Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy Mistakes - Digital Style

This article was originally posted on The Lost Blog
on May 10, 2004.

Seeing the Mistake

Since I've been shooting almost all digital for the past year, there have been a few times when I've made what I call a happy mistake. By that, I mean that I mistakenly did something wrong, like moving the camera during exposure, but it came out right, or at least pointed me in a right direction.

Because I was using a digital camera, I was able to see my "mistake" instantly on the LCD screen, and that got me thinking about experimenting some more with the same "mistake."

Grate Expectations No 2In this first photo, Grate Expectations No. 2, I was shooting some colorful autumn leaves on an aluminum grating when I accidentally moved the camera during the exposure. "Hmmmmm... that's interesting!" was my reaction a second later when the swoosh of color showed up on the little display. I took about 30 more exposures, moving my camera this way and that, trying to get different effects. This is one of the two that I think came out well.

The second photo is one I made just recently at BWI airport when I took my Uncle Joe to meet his flight home to Birmingham. With time to spare, and being overgrown kids ourselves, Joe and I headed to the observation lounge, where there were all kinds of aircraft parts and displays. I spotted the backside of one of the displays, black pegboard with light shining through and a jet-black, modernistic trash bin in the lower left corner. I thought the pattern of holes was pretty cool, so I figured I'd try an exposure. The shutter speed indicated 1/15 sec, so I held my breadth and snapped the shutter ... but in another "mistake", I forgot to stop chewing gum. Whoa! the movement of the camera made each row of holes look like a caffeinated cardiogram. I tried a few more shots, and came up with this image, Half-Specs.
I don't think all this would've happened in my pre-digital days. First of all, I wouldn't have seen the "mistake" until days, weeks, or months later. Then there's the effort of having to schlep back to the scene of the accident to try to recreate or improve upon the first shot - all the while, not being sure of what I was producing. And in some case, the original scene would no longer be there - like the colorful autumn leaves on the grating.

Let me know if you've got some "Happy Mistakes" that you're proud of!

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