This Picture Isn't Very Good

I keep coming back to this picture.

I'm never quite sure why, because technically, it's not a good picture.

It isn't bad, but it isn't good.

It's quite minimal, but not minimalist enough.

There's a pier that's partially obscured by the mist and a bird that's almost - but not quite - out of the frame.

It has a hard horizontal line from the deck of the pier that does not lead the eye in to the picture and to the subject, and an implied vertical one from the bird's trajectory out of the frame.

Except for the bird, there is nothing in the air or on the water. There are no people on the pier and even the sun and the clouds are obscured by the mist.

Technically it is not perfectly focussed and 75% of the image is a just a murky grey tone. It does not follow the rule of thirds (or probably, any other rule).

So why do I like it so much, and why do I keep coming back to it?

Maybe it's because it was just one lucky shot, early on a very cold morning, that caught the bird in exactly the right place and I was happier with it than others?

But maybe it's because the bird could actually be a metaphor for my photography.

He's working as hard as he can and going up as fast as he can. He's using every ounce of strength to rise up out of the gloom (and out of the frame) and reach wherever he's going. And he can go anywhere...

He doesn't care about the gloom or the rule of thirds or leading lines.

That must be it.

But if I'm looking at it again, and maybe thinking about metaphors, it strikes me that actually the pier is much a better one than the bird. 

The pier is mostly lost in the haze. Nothing is particularly clear. But it is what it is, where it is, in all lights and all weathers. While it can change according to the light and conditions, basically it's always the same thing just seen a bit differently.

It's not perfect, and it's certainly not trying to be anything that it's isn't.

This feels more like it.

When Atget walked the streets of Paris, plate camera on his back, photographing shop fronts and parks, he worked entirely alone, to his own internal agenda and didn't seem bothered by any obvious manifesto other than recording something he thought beautiful. Let's be clear - I'm not pretending to be in his league (or any of the many immediately below him) but I find his working method something I can understand and enjoy.

Being on or around the pier gives me a huge amount of joy. I love its brutalist beauty and can while away hours there, photographing waves, birds or people. I can watch the light and the sea, enjoying the sun - or sheltering from the wind and rain. For me, it's a paradigm for the cosmos. It's probably why I have hundreds of pictures featuring that pier.

And - like the pier itself - I'll probably return to many of them again and again, even if they aren't very good.


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