Disappointment is a strange thing – we spend our lives going out of our way to avoid it. Yet, whenever I look back at disappointments in life, they almost always result in something unexpected and often considerably more positive.
I think a key contributor to steering clear of potentially disappointing situations is that we spend so much time considering and planning for the future, wondering about how it’ll turn out, and with this comes a certain degree of expectation. When expectations aren’t met, disappointment occurs.
For me, a recent photography-based (and yes, relatively minor!) disappointment occurred just a couple of weeks ago whilst on a shoot in Yangshuo, China.
Conor and I were up at 4am to meet with a local cormorant fisherman on a nearby riverbank. I’d seen a number of stunning photos of this sort of scene, particularly from Trey Ratcliff (scroll down a tad), Jesse Estes, Dan Ballard and Helminadia Ranford (do take a look, they’re all wonderful photos), so in my mind I knew exactly what photo I just had to come back with.
Disappointment #1: the light. My first concern when we arrived was with the low, dense clouds shrouding most of the nearby scenery and resulting in extremely flat light, not at all what I’d had in mind having seen the above photos! It certainly wasn’t looking like the beautiful orange glow I had hoped for.
Disappointment #2: my inability to prepare for the conditions. I had given no thought to the effect of the humidity (90%+) on my equipment, specifically fog on the lenses (lesson thoroughly learnt!), thus spent a while watching what little good light we had transition into a dull grey whilst unable to shoot until my lenses had finally cleared.
I came away deeply disappointed at what photos I had managed to take, feeling like there would be nothing really worth salvaging from the scene and pretty gutted that what I had thought of as a highlight of the trip hadn’t quite gone to plan.
A couple of weeks went by and I came back across the shots in Lightroom. Having processed a number of others from the trip, I decided to have a crack at processing one of these, feeling pretty much uninspired. However after just a few minutes of work it seemed like at least one of the images was worth pursuing. A few more minutes went by and the photo was really starting to take shape – some white-balance adjustments, a bit of tidying up and noise reduction, a small amount of cropping and I was pretty happy with the results; totally unexpected. I had a finished image on my hands that I was genuinely pretty chuffed with:
And yes, it’s totally different to the photos mentioned above that had inspired me to go and shoot this scene in the first place, not what I had in mind at all but a rather pleasant bi-product of a previously disappointing situation.
So, perhaps it’s worth trying to alter our perspective on disappointments as being a negative, more often than not they’re just situations we hadn’t envisaged and can have a perfectly positive (and pleasantly surprising) outcome. There’s certainly something to be said for ‘living in the present’ and taking each situation as it comes.
Further positives to arise from this particular situation; the above photo became my first to be ‘Explored’ on Flickr (at this point having received over 25k views and 138 favourites), my first to reach the ‘Popular’ front page on 500px (maintaining the top 10 for a day and sitting in #1 for a short while) and yesterday Getty Images requested to license it for their library. Not too bad for something I had initially totally dismissed based on my preconceptions!