Those wonderful mistakes
April 12th, 2019
Have you ever thought of the moment when early humans found out that meat exposed to fire for long enough is way better to that served raw? I have always imagined a group of homo erectus sitting by the fire helping themselves to a raw gazelle or some other kill, and one of them dropping his part into the fire too hot for the meat to be salvaged right away. What follows are cries, hard hits and teeth gnashing. It was only when the fire was subdues and this say, hungry individual was able to retries what was left of his portion, only then did he realise he was the unlikely winner. I imagine it did not take long for other members of his group to eat all their meat cooked, roasted or grilled. By making this mistake humanity made a massive step into our development and growth.
Fast forward a few seconds on the universe clock and we find ourselves today – with our highly developed technology, housing and warm coming from radiators. Our fireplace is now called a TV set and our caves are manufactured and assembled by construction companies. We also communicate in a slightly different fashion – instead of short sharp grunts we send short messages via our mobile phones.
There are moments which turn out to be big leaps for humanity but there are also moments that change particular lives. In some cases this is when one is gifted with a camera and, often quite incautiously, starts taking pictures. As we all know, in some cases this careless approach to the medium and further pursuing seemingly innocuous activity turns a person into a photographer for life.
Whether our ancestors left Africa, crossed into Middle East and spilled across the world in quest for food or a better place to live I am quite positive it was also the curiosity that made them take more steps than it was necessary. Am also convinced that some of those steps turned out to be mistakes, some dreadful and some otherwise. The same relates to our photography journeys – no matter how experienced you are, shooting in the same way for ever will simply not do. The boredom sneaks in quite quickly and curiosity takes the better of us. This is when we venture outside of our comfort zone and make mistakes, some dreadful and some otherwise.
As so it was with me all though the last month. Having to sit at home for most of March due to constant rain outside is nothing new (I would like to be able to say ‘nothing new under the Sun’ but the Sun was simply not to be seen) if your house is in London. Small wonder the British have so many expressions to portrait the rain – they must have been awfully bored sitting around on those countless long rainy days of the dim and distant past of no internet.
Regrettably, I do not possess the qualities that would allow me to propose new phrases in any language, no matter how hard and long it chucks it down. Instead, I like to set up my tripod in my little studio and photograph a thing or other. For some reason I quite enjoy photographing flowers – I expect it is petals texture and overall shapes that draws me to them. Orchids, sunflowers and tulips are what I mostly try my lack with.
Pointing camera at flowers can hardly be classified as a mistake, unless I would be trying to move it further and present it to public. I tell myself that the best policy is to refrain from such a reckless move and my better judgement usually wins. Not this time though.
Bored of the rain and cruising my room for a spot of thrill I nicked a bunch of flowers from downstairs and set them on my shooting table in what looked like an acceptable arrangement (funny how it usually looks that way until you see it on the screen on your computer), set up my tripod and camera, looked through a viewfinder and started moving the vase with tulips in search for a better compo.
As some point I pressed the shutter. It clicked as it always does but then nothing happened for about ten long seconds. And then it clicked back.
It was of course set for a bit longer exposure and never reset after my last trip. I set it now to reflect the current light conditions and took a few test images. After a few minutes I had it all on my screen in front of me. I was slowly scrolling through them. Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Delete, delete, delete. All wrong, all no longer speaking to me in any way.
The initial ten second image was not deleted. It still sat on the card, not even transferred to Lightroom, and so survived the cull. It was only after a few further failures and deletes that it had its chance to present itself. As soon as it did, I put the dials back and started playing with different times and moving the flowers any way I felt. I found myself on my private route 66, getting my kicks.
If any of the images taken that evening should survived, I am not sure. It does not matter much though – it is not every day we produce a masterpiece that will make our name go down in history. The fun I had experimenting and trying to tame the unexpected was in itself enough to turn a drab day into an colourful one. It will surely be a long and winding road but mistakes are only steps on the way to success, the truth that stays with us ever since our distant relative picked the roasted piece of meat from the fire.