When impressions don't match results

When I'm out making images, I have to trust my intuition - it's part of being a film shooter - I can't see what it is I've captured until the films are processed much later. I would say though, that after shooting film for over 20 years now, that I feel I've got a fairly good grasp on how well things are going at the time of capture.

But there have been a number of occasions of late, where I feel that what I created, once home, and reviewing the transparencies, did not equal what I thought I was achieving at the time. In some instances, the final images have surpassed what I felt I captured. This was evident last summer when I visited Iceland. I had a terrible head cold and felt that the entire shoot was a disaster. So much so, that I came home early, feeling very despondent and assured that the whole shoot had been a disaster.

When they returned, and I finished work on them, I discovered I had this collection of imagery:

I was a little overwhelmed at just how well the final images turned out, and in particular, how the images are perhaps some of my personal best work, despite my belief at the time that things weren't working for me whilst on location.

I'm curious as to just what it was, that helped me make such a strong collection of images, despite my belief at the time that the images were no good?

I feel, that we should always be willing to review not just our work, but also ourselves. I little bit of introspection - or self-awareness is no bad thing, and in fact, I think it's perhaps the most important thing in photography. We often overlook the most important ingredient in image making - ourselves. I've written about this on several occasions now, and I've even gone to the trouble of writing an ebook about it too.

So I'm no stranger to being surprised by my own efforts - a creative person should find himself surprised every now and then, and if he isn't - it's maybe because he never re-evaluates himself, or the work he's created.

Above is a contact sheet for my first escapade to the Lofoten Islands last March. I feel this too, is a very strong body of work. The only difference between this and my Iceland shoot, was that I knew I was capturing something of merit at the time.

So this year, I've been to Lofoten twice. I'm in the middle of editing the final images from two shoots - one in February where we had the most spectacular light and plenty of snow, and a second trip in March where the snow was fast disappearing and I didn't feel that enthused about what I was capturing.

Again though, I'm surprised. The latest (and most disappointing shoot) seems to be providing the most thought-provoking images out of the two shoots. Which is not what I anticipated.

I think there are perhaps numerous reasons why we should have such a disconnect between what we anticipated and what we actually get. I'll try to cover some of them (as I see them) here for you. Maybe you'd like to suggest some others that I've missed?

1. Lack of experience is the obvious one. But as I've said, I feel I've become pretty proficient at what I do, but there are still those moments where my vision seems out of sync with my ability.

2. Being overwhelmed by the experience of simply being there. Some places are more pleasant to shoot than others. But this has little impact on the final image. A rainy day can make the whole experience feel worthless, yet we can still come home with some surprising images. Part of this is because we have to learn that the quality of light that we find pleasing and enjoyable to be in, is not the same as the quality of light that a camera prefers to record. Camera's like low contrast light.

3. Energy levels. If you feel like crap, you can't really be that objective about what it is that you're doing. If you're unexperienced, you  will most probably let it influence your shoot as well. More proficient photographers (although not immune to this), can often still come home with good images because of the amount of experience and technique they've built up.

But i'm wondering, if you're not entirely there - if you're feeling sick, or your mind is distracted, and you still come home with good images, then what is going on? Is perhaps the illness taking your mind off things a little? Is it acting as a distraction? A distraction that allows the mind to think more laterally, and come up with things it ordinarily wouldn't?

Your comments are welcome.