In my last blog entry I discussed the notion that perfection in nature, although much sought-after, is not necessary and that we should accept flawed beauty as individuality. Following on from that I'd like to question the desire many of us have to achieve perfection in our photography, which can become almost an obsession – a Holy Grail.

There is nothing wrong in trying to better ourselves, of course, producing the best quality work that we can and striving to improve, but it can become counter-productive if it stops us enjoying photography or results in disillusionment.

Indeed, is perfection even desirable, as attainment might turn our photography into science rather than art, making the whole process technical rather than creative? The question also arises, “What is perfection?” One person's idea of perfection might be very different from another's and surely true perfection requires a more precise measure than mere opinion.

Perfection is also often outside our control. Sure, a studio photographer may have no “excuse” for not achieving perfection, given the amount of control available in this somewhat artificial environment, but then we have the issue of that perfection becoming a formula – perfect every time and perfectly boring! However, any type of outdoor photography will depend upon many variables, such as weather, light, time of day, season, plus the random patterns and occurrences of nature itself. With this reliance upon serendipity perfection by definition can hardly exist. Nevertheless, it is understandable and entirely laudable that we should desire to make the very best of any situation and actively seek those situations where convergence of all the variables comes closest to our idea of perfection.

The problem with this approach is that it may restrict the number of photographs that we take and limit the number of scenes that we attempt to interpret. In our desire to make only perfect photographs we may well forget that practice makes perfect and, when the “perfect” opportunity arises, find that we are not properly prepared! Not only are we in danger of suffocating our own diversity and creativity but we also risk compromising our quest for perfection!

I am as culpable as anyone with my excuses for not taking a photograph;
“There's nothing worth taking a picture of,”
“The light's not right,”
“It's the wrong time of day/season,”
“The sky is bland,”
“There are power cables/yellow lines/parked cars/people/other eyesores intruding upon the scene,”
…...the list goes on!

Yesterday was just such a day for me. It was a beautiful, sunny day in early autumn and I had the opportunity to get out on my own for a couple of hours. However, the sky was bland, the autumn colours have yet to fully develop and it was early afternoon, not the best time of day even this late in the year. Plus I was stuck in the same old boring locality when I would much rather be in the Lake District or somewhere similarly spectacular. All the usual excuses were there for not making a photograph. However, I was itching to take something – anything – and I knew it would be good practice. As a bonus it might reveal some previously unconsidered viewpoints and compositions for future reference. Successful (note I did not say “perfect”) landscape photography is often due to research, planning, perseverance and revisiting.

To cut a long story short (hands up those who think I should have done that in the first paragraph), these are what I came up with. Although not perfect in any way, they are nevertheless pleasing and fulfilling for me, made me see familiar surroundings in a new way and gave me valuable practice that next time might make me, well, perfect!


This scene might have more potential in a few weeks once the autumn colours have developed and, hopefully, there is a more interesting sky



This shot was a bit of a challenge as I had to momentarily stand in the centre of a busy road in order to avoid clutter intruding into the frame. The sky is bland and the shadows rather intrusive but it was good practice in seeking out a different viewpoint and working quickly.



As the afternoon wore on and the sun began to dip I was presented with this challenge. The strong backlighting bleached most of the colour and contrast out of the scene, resulting in a very narrow histogram. It's far from perfect but I think it scrubbed up reasonably well with a little levels and contrast adjustment.



I didn't even get near perfection with any of these and I didn't expect to. The important thing is I enjoyed myself!