Delayed gratification is killing me...

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by batwister, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. batwister

    batwister Member

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    When I sent out my latest roll of colour on Monday for processing, the feeling of "these could be great, my best yet" was particularly strong. Then the snow came and I panicked about the possibility of lost mail, wondering if the universe was having its way with me. Anyway, the negs arrived this morning, a day earlier than usual :confused: and low and behold, they were terrible, strange, "what the HELL was I thinking?" bad.

    The anticipation is always intense when I send off my colour work and during the week long wait, I begin editing the unseen images in my head, thinking about books, exhibitions, changing the world. You can imagine the downer then when I actually see them and they aren't anything like I imagined. This rollercoaster of emotions is becoming a little too much, perhaps even having an affect on my mental health. I haven't made a single picture I've been happy with for over a year and I can't stop beating myself up about it. Has anyone else had such a long span of fruitless results? I'm incredibly hard on myself with photography, but it's getting a bit silly. I've forgotten how to just enjoy it, it's like my life depends on every image I make.

    Am I losing my mind?
     
  2. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Nothing wrong with enthusiasm.

    But, having high expectations always contains the risk of disappointment. Nobody puts out great work all the time and there are times of slump. Just put your head back into it and try again, just like the rest of us. :smile:

    Personally I had a period like this that lasted a little over a year. The trick was to simply get going and doing. Eventually something comes along that feels good, and creativity comes right back.
     
  3. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Interesting, it's odd that they did not turn out anything like you expected. I guess the key is to think about, and even write down what you thought the pictures would have, and how they actually lack it. Was the exposure right? The composition? Timing? Light? And then try to improve on it the next time.

    I've had the same thing myself, sometimes I'll expect great stuff, and be very disappointed with what I get back. It's made worse by the fact that the worst incident was halfway round the world, and I'm unlikely to return any time soon. But my mood changes when I see a shot I am happy with, and even more so when I don't expect much, but the shot really delivers.

    Don't be hard on yourself, learn more, and enjoy the learning.
     
  4. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    My absolute best work was shot on a roll of B&W that I accidentally switched the fixer and developer bottles so it came out completely clear. Amazing shots, I'm sure of it. Lost forever. I often think about how different my whole photographic career would have been had that roll developed properly... ;/)
     
  5. adelorenzo

    adelorenzo Subscriber

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    This is basically the story of EVERY roll that I process or send out. Shining hope dashed into bitter disappointment. :smile:
     
  6. Jim17x

    Jim17x Subscriber

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    Actually your normal. I use to get like that and then get depressed when i looked at the negatives.. I can go 6 months without getting a single image that i would look twice at, and then all of a sudden i get 3 great images on a single 10 frame roll.. It is a roller coaster but rewarding when you get that great neg.. If you process the film yourself the emotional toll will be shorter..
     
  7. Barry S

    Barry S Subscriber

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    It sounds like you have unrealistic expectations after you shoot a roll of film. Why did you think the photos were going to be so successful? What qualities were you expecting and didn't show? When I look at my proof sheets, I always ask myself why I shot each image. Maybe I have two or three (or no) images I like on a roll of 8-12 shots, but I want to know why the shutter got clicked on the others.

    There are two of me, the guy who shoots the film, and the guy that develops the film and finds stuff to print. The first guy can can get caught up in the moment, be overly optimistic, and wasteful of film, but the second guy can be a critical jerk! It works best when the second guy is thoughtful enough to explain to the first why some shots work and other don't--and suggest tips for shooting. It also helps when the first guy listens with an open mind, and maybe points out creative some ways to print some of the shots that don't look like blockbusters from a quick glance.
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    One of my photography mentors taught me to not lift my camera unless I see something that moves me personally. That's another important ingredient that puts us in the zone of creating from the heart.
    Sometimes it's quite interesting to take an object that we like to photograph, and come back to it many times. Taking a photograph of something that we love, and know how to photograph can sometimes help.
     
  9. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    That's why I stopped doing freelance photography, because if you do enough weddings etc. the law of averages dictates that eventually either you, the lab you use or the postal service will cock it up and you will have a disaster.
     
  10. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Often my excitement over my most recent forte out shooting is so keen that I'm inevitably disappointed as I set my expectations too high. Because of this I will try to wait 4-8 weeks after I shoot to develop my rolls. I'm just more satisfied this way as I've usually gone out shooting a few times since and that earlier session is not fresh in my mind. Somehow better that way,
     
  11. Pierre Luzière

    Pierre Luzière Member

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    The next time you burn through a roll film, also make an equivalent image of the same subjects using a non-film camera. While your roll is out being developed, study your non-film images. When the prints from the film roll arrive, then you can make a comparison. If you find that you really liked some of your non-film images, but their film based equivalents just didn't cut it, I'm sure the cause will reveal itself at that time. The purpose of the comparison, of course, is to demonstrate that memory is not always as accurate as we imagine to be. ;-)
     
  12. batwister

    batwister Member

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    I try to get into the mind of shooting roll film like sheet. This roll was spread out over two days - about five frames a day. I can spend half an hour or more deliberating over a composition, but it's as if I have a psychological barrier with the viewfinder. Sometimes I feel as though I can only perceive space, rather than perceiving the space in two dimensions. Is the inability to pre-visualise a cognitive disorder!? I've occasionally taken pictures with my phone through the viewfinder, then stood back and assessed the composition. I'm using a Pentax 67 and a Hasselblad, both with viewfinders which don't give me full coverage - which is another factor in my 'viewfinder anxiety'.

    I try not to make excuses to buy new cameras, but my mental block with the viewfinder is one reason LF appeals to me. Then all I have to do is stand on my head :laugh:
     
  13. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I used to say to the bride and groom on their return from the honeymoon: "Never mind I'll get it right at your next wedding"

    I have been in hiding for many years now :D

    pentaxuser
     
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  15. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Do this, batwister: some evening, in the near-dark, bring your camera and tripod to a quiet, but visually intriguing place, one that is not too bright. (With few people around you will have the opportunity to ponder the photographic philosophy that Andy K brought us from the deceased Henri von Lier.)

    Now, just look around without HAVING to make an immediate determination. I promise that you will soon see a configuration or two that will pique your curiosity. The darkness takes care of keeping the 'literalness' out of the picture and demotes that configuration to mere design, without tangible purpose. Expose, based upon a low lit indoor scene (like a romantic restaurant venue). You just might get an image worth looking into more closely, or, perhaps, one that will force you to now see what you just missed. This is how we grow visually. it is worth an attempt. - David Lyga
     
  16. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    Gary Winogrand had a huge delay between exposing a roll of film and looking at the contact sheet. I think the delay was something like at least three months or so. Anyways, IIRC, he said that he did it to look at the images objectively, that he wouldn't be tied to what he thought they would be, because he couldn't remember them. The images became something that had been done by someone else.

    Batwister, perhaps you need to do the same thing. Shove the return from the lab in a drawer for at least six months, and then you won't feel attached to it. I started off with a Pentax 6x7 myself, so I know what that camera is like. You might try removing the viewfinder, and just cup your hands around the glass to see the whole frame.
     
  17. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    My advice would be to relax before and when taking the photographs. You may then find some negatives that are quite a surprise.
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    hi batwister

    i never expect anything i shoot to come out at all,
    so when i process a roll myself, or send it out
    i am always happy if anything appears on the film.

    it pays off having very low expectation !

    john
     
  19. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Some very helpful advice.

    David, your post piqued my curiosity. I've definitely felt that need to make an 'immediate determination' after a month or so of zero pictures. Getting into a meditative state of gazing would do me well.

    Will have to try both of these suggestions.

    I've gone through a great shift with my photography over the last year, with my subjective concerns (from the natural landscape to public spaces) and significantly in terms of my aesthetic sensibilities. I have a problem keeping productive and to an extent, forget that actually learning to work (or see) in a new way requires some consistency. I've upended my photographic concerns so much, that I've almost had to start again from the ground up.
     
  20. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    this is a great suggestion ..

    i have found negative-frames that i overlooked from years gone by and they were so much better than
    anything that i had thought was good off the roll. what was "good" off the roll was OK but sometimes losing the
    wishful thinking and stress of hoping something "came out" really helps ..
     
  21. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    It's not worth it. Give up photography and send me your equipment.
     
  22. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    The only time that I will take a picture is if I can see it on my wall. If I can not see my self hanging the image I will not shoot it. I have shot too many rolls that when it comes time to do something with the negs I just end up throwing them away because they are useless subjects.


    I do find the art of composing and shooting an image almost as good as the final product. I like the task. It's relaxing, the rest of photography is shit work. At least for me.
     
  23. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    This reminds me of Tiger Woods. He was constantly changing his swing and he paid for it.

    There was a thread in one of these forums, maybe even here, about using a, non-film is it now, camera to learn or in your case re-learn composition/lighting etc.. You need a little immediate feedback. But wait at least 2 or three days more and look at the pictures again. This ought to tell if it's you and any grandiose dreams your thinking up about how good they actually were. The thing is we all take crappy pictures and I'm sure we all wonder what we were thinking. I've done it a million times, ok not a million, but a hell of alot. I'm at least a few thousand towards my 10,000 bad images as noted by Saint Ansel.
     
  24. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    The great Ralph Eugene Meatyard was said to have piled up film for six months or a year. He would then go into a multi week frenzy of developing and printing. He stated that this was to give himself space between the creation and the revealing of what had actually occurred, not what he had hoped, fantasized, etc.
     
  25. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    NO, I don't think you are losing your mind. But I do think you are not quite in touch with reality.... Even a well known pros, I mean world renown pros, often say if they made ONE great image per year, they did well. So what's the chance for common folks like you and I doing better than that? It's normal and quite natural to be quite excited about the last shooting and do some "mental exercise" about what you might do with the great image. But, if you are really having that much of anxiety attack over it, it's not healthy. If you are dreaming about great sales, exhibitions, and so on, for every single roll, you need to set your expectation for yourself right.

    To me, every "terrible result" is a appointment but also a chance to really evaluate what I did wrong and formulate a plan for the next time. So it's always a mixture of positive and negative. Even great image has something to improve upon. So, I never have a fruitless result.

    Do I have long stretch of no keepers? Yes. I'm in one right now.

    I wish you learn to relax more. If it's too much for you, set down your camera for a while and do something else.
     
  26. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Two out of three weddings in Britain end in divorce, I've often thought it would be more profitable to photograph divorces :smile: