As I poke through some of my favorite photos I notice there are a few reasons one or another may become one of my favorites... and it is not always because it is the most technically perfect photo.
Actually, my favorites are frequently NOT technically perfect.
Don't get me wrong, I like sharp, noiseless, well composed photos as much as the next guy - those are the ones I frame for public display and enter in contests... but, if I'm honest, my favorite photos are those that tell me a story - even if that story is a little gritty or even disheveled - sometimes because the story is a little gritty and disheveled... and I think that's because sometimes that makes the story more real... sometimes that gritty disheveled aspect of the photos is actually a part of the story - or the other story... the story behind the story or the story of how I captured the story depicted in the photo.
Life is gritty and disheveled so maybe the perfectly grittily disheveled photo IS the technically perfect capture of a given gritty disheveled moment. A good example of this is the my Cowgirl Up! blog, but sometimes it is much more subtle than that.
I do get excited when I get those photos that are perfectly cropped in camera and almost looked staged for their perfect composition - those are great when I need a photo for a magazine or some other formal piece of material I'm working on.
Thing is, I also get excited when I see one of those photos where the composition or 'lack of staging' imperfection is... well... perfect!
Well, perfect to me - in that it helps tell the story I see when I look at the image.
In this photo (below) everything fell into place... I was hidden behind an architectural element of the Shrine that allowed me access to shots behind the Altar during Mass. I had a direct unobstructed view for the Preparation of the Gifts and amazing light coming in through the floor to ceiling window behind the Altar. Fr. C was walking back toward the Altar and provided the perfect backdrop. The music laying closest to me offered a nice way to balance the bokeh in the distance and complete the full range of depth of field.
Then I saw it - the stems of his glasses... and I immediately knew that I was going to love this shot... that it really was going to be Picture Perfect... to me.
All the elements are there - bread, wine, water... and those glasses at the ready.
There is the other story... the rest of the story.
Those glasses say so much to me. Okay, mostly because I know Fr. C... and I know that every once in a while he is asking around if you see his glasses anywhere because he reached for them and they weren't where he expected them to be. I have known him just long enough that I have an image in my head of him looking for them and then putting them on. I can hear him having the little out-loud but quiet conversation everyone in this situation has with themselves as he searches around for them. Those stems immediately bring to mind all the projects he has asked me to work on and his glasses going on - or coming off - and going back on - and coming off again - to review or proof whatever we're working on.
Maybe this comes to my mind now because I have just begun wearing 'distance only' contacts and leaving my trifocal glasses at home when I go out with my camera... and I now need to carry 'cheaters' so that I can see the back of my camera while wearing said contacts... and then track down my trifocal glasses when I get home.
I have a renewed respect for Fr. C's glasses plight and the plight of all those who wear 'cheaters'.
Stand united and see clearly closeup, my brothers and sisters.
But those stems even tell you that he wears glasses, used them earlier at the Altar, and then left them at the Altar... and you could surmise that other photos I took before and after this one likely show him wearing those glasses... so now you know something about him - something about the other story. And you can build more story in your mind's eye - perhaps not a technically accurate story, but a story none the less.
So that element, the stems, which would not be welcome were I using this image in a magazine spread or on a marketing piece for an event, are actually what make this photo unique from almost every other photo of this moment in every Mass.
In this photo, that element makes this image Picture Perfect... to me. And, really, that's what matters... How I - the photographer - see the image.
Sometimes you get 'the shot' for a client, and that feels great... but sometimes, the best times, you just get 'the shot' for yourself.
The shots I get for work pay the bills.
The shots I get for myself feed my soul.
And that's why I do it... that's why I love it... that's what keeps me going.
That next shot that I will love for reasons only I will know because it will tell layers of stories... that speak directly to me.