One of the many beauties of human nature is that we search for perfection in everything and everyone. On the surface of the matter, it seems like a positive trait to have – after all, why shouldn’t we desire perfection? – but as we dig a little deeper and put some thought into it, ‘perfection’ is just an illusion to distract us from the things that actually matter.
How often do we throw good images away because they weren’t ‘up to the mark’, technically or artistically? Why do we delete (sometimes) hours of work in a split-second just because they weren’t what we expected to produce? Why do we show blatant disregard for memories that we’ll probably never get to experience again? The answer is quite simple, it’s because reality never truly aligns with our expectations. The problem arises when we do not embrace reality as it happened and, instead, hang on to the version of events that we made up in our mind.
This is a scene that I’ve spent a lot of time in the past trying to photograph with little success. The elements never seemed to align – whether it be the sun angle, the weather, the background, or the subject – until recently. So deflated I was that when the Hoopoe photographed above landed in my backyard within 15 meters of me (in perfect light, I must add), I did not, even for a second, feel the urge to take a picture. It took some compulsion from my mom to make me rush to my room and grab my camera. Before I knew it, I was lying flat on the ground jabbing away at the shutter button, the Hoopoe within 7-8 meters of my lens in insect heaven. I had to clone out a few distracting elements from the background, but this is as close as I’ve ever got to my ‘dream shot’ of the Hoopoe. And it all happened in a flash. There was no planning involved. This incident taught me an important lesson. This image isn’t technically ‘perfect’ – it has some noise, some background elements had to be removed, and there are still a few distractions in the foreground – but that’s not the point. It’s all about the experience, and that makes the image very valuable to me.
I took up photography as a serious hobby in 2013, and over the course of the past 6 years, the most important life lesson I’ve learnt is the fact that perfection is not absolute. Perfection in itself is subjective. What’s perfect to one person could be trash to another, but that does not devalue the subject matter in any way. It’s fine to have expectations about what you want, but if you are not flexible in how you want to get the end result, you’ll never be satisfied. Instead, focus on enjoying the experience. If you don’t like an image, then go ahead and delete it, but don’t forget that even that ‘trash’ image was a result of an experience, and experience is gold.