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.

6 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #111: The Almost Portfolio-Revisted

  1. Another fascinating read, David. And a splendid image of the YtBC. Indeed, sometimes it can be difficult to decide which image makes the cut and which end up on the ‘cutting room floor’. In the end it is often a subjective choice, but we do get to the point of knowing what the viewing audience likes, whoever that audience is. As you say, with wildlife there is often not the chance for a second take. I guess that means the one shot has to be ‘right’! I must admit I will sometimes go back to look at the images around the one that I initially chose and find that there are other(s) that have equal merit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G’day, no right wrong answers here.
      I guess for my own work it comes from years of making contract sheets from negs, chinagraph pencil around the ‘one’ and then never returning to the others.
      Slide editing for magazine photojournalism is bit different, but I can’t ever recall an editor ‘mulling’ over the choice between two similar shots.
      Digital has given us that opportunity to ‘compare’ one shot from the next, and then ‘exploring’ options with so many plugin presets or looks.
      And that I think is one of the attractions digital photography has.
      My granddaughter on the other hand makes a selfie, then it goes to snapchat and is changed, altered and disposed of when the next better one is made. Interesting process of creativity.
      Spence Cox shows some interesting different views, but in the end, I think it depends more on the maker and his choice than it does on which one is the memorable shot.
      It is the memorable or classic shots and the ones that didn’t make it, that I think I’m rather contemplating.

      As an aside, I’ve got boxes and boxes of slides that were really important when I took them. Some even went on to national and international exhibitions and came back with awards or at least acceptances. The majority of them I wouldn’t ever think about again.

      keep takin’ pictures, We Do.


  2. An interesting discussion of the topic David, I never like deleting good shots, so I end up moving up the terabyte drives as they come along. It is difficult from a burst to find the better image, and even more difficult to cull the rest. Those special shots that capture the character of the bird or subject with the light and placement are the ones I cherish, and sometimes end up for months as my desktop. Sadly as my eyes deteriorate and the heavy Canon lens gives me pain in my thumb it is more difficult to get a really good shot these days, so I am thankful when this occurs. Enjoy your week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All good Ashley, not right wrong answer here. There is not a one-size fits all rule about what to do with the everbulging harddrive collection(s) 🙂
      I’m fortunate that the 500mm pf Nikon lens is quite lightweight and I could carry it all day. I don’t use it from a tripod like I used to do with the older 500mm f/4. (but I was a lot younger and fitter then!)
      I edit hard. Unless its a never to be repeated. I figure if I miss a sharpish shot of a kite, or wren, then I’ll be able to find another in the coming weeks.
      Multi-burst is not something I use a lot. (Exception is birds in flight.)

      It is hard I think sometimes as we make the shot, and the bird moves and its better. Take another shot. Bird moves, oh, that is even better. Take another shot. I just chose the one of the sequence that I like.


  3. A delightful image of the Cockatoo, and an interesting essay, as always. It is interesting considering which shot we choose out of several, and I had the dilemma just yesterday with a Rainbow Lorikeet shot I put on Flickr. A couple of other shots were a bit sharper (the head feathers are a bit “soft”), but I liked the shot because of the berry in the bird’s bill. It was the only one I got of the bird just as it had plucked a berry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Eleanor, I figure that if its a problem for me, no doubt some others are experiencing the same sort of issues.
      I prefer the slightly soft shot with an great expression or interest to a well exposed crisp, but lifeless shot.
      Ansel Adams said, “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”

      Enjoy the moment


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