Great Expectaions?


“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”. – Ansel Adams

When I first read this quote by Ansel Adams I’d have to admit, it was a bit of a “wow” moment for me. Ansel Adams who is likely one of the greatest and most influential photographers of all time, had a goal of 12 great images a year. Since reading this it has got me thinking and wondering if my expectations are too high, or perhaps not high enough, depending on how you look at it.

When I first took up photography 20 years ago I asked a friend who became a bit of a mentor to me what his standard was. He said that his goal was to record one great shot per roll of film. Just one keeper per 36 images. Right or wrong I liked this idea and have kept is as an unofficial standard for myself. Like all things in life, there will be good days and there will be bad days when it comes to photography.

Ansel used several different formats for his photography, anything from 35mm, panorama, medium format to an 8×10 view camera. He certainly didn’t have the benefit or digital where you can shoot 400 images and hope one or two were keepers or edit and fix an image after the fact. I’m assuming there would have been a lot more thought put into the process; hence it may have been less about quantity and more about quality.

Sunset and Fishing Weirs – Campobello Island, New Brunswick

On a recent trip to Deer Island and Campobello I shot over 2oo images in one day and in reviewing so far I have found 2 that I would say are my “keepers” or “significant”. Not sure how I feel over all about all of the images as of yet but the two I’ve worked with so far I am very pleased with. Coincidentally they were taken in the same place about 30 minutes before we left. Sometimes is pays to take just one more shot.

Sunset and Seagull – Campobello Island, New Brunswick

On occasion I feel like I’m my own worst critic with expectations that are too great, and other times I feel as though I like an image more because I have an emotional attachment and not necessarily because it is great technically or aesthetically.  If Ansel wanted 12 significant shots per year, are my standards off? I’d be curious to know what yours are, or if you even think about it. Take a minute and let me know. I would appreciate your comments and feedback.

4 comments on “Great Expectaions?

  1. I have read his quote many times. To me, it seems about right for someone of his artistic ability. It is rare to get those ‘aha’ images, images that are easily remembered. I have written on this before. Images that can affect so many people with deep emotion are so rare. Your photos are beautiful, and certainly keepers. I would be happy if I took them for sure. There is a lot of mood to the photos, but rather than a sunset like the first, the lonely seagull says more to me.

    • Thank you for the feedback Donna. The lone sunset was the first image that caught my eye and I was immediately drawn to it. However after some additional inspection the seagull image really jumped out at me, so I agree with you that it is the more dramatic of the two.

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