Saturday Evening Post #111: The Almost Portfolio-Revisted

Or perhaps the subtitle, “The Ones that Never Quite Made It”.

Was revisiting a blog by Spencer Cox who wrote earlier in the year about the photos that didn’t quite make it into the portfolio.
The ones taken at the same time, same location, same subject. The one you share and are happy to show around.


The ones that never have a life beyond the hard-drive.

Now Spencer, to be told, shoots mainly landscape, architectural and portraits.  So on location, he is likely to make a few variations of the same subject.

For those of us who are working mostly with wildlife, and here on the blog with birds in particular, it’s not very often that we get out-takes that are so similar that we mull for hours over the choice of which one to use.
We either have it, or it’s a missed opportunity.

Sure, I can shoot a ‘bird on a stick’, and blast off 20 frames. But really, there will be so little variation that any one of the 20 will be fine. Or, we meet a moment, the action happens, and 20 more frames won’t hold that magic. It’s gone.

I’ve never been much for multi-burst. (old fashioned I guess), I never worry about the camera spec that tells how many frames I can get in the buffer before the camera stops taking shots.
Except: I do use it for some inflight shots. Mainly because I’ve got the bird in the viewfinder. If I try for single shots, I wander off the bird action very quickly.

It might be interesting to think of some of the great photographs that have been made over the years, and ponder what the ‘out-takes’ might have been like.
Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris–of the man jumping a puddle,  Galen Rowel’s Rainbow over the Potala Palace, Winter Home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lhasa, 1981.

No doubt there were several frames one side or the other that were nearly as good.

Sometimes there was only one frame. Think Frank Hurley and The Endurance trapped in the ice

or Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Because of the time, the place, the equipment and the moment, there are no ‘out-takes’.

I once knew a photographer, who travelled the world making shots for magazine and books to demonstrate various photographic techniques.  He also shot using a specially built camera panoramic shots on huge pieces of film.
On one occasion he was visiting Australia and a trip along the obligatory Great Ocean Road was in order. Unfortunately the day he went, the weather was atrocious overcast, rain and hail.
He did setup and use the pano camera to make a shot near Loch Ard Gorge and captured all the power of the surf whipped up by the strong winds. It was really a misty interpretation.
It did however get made into a large wall-mounted print that graced the hallway of a certain multi-national company. From memory the width of the print was close to 3 metres.
Interestingly he also shot quite a large number of 35mm transparencies. And after they were returned from processing, he set up a small light box and proceeded to edit them.  Out of 36 shots to the roll, he probably kept 2 or 3. Now the cardboard rubbish box he had contained some images that I would have loved to have made.
But out they went.

Spencer talks about why one of his images made the folio, and the other(s) didn’t. It can be a matter of lighting, placement, point of view, camera settings, changes in lens or simply movement of people.  In the end. One picture has to carry the story.

There are a lot of ‘almost portfolio’ shots from our morning with the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.
But in the end, I chose this one.
Because of the angle. Because of the wing action and because the light was over the face.  The few shots either side miss out on one or more of those elements.

And above all, for me, it is a little quirky, like the bird.