Null

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of two icebergs passing by outside the window of our ship. I seized my camera and ran to the back of the ship. The pair glistened and glinted in a glowing haze of diffuse fog. I check the first few frames. Perfect exposures. And I continued shooting until they disappeared.

Thrilled, I returned to my cabin to download these beautiful new images. I opened the camera and found there was no card in it. To fix a recently developed quirk, I had reset all the settings on my camera to their defaults, which was to fire without a card, a behavior I disliked before and loathed now.

Yet again, I was forced to learn from my mistakes. The pain and frustration of what was lost drove this lesson home deeply. I redoubled my efforts to keep my systems streamlined and my habits well maintained – plus periodically check them.

It’s only a small comfort that Thomas Edison, one of the most innovative men in history, set a monthly quota for making mistakes; he felt that if he wasn’t making a certain number of mistakes, he wasn’t pushing the envelope enough. Easier said than done, the trick is not to make the same mistake twice. I had made this mistake before. It was already on my checklist – Mistakes I’ve Made.

A black cat mysteriously failed to appear in exposures I made as a small child with my mother. No one had a camera the day we released a magnificent rehabilitated golden eagle. On close inspection, exposures from the Scottish highlands were found to be out of focus. A dozen sheets of film used inside Chartes Cathedral were re-exposed to light before being processed. A roll of film shot in Death Valley’s Golden Canyon was improperly processed. A camera shutter failed to open despite making its customary noise at Point Lobos, California. Files made in Chile’s altiplano were deleted from a hard drive. A camera fell to the bottom of the ocean in a Maine harbor. The list goes on. I keep looking for the book people refer to when they use the phrase “every mistake in the book” – but until I find it, I’ll continue writing my own.

To this day, I can see these images in my mind as clearly as if they were made yesterday. But you can’t. They’re the ones that got away. In their place, I have lessons learned.

Questions

What can you learn from your mistakes?

How many lessons can you learn from a single mistake?

What can you do to try not to make the same mistake twice?

How can you learn from other’s mistakes?

What can others learn from your mistakes?

Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

I made a lot of mistakes on our South American Cruising Through Life workshop. It could have been that I was getting used to a new camera – Canon 5D Mark II. It could have been that I was out of my element and trying new things. Am I kicking myself? No. I’m learning from my mistakes. Sometimes I feel like I learn more from my mistakes than my successes.

Here’s one example. Shooting hand held bracketed bursts (one scene, 3 exposures, 1.5 stops apart), I often found I hadn’t set or reset the bracket function correctly. It takes setting the mode and then confirming the settings on my 5D Mark II. I often missed the confirm step. And if I got distracted, I often forgot to take it off auto bracket mode, which means single shots were varying exposure unexpectedly. After repeating the mistake several times, I’m now on alert every time I slip in and out of these modes. In fact, I think this camera and this experience has made me more vigilant about all of my camera settings.

Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from your mistakes. And making mistakes in situations where the pressure’s not on and stakes aren’t high is ideal. I recommend you make a little time to shoot and use it to become more conscious of your equipment and your habits.

Plans are brewing for future international Cruise workshops.

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Find out more about Cruising Through Life here.
Find out more about Vincent Versace here.
Find out more about my upcoming workshops here.


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