The Folly Of Perfection

Sunrise lights the Flatirons  from Chautauqua Park. Clouds on the eastern plains of Colorado obscured first light and prevented the clouds from turning to shades of pink. Furthermore the wind was blowing just enough to cause a few of the wildflowers in the foreground to blur. Not having things break exactly as I wanted distracted me from enjoying the moment as much as I wanted. Looking back although the conditions were not perfect, it's an image I'm very pleased with. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
Sunrise lights the Flatirons from Chautauqua Park. Clouds on the eastern plains of Colorado obscured first light and prevented the clouds from turning to shades of pink. Furthermore the wind was blowing just enough to cause a few of the wildflowers in the foreground to blur. Not having things break exactly as I wanted distracted me from enjoying the moment as much as I wanted. Looking back although the conditions were not perfect, it’s an image I’m very pleased with. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
landscape photographers I know strive to create images that are beautiful, dramatic and as close to technically flawless as possible. With the amount of talented landscape photographers exponentially increasing and the endless ways of showcasing and sharing images both on online and in print, viewing beautiful landscape photography is a click or page away. The quantity and quality of images has never been greater. Being bombarded with this constant flow of spectacular images can make it feel as if attaining images of similar caliber is like trying to catch lighting in a bottle.

This overload of imagery leads many photographers down a path thats simply not attainable, nor healthy for their artistic pursuits, that of the search for perfection. The search for the perfect image, perfect conditions, perfect sunrise detracts from being in the moment, from appreciating fully the time at hand. It’s a difficult concept for some but let me spell it out. There is no such thing as a perfect image, perfect camera, perfect lens or perfect location. We may be able to achieve near perfect images that are compelling, pleasing or even near technically perfect, but they will never in actuality be perfect. The inherent flaws of the artist and the medium are what make the image unique and compelling. Over the last 20 years I have seen many talented photographers burn themselves out and put their cameras away for good all because they were searching for the unattainable goal of perfection.

Wind was raking the surface of Bear Lake. Ideally I would have liked to include more of Longs Peak in the photo. Only the western portion of the lake was smooth enough to capture a reflection so I had to compromise on my location. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III,24-70mm F4 IS L
Wind was raking the surface of Bear Lake. Ideally I would have liked to include more of Longs Peak in the photo. Only the western portion of the lake was smooth enough to capture a reflection so I had to compromise on my location. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III,24-70mm F4 IS L

Why the rant on perfection?. Mostly because I found myself falling into the trap a little more than I was comfortable with last week. Success in landscape photography seems to come in ebbs and flows. Some weeks it seems you cant miss. Every sunrise is dramatic, beautiful clouds hover over the peaks and the wind is calm. Inevitably, the tide will turn and things wont go exactly as you want them to. Clouds may obscure the sunrise that looked so promising, or the wind may be blowing as a gale when you arrive at that alpine lake after a 6 mile predawn hike. I find it’s as easy to fall into the trap when things are breaking your way just as much as when there not. Either way I’ve gotten better over time in recognizing when the search for perfection starts affecting my enjoyment in the field and being present in the moment regardless how successful an outing is.

It was a combination of sunrise at Chautauqua Park and a morning in Rocky Mountain National Park in conditions that I thought were less than ideal that had me pressing a little more than I was comfortable with. Funny enough, both morning yielded images that I’m very pleased with. Stepping back, sticking with it and more importantly being present in the moment helped wrestle the perfection bug back to the ground and off my back.