Woman in White Lighting Prayer Candles - Doug Johnson

Woman in White Lighting Prayer Candles

I attended a Laurie Anderson lecture a few weeks ago and her subject was "Six Things I Know." I like that. It's simple, direct, personal and sounds interesting without being haughty (a common problem when artists talk about their work). So I'm going to borrow her theme for my first POTW.


For the record, I didn't discover most of the "things I know" -- they were explained to me by teachers and friends and just "stuck."


My first POTW is not on my web site and in fact, has never been seen before because it has serious problems -- which is too bad because I was VERY excited when I shot it. The setting was a church in Havana, Cuba where women were lighting prayer candles. It was dark but I was prepared; camera mounted on monopod, ISO 1600, aperture at f/8 to balance exposure with sharpness. It's my first POTW because it illustrates several of the "things I know" but sometimes fail to practice.


At my first workshop, my teacher Jay Maisel said:
   "Don't worry about the middle.
    The middle is fine.
    That's what caught your attention.
    Worry about the corners and edges.
    That's where the problems are."


That's easy to do when the subject isn't moving or not particularly interesting but REALLY hard when this elegant woman appears right in front of you, dressed completely in white, beautifully lit by dozens of candles and will be GONE in a few seconds!


Clearly, all I saw was her and the candles and the light --

not the leaves on the right
  or the other two hands and the candle and the pew at the bottom-right
    or the black triangle creating dead space at the bottom-left
      or the three cones shooting out from her face. 
        or half of whatever that is floating above her head.


But that's the problem -- the more interesting and exciting the middle, the less likely we'll notice all the peripheral distractions.


What's especially infuriating about this image is all of the distractions were easily avoidable. If I had stood up a smidgen and taken half a step to the left, this could have been a fantastic shot.


So, even if I sometimes forget, this I know -- mind the edges.


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