Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Hello, Volks! Welcome to Hohenfels Volks. I hope you’re all doing well, here in Hohenfels!

“Your first 10,000 photos are your worst” ~ Henri Cartier Bresson

As mentioned yesterday, Bresson said that well before digital cameras.

My thought on this quote, being in the digital age, is that it’s no longer your first 10,000, but your first 100,000 to 1,000,000 that qualify for his comment. It’s easy to understand this, given the widespread use of DSLRs and computers. We no longer have to pay for each shot, we don’t have to wait for processing, and we can see it instantly. We now shoot 10-100 times what the old masters did. They had to pay around $10 for one 8x10 piece of negative. Shooting one shot therefore cost quite a bit and they made sure they made it count. Today we don’t. Another downside of the digital age, is that those same worst shots, are also our best.

The reason is simple, when you see your first pic from a nice camera, you think “WOW! This is so cool!” Of course, all your friends tell you how good your pics are, too. Of course, like the old days, you’re learning without even knowing it. You start showing your stuff online and posting to Facebook, people are leaving good comments and life is good.

Then… you start looking at other photographers and their works. You start asking “Why isn’t mine that good?” Maybe they have a better camera! Actually, they’re just a little further down the road. However, that question leads you to the next step, conscious learning. You’ve awoken to the reality of Bresson’s basic statement about your first photos being your worst. You now seek to improve and learn. You start asking for criticism and advice. You read everything, you learn the rules, you start shooting AV or TV, and now your photos are getting better. You can see the improvement, so can others. Still you see all the rules you broke, and think, “How can I do this right?”

Here’s the short answer- you don’t. Photography is art, and adventure, and fun, and frustrating. It’s all about the rules, and breaking them on purpose. If you’re breaking them and not knowing it, not knowing how, and not knowing why, then you’ve not moved on. Learn the rules, and learn when, how and why to break them. You’re images will speak to your art, and start telling volks the story you want told. Learning to use your camera, in AV, TV, or manual mode is a big step. Adding light and flash is another step, knowing about framing inside the image, and other compositional tips, will all improve your work. You’ll still be critical, but in a way that leads to something nice. Asking how to make it better is positive and can be a great way to master your art.

We all learn, all the time, as long as we don’t let ourselves get stuck in the negative thoughts. Don’t be too hard when looking at your work, look more for the technical side, like exposure and sharpness. Let your visualizations and compositions lead you to new rules and to breaking those rules. Whatever you do, don’t stop loving photography or the art. Keep your love and don’t let your criticism of yourself take away the joy you felt at your first few shots. Trust me, that feeling will return, each and every time you learn something new and make it work in your photography.

Enjoy the rest of you week, keep shooting, and remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

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