The Success in Failure

On May 3, 2006, more than 12 years ago, I created an image at the Foothills Parkway. I know this because the picture is a file on the hard drive of my computer and the file has a “date created” associated with it. For a guy who has boxes and bags of unorganized prints, slides, and negatives that span decades, having the “created date” associated with a digital image file is an amazing thing. Thank you. I’m not sure to whom I should direct this sense of gratitude but thank you.

The image I have included here is that image I created more than 144 months ago. At the time, I believed this was the first successful image I had created at the Foothills Parkway. I had tried for at least three years to get what I considered to be a successful image at the Foothills Parkway. I know this because there are many other image files on the hard drive of my computer with a “date created” stamped on the file. For three years, I went to the Foothills Parkway and took pictures, all of them unsuccessful. I kept going back to the places the books told me to go. I went to the places other photographers told me to go, a statement which implies that I considered myself a photographer at the time and I surely did not. Nothing ever worked for me at Foothills. Nothing was successful. I didn’t get it. I remember saying to others, “What’s the big deal with the Foothills Parkway?? It’s just not that photogenic.”

But I kept going back. I don’t know why, but I kept going back. I don’t know if I was persistent or stupid, or perhaps a bit of both. Whatever drove me, I’m not sure I would do that today. Today, I would have given up long ago. What is the point in going back to create failure after failure after failure?

One day, May 3, 2006, to be exact, I went to the Foothills Parkway probably expecting another failure. I suspect somewhere inside me a spark of hope remained, but I don’t remember it now. And on that day, I found a pleasing image that I processed, printed, and hung on my wall. It stills hangs on my wall today: my first successful image from the Foothills Parkway. I entered it in a contest and it was accepted. Yay! The outside world agreed with me! It was a successful image. What a great story! Persistence and stupidity, in the proper amounts, pay off in a successful image. I even had a catchy title for the image, “Foothills Morning.” You gotta love that!

The only problem is, when I look at that image today, on October 7, 2018, I intensely dislike it. I think to myself, “what was I thinking??” The colors are completely wrong. There is even an uncorrected dust spot in the sky. Yikes! What an atrocity! To be clear, the image included here in this post is not the same atrocity hanging on my wall. The image on my wall is a magenta and cyan colored nightmare. But I’ve left it on my wall. I see it every day. Perhaps I leave it there as a reminder, or maybe I’m just lazy.

Today, I decided to reprocess the image, so I went back to the original files from 2006 and started from scratch. I’ve been studying vision, color, and perception lately, so a thought occurred to me with the reprocessed version: monochrome. I added a black and white layer in Photoshop and immediately knew I was on the right track. Some mid-tone contrast, some dodging and burning, and 20 minutes later the attached monochrome version was staring me in the face. Hmm…why did it take so long for me to get to this point with that image?? I don’t know. I don’t care. OK, maybe I care a little bit about that answer, but I’ll move on.

Regardless, I love this new version! Since I first created it 12 years ago, I’ve created many other images from the Foothills Parkway. Looking back on them with today’s eyes, I still consider several of them to be successful. Some, not so much. Whatever, I don’t think any of them are as successful as my first failure. I hope you enjoy it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s