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.


About Dezra Despain

Life is full of stories waiting to be revealed.

Posted on February 26, 2012, in 365 Days Journey Through the Past, Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Wow, such a beautiful photo! I am a WordPress photographer as well, so I love when I see posts like this. Great job, and keep it up!

  2. I’ve read Mountain Light, too, and it’s wonderfully informative and inspirational. Your analysis of thinking back on a past photo and why it didn’t work as well as hoped is also very clear and insightful. I too, tend at times to discard some that don’t live up to expectations–maybe now I’ll hang on to them a little longer and give them a second chance at a life of their own. Thanks!

    • My mother went through the Great Depression (and has Scottish ancestry to boot) and therefore kept EVERYTHING. I learned that from her. She kept shoe boxes full of photos, some so blurry you couldn’t make them out. I learned that from her, too. It wasn’t until just recently that I started to discard things that I don’t need anymore, including photos. This photo would not have made it past my delight in deleting if I took it today. What I want to do now is to look at my failed photos before I delete to figure out how to improve.

  3. Interesting thoughts.

    And are you saying we Scots are hoarders? (Well, I know I certainly am 😉

    • I wonder how that stereotype came into being? My mother and my grandfather were both hoarders but that could just be the times they lived through. I have a strong affinity with my Scottish ancestry and I’ve been a notorious hoarder but that could be something I learned from my mother. It would be interesting to find out why holding onto things is so…so…Scottish! 🙂

    • I’ve been doing some research and it is that Scots were considered thrifty (frugal), not hoarders. I guess my mother took thrift to mean keeping things in case you need them so you don’t have to buy them again. So on top of hoarding things, she was very thrifty, another trait I learned from her.

      I will retract my hoarding reference because that is not valid and I apologize to all the Scots out there!

      • I do hope you didn’t think I was making a complaint – my comments were made half in jest. The Scots do have a reputation for being thrifty or canny, and also I personally have always had a tendency to hoard things – that is something that I have to work hard sometimes to moderate and have over the years been getting better at letting go of stuff that I don’t really need (although there is always that nagging doubt in the back of my mind “But what if I need it later?”).

        I found your comments in this post very interesting, as I too, on the other hand, don’t have any hesitation in deleting digital images that I’ve taken but which are not any good. Being selective and editing down your own work is, I think, something which takes some practice. By the way, one of my favourite quotes was from the French mathematician Pascal: “I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.” (Probably applies to this comment too 😉 )

      • I didn’t take them as complaints. After all, you included a winking smiling icon! 😉 I just don’t like it when other people promote a stereotype without thinking and that’s what I did so I kinda kicked myself over it. And I can go on, but now I’m thinking about Pascal and even though I could go on, I won’t. 😉 (There, two winking icons in one reply!)

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