From three weeks back...
Me: Editing down 'stochastic photography' is truly tedious. Not that thousands of frames are involved; for me, 'lots' means something like, oh maybe, six.
Mike: SIX?!? You're saying your 'spray and pray' method means taking SIX frames of the same subject?
That gave me my morning chuckle. For it's true. The way I work with the camera, making something like a half-dozen photos really is the shotgun approach. Not one I'm inclined to by nature and, in truth, one I actively avoid without good reason. As I've written in previous columns, digital photographs are not free no matter what some folks may say. Oh yes, they're cheap compared to film photographs but definitely not free. They take time and energy to edit and time and some modest amount of money (modest is not the same as insignificant) to proof and archive. I'd rather spend my time making photographs or printing photographs than doing the routine and boring albeit necessary housekeeping chore of editing photographs.
Some of you might have trouble imagining or internalizing how much I try to avoid making redundant photographs. Mike's comment, coming from someone who has known me for decades, would have made that very clear, had I not known it already. I decided some concrete examples might be both edifying and amusing.
Figures 1 and 2 comprise an entire afternoon's photography for me. Almost. I did a little bit of editing to get rid of the obvious losers before I made up proof sheets; originally there were 36 photographs and now there are only 29. Editing down the photographs from that day's photography took a dozen or so minutes. Nice. This is my idea of an appropriate level of photography.
Well, I went a little bit, um, wild with the birds at the feeder; that's where most of the throwaways occurred. Had I been using film, I would've made fewer photographs and made them count for more. Wotdahell.
Will any of these photographs turned out to be true winners? I have no idea at this point; I haven't had a chance to look at them really closely nor work with the more promising ones. Possibly not, but had I made three times as many photographs it would not increase the likelihood one bit that I had a winner in the bunch. Plus, it would not have ended up being more fun, actually less due to more tedious editing.
In stark comparison, figure 3 is one of the proof sheets from my "stochastic photography" at Minneopa Falls. In a shorter span of time I probably made four times many photographs, most of which will prove redundant, and editing down that set is going to take uninspiring hours of peering and comparing. Of course, as I explained three weeks ago, there was method to that madness and it will likely result in some portfolio-worthy work. It's just not my normal way of working and never will be. One photograph, make it the right photograph, and I'm done. It's what suits me.
Ctein's regular weekly column appears on TOP every Thursday morning.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Rana: "I think my approach is similar to yours. Partly it's a hold-over from film and early training, partly it's fear of having still. more. photos! to process, and partly it's because I'm easily swayed by the next thing."
Featured Comment by Hugh Crawford: "I almost always shoot handheld and with digital I have started to shoot three frame bursts even if it's a photo of a tree. One of the three will always be sharper or better in some way than the other two. With moving water it's easy to pick the best of three, but the best of 10 is a lot of work.
"With portraits it seems like for most people one in three is usable on account of blinking or something like that, and maybe half of the usable ones are good. Of course that means that for two sitters it's one in nine usable shots and one in 36 where both look good. For a group of five lawfirm partners it's one usable in 243 on average, but who wants to take chances with five lawyers so you take maybe 500. If one in six are not just usable but good it will take 7776 on average to get them all looking good or maybe 15552 just to be safe. They are lawyers after all."
Featured Comment by Gary: "Well for a change of pace, I went out last Saturday afternoon with my 1967 Rolleiflex and 3 rolls of 120 Delta 400. Didn't miss a frame and have posted 25 different images on the web. Very therapeutic and a very different experience from filling up SD cards."
Mike replies: Whew. I've never seen your SD cards, of course, but from the looks of those pictures, you should stick with the Rolleiflex.