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The F Word

Models Bryce Rankins and Katie Johnson, with assistance from Devin Schiro, Jake Nestor and Amy Kaniewski.

If you’ve ever read my blog before you know how I feel about the F word. I don’t say it, don’t believe in it, and don’t think you should either. Failure is nothing more than an opportunity awarded, a chance to be something more than what you are, a second chance. Failure is being given permission to do better, to try again with greater results, to push yourself beyond your perceived limits.

Failure…more like “delayed success”.

It took a lot of strength to feel that way after a shoot that went all wrong a couple months back. I arranged a big underwater shoot. It was my dream. It was a picture I had been dreaming of for 3+ years. I had talked about it all the time with my friend and model for the shoot, Katie Johnson. We went over the details so many times before, from what it would end up looking like to how it would be accomplished.

But on the day, things didn’t exactly turn out as I had hoped. The bed wouldn’t sink. The crew was late. The sun started dimming behind the mountain…and so, 5 hours and $600 later, I had no shot to speak of. The bed finally started cooperating just as the pool lights kicked in. I was extremely close to calling it off and going home. Pool lights? I don’t use pool lights. Forget this…

But then, in a moment of optimism…or, at the least, in a moment of delusion…I decided to shoot anyway. The lights were quite dim below the water. I had to kick my ISO up to an insane number. I had to shoot at 1/15 of a second with someone holding me still in the water so I didn’t float away.

It was less than ideal, but in that moment, amidst the chaos and potential failure of it all, I was happy. I was happy that I took a picture despite nothing going well. I was happy that I was surrounded by people who cared as much as I did about getting the shot. I was happy that, in the face of failure, I could see potential.

The potential to do something greater next time.

The potential not to repeat the same mistakes.

The potential to be happy, instead of being defeated.

Sometimes a little perspective change is all that is needed. Did this shoot turn out how I had hoped? Not in the least bit. Would I put this picture in my portfolio? No. But now I know what not to do next time, and I can say with all certainty that I won’t make the same mistakes. I will try harder, be smarter, and put all of that built up passion into achieving the picture of my dreams.

Some outtakes as we played around earlier in the day…

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{ 15 } Comments

  1. pat cash | October 3, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    love your work been trying to shoot underwater and never thought it would be as hard as it is … now understand … but as you said it is only a delay for success ! love your work super cool, wicked great !

  2. Rebeca | October 3, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this. I know many others will say the same thing and feel the same way, but even so, I feel as if this was written for me to see. I’ve hit a low point with photography-partially due to my last semester of college and partially to my sense of disappointment in myself. I’ve always believed in magic but never knew how to show the world until I took a photography class. It was architectural photography, but nevertheless set me up for my dream. I’m inspired to pick up my camera again. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

  3. Brooke Shaden | October 3, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    To know that these words might have inspired one person to try again makes my whole life brighter. Thank you Rebeca, and I know you will do amazing things.

  4. Christina LeMarr | October 3, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    One of the best, most inspiring blog posts I’ve read in a long time!! I so needed to read this right now. In the midst of setting up my own studio I feel that your words comfort me enough to know that I’m on the right path and that my setbacks are nothing but learning blocks and to keep pushing forward. Thank you for sharing your experience and lesson for everyone to see. Your work is amazing and itself is also inspiring. xo

  5. CA | October 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Love your transparent-ness. Thank you.

    Also, I wanna see that last one flipped upside down with the light pool on the floor edited out. :)

  6. MaryRobin | October 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I have to say, I love this photo. It has an muted translucence to it that creates a sense of the gentleness and passion of romance. It also looks like a painting. I would buy it and hang it on my bedroom wall. It inspires me.

  7. Libertad Leal | October 3, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    This is so good to read Brooke. You know, I like your words as much as your photography You truly are wise beyond your years. I have this massive, epic idea for a photo series and I have been grappling for weeks and weeks as to how to bring it to life. It’s a complete departure from my normal style so I think I am paralyzed by the potential for failure. I’ve tried several times to forget the idea but I am unable to and now that I’ve read this, I just won’t. I won’t give up. Even if I fail I would learn form it and that is enough. I wish I could afford your workshops, I know you would know how to make this idea a reality :)

  8. Christie M. | October 3, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I think this photo came out absolutely beautiful with a dreamy, almost painterly quality to it. Perhaps since you planned the shoot for so long and in such detail with such a specific outcome in mind, anything else might not be satisfactory. As a creative person/artist I understand this all too well. But what I’ve learned over the years is that ‘beauty is (truly) in the eye of the beholder’. And art is almost a living, breathing thing with a mind and life of it’s own often taking itself where it wants to go (not always where you want it to go). So what you see as mistakes and things that didn’t turn out as you expected someone like me, (who has no experience shooting underwater or in this style), sees just the beauty in the end result. I take the image in as a whole, not individual parts as you the artist do. I think you should be so very proud of this piece – it would be a wonderful addition to your portfolio. Some of my most popular pieces I’ve made (not photography) have been things I almost didn’t even make available to the public because they were so far from what I originally wanted them to be and I was disappointed in them. I’ve learned (am still learning…) to not judge myself too harshly knowing that art is subjective and speaks to people individually, and who am I to decide for someone what my art might say to them? Sorry, to be so long-winded and preachy…just wanted to share a little encouragement and tell you how wonderful I think this new photo of yours is. Can’t wait for the next one! :-)

  9. Staci Lee | October 3, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    This is a beautiful and inspiring post! Thank you!

  10. Ed Freeman | October 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I’ve done dozens of underwater shoots, and I know of the frustrations and difficulties that you endured. DON’T GIVE UP! You took some beautiful pictures, and your experience will prove invaluable in the future. Underwater, things are difficult to impossible to control, and you may be better off with less of a set agenda and more openness to happenstance. But whatever you do, don’t be discouraged. You’ll figure out ways to do it cheaper and better, and you should be very proud of yourself for creating such genuine and memorable work your first time out.

  11. Askar Ibragimov | October 4, 2013 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    Had the same semi-failed shot recently. I however would still call it faulure, not something else, because there is no room for rationalization: we werent at all happy with result that came at high cost but was still not up to anyone’s level. Only the fact that I did better images recently saves me from frustration that I should, you know, stop being too confident.

    Yet still my way of thinking is pretty much the same: it’s a lesson. There is a chance to find errors, indicate them, do not fall for them again. But the clue is not only to be just “try again persistently” but include that “find and remove errata in cold mind” phase. That has to be pretty much articulated, as many photographers would try again… but back in their comfort zone and prvoven solutions. While the better goal is to learn something new.

  12. Juan | October 4, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    To often we limit ourselves because we think the end result is not worth the energy(including money) it requires. That is something I personnaly struggle with. Sometimes ideas work and other times it’s an exercise toward a greater end. As artist taking a leap of faith is the most important thing we can do. I commend you for your vision and confidence. You, young lady are going places!

  13. David Delp | October 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to be a bit contrary here. I love failure. I have to. I try things that are very difficult and I fail all the time. I try to celebrate failure the way an acrobat takes his bow when he fails the first, second, third and fourth attempts. I puff my chest out, throw my arms high, and call to the top tier of the arena, “Yay, I failed.

    It means I found out what just doesn’t work. I found out where the edge is. And what it means to try something really hard. If I’m not failing, I’m not doing much.

    And yes, gorgeous shots. Who can blame you for trying, even if you had failed.

  14. RZ | November 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I love your work :)

  15. protein tozu | April 21, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Love your transparent-ness. Thank you.

    Also, I wanna see that last one flipped upside down with the light pool on the floor edited out. :)

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