loss of quality starts when I hand hold a camera.
Then there are photos that look perfectly fine but they still don’t cut it. I can go into the importance of knowing design principles so that you can work with them (or against them, if that makes the better photo). I can go into knowing your camera and how it sees and interprets the light falling onto its sensors so that you can adjust accordingly. I can go into knowing what your personal vision is so that you can see what is meaningful to you. All these are important when reviewing failed photos. But I’m not doing that with this post.
For this post and this photo, where I failed was in not knowing what it was I wanted. At the time of the photo I could not verbalize that I saw a stark white hall with two white chairs and a white scarf with colorful baubles. All I knew, at the time, was that the scarf was the most important thing in the room. So I took close-ups of the scarf. Now, five years later and with many design classes behind me, I know the image that I should have taken was a wide-angle that incorporated the whole whiteness of the hall with just a speck of color. All that white with a small speck of color would have drawn the eye directly to the scarf and placed it in context so that the scarf becomes the focal point.
So the next time I walk into a stark white hall with two white chairs and a white scarf with colorful baubles, I’ll know how to approach it.