If there is a mantra for photography, it is that photographs are all about capturing the light. Learning to capture light in a way that is both technically competent and beautiful is a key challenge.
And yet, it is just one of the many challenges that photographers face. I would posit that learning to make fine images in situations in which there is minimal control is its own universe of challenge.
For me, a current, repeating issue is that life simply happens too fast, and I am not always prepared. I am trying to do better, but it isn't always easy. And this problem arises at times when it is least expected.
The studio shot, for example, should offer few if any time issues. You have a set-up, simple or complex though it be, and you have a subject or subjects. What I have discovered, however, is that if the subject is a human being who does not happen to be a professional model, the quicker the photo session goes, the better the result. The average person gets bored with being photographed surprisingly quickly. And that boredom is likely to be evident in the photos.
There are often unexpected time challenges. Below is an image of some mushrooms I took at a San Francisco market this week. It should have been so easy - mushrooms don't get bored, and they move very little. Whoops. Oh yes they do, since they were for sale, some were snapped away before I could capture the image as I wished. A difficult lighting situation, action all around me, shoppers removing my lovely still lifes, and a companion who reminded me we had a ferry to catch all added up to a series of shooting challenges it was difficult to overcome.
With no tripod and no flash, I couldn't achieve the depth of field I would have preferred, and am still reflecting on whether or not this image is successful. For comparison, a mini studio shot I took of mushrooms later that evening created a different kind of mood.
The second shot below, a bar scene in the lively Ferry Building, had time and subject issues as well. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of the wine glasses and the cell phones, but the happy couple was so pleased to be photographed that they wished to pose - by lifting their glasses in a toast. I had to wait a bit until they became bored with me, and resumed a more normal position.
The bottom line here is one I anticipate returning to time and again: why is it so hard to actually capture the wonderful images I see around me? The answers are many: the light is bad, the moment happens too quickly, I have the wrong equipment for the circumstance, and at times, I confess, I am just flat out inept.