There are several truisms in photography. We don't take photographs, we make them. Photography is all about learning to see the light. Details make the difference.
I am still at that stage in which I am struggling to truly "see" everything that is going on. It is easy to become so focused on one aspect of the image - proper composition, depth of field, challenges of lighting - that other elements are overlooked. A too-bright earring. A pole growing out of someone's head. A collar that is woefully askew. Of course, many of these things can be fixed later in LightRoom or PhotoShop, but better to get them right in the first place.
Sometimes the surprises are pleasant ones. An expression that is just exactly right, or a composition of elements that works even more wonderfully on the big screen than it does on the little LCD monitor, even viewed with the helpful Hoodman. Learning to "see" all these things in advance, and truly understand how the final image will emerge, is at the heart of expert photography. We all like to think we are growing in that direction.
Because these details do make an enormous difference.
I recently went on an expedition to The Grace Foundation, which provides a home for rescue horses and other domestic animals. The afternoon was so rich with photographic opportunity that the day was almost overwhelming. Nonetheless, I was eager for the late afternoon sun, because I felt it would present some wonderful opportunities for backlighting. Strolling down one pathway I turned a corner and saw the first image below. It was exactly the kind of scene I had been hoping to find. I took the shot, checked my camera, and was happy. Everything seemed just right.
And yet . . . . I stayed to watch the horse and to see what else might happen, what other opportunities there might be. One thing that happened is that as the sun lowered, I had an issue with lens glare, which I resolved by using an important tool I always carry - my baseball cap - to block the direct rays.
Then the horse moved just slightly, and I shot the second image. Looking at them now, my opinion is that it is far superior to the first photograph. The arc of the horse's back and neck, the white blaze lined up with the white socks, and the vertical orientation all combine to create a image that has a deeper level of balance and harmony. It is one of those images I will be proud of for a long time to come.
The moral of the story isn't "keep shooting". It is keep looking. Teach yourself to see. Be ready for the nuance that changes everything. My goal is develop a far more finely tuned awareness of these nuances. That is what the journey is all about.