To this day June 1st 2009 is still my favorite day spent photographing in Central Park. This photo here and the one that follows represents both ends of the spectrum in terms of hopes and disappointments from that day. This first shot was one I looked forward to adding to my gallery the most, but turned out the most disappointing when I looked at it when I got home. The shot you'll see after this one was one I thought would only turn out to be a pretty decent, but as I edited it I could see that it was easily the best candid shot I'd ever taken. The two photo's combined to help reinforce a lesson I take with me each day I photograph, which is - Don't waste too much time lamenting over a shot you butchered, another fine image may be right around the corner. If your mind is still with the shot you missed you'll end up missing the next one too.
The steps that led to me missing this first shot started when I broke from my search for candid shots and stopped at Turtle pond by Belvedre Castle. I had made a vow today to only concentrate on candid shot opportunities, but as the sun started sinking in the sky, the warm light and shadows made for super landscape opportunities. Temporarily giving in I started looking at the landscape imagining it in all sorts of lighting situations, at different times of the year spring thru winter. While I was at it I decided to stop my lens down as far as it could go and took some shots to see for myself just how bad diffraction hurt image quality when I did so. I had always thought about doing that back when I used slide film 20 years ago, but money was extremely tight for me back then and I didn't want to waste a single frame on a shot I knew I was going to make bad on purpose. But now that my photo world was digital, images today are free so I can experiment away. So after recording the experimental shots I started walking away while my face was buried in the back of my camera reviewing the images on my view screen. I figured I probably wasn't going to run into any nice people shots at that exact moment that would require my immediate attention, and naturally fate called the hand I was holding, and I lost.
Looking up to make sure I was headed in the right direction for the path that would take me to a small lake on the west side of the park near 101st street, I spotted a group of folks having a nice small picnic on the Great Lawn. Headed towards them were a father and his little girl. One of the friends sitting on the lawn started blowing colorful little bubbles towards her, and she started raising her hand up towards them. The heavy back lighting from the sun sinking in the western sky created near magical lighitng with wonderful golden highlights and nice form creating shadows. As the little girls eyes locked onto the bubbles I whipped my camera around and raised it up to my face. (DAMN!) My camera lens was still set to f32, if I took the time to change any settings the father would have closed the distance on his friends at the picnic and the perfect composition would have been destroyed, so I was going to have to take the shot at that absurd f-stop. I wanted a tight cropping to emphasize the girls eyes and hand reaching for the bubbles, but my aim was off, and I cropped a little too much of the left side of the picture. It was now or never and I squeezed the trigger for a quick 3 burst recording of the scene. Flipping the camera around and looking at the image on my LCD screen, the picture didn't look too bad. Showing the shot to the father, he liked it alot. I wanted to get more shots of her, and Al called his daughter Neco over so I could try. But as he was waiting for her to come over I looked up in the sky and saw that the sun was falling lower and lower and if I didn't leave immediately I would never make it to that pond while there was some usable light left. I had always wanted to take pictures at this pond but my trips to Central Park always started from the southern end and by the time I worked my way up the park the sun set in the sky long before I reached the pond, and this was as close as I had ever gotten before. So I told Al I had to rush, but I'd send him the picture when I processed them later, and hurriedly headed for the pond.
Looking at the shots on my computer when I got home I could see that the tiny f32 aperture combined with the low ISO setting I had chose for the scenic shots I took at the Castle, forced my camera to choose a shutter speed too low to freeze Al and Neco in their tracks. Plus I shot the scene slightly crooked and had to crop even more off the left side to correct that in the final edits. The resulting shot of the best scene of the day was so badly butchered by me that for three years I didn't even bother to upload it to my gallery here on Smugmug till I finally had a change of heart.
That night after getting over my disappointment over this shot I moved on to the shots I captured at the pond off 101st street. As I watched the image transform on my computer as I edited it, I saw the most amazing candid I'd ever recorded to this point in all my 20 years of photographing develop right before my eyes. So now when I run across a great shot and totally ruin it I try not to get overly upset over it, another great image could be waiting for me to capture and I need my wits about me if I want to get it.
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