"Harder" Not "Smarter" Better Art Does Not Make

There's a building in Geneseo that I drove by a few years ago, but didn't stop to shoot.  It was the perfect combination of lighting, whether, sky cover, and moon position.  From the right angle, it would all have framed up perfectly. 

I should not have taken that set of circumstances for granted.  It literally was 3 more years before it all lined up just right again.  This time, I damn well made sure to stop and get the shots I wanted.  It was -4°F out with a bitter wind chill making it feel far worse than that, and I wasn't nearly properly equipped for it.  My nice, heavy, metal tripod had been sitting in my car outside all day and felt like it was made of ice.  I had just a light coat and no gloves.  I stood outside under these conditions for far too long, taking shot after shot (the original plan was an HDR, so I wanted a bunch of different exposures to play with). 

When done, I had 50 or 60 shots, but could barely feel my fingers.  The only reason I didn't get frostbite is I had my remote shutter release and could keep my hand in my pocket during the longer exposures.  Hell, the bottoms of my feet were cold from standing flat-footed on the ground as long as I did (yes, through my shoes, and yes, sneakers or boots would've been much better).  In the end, I was out there about a half hour, maybe 45 minutes, tops.  I finished the errand I had originally set out to do, went home, and went to bed.  I was really looking forward to getting to work on the images in post the next day. 

When I started futzing with them, it didn't take too long to realize I made two errors.  One stung a lot more than the other.  First off, the moon moves.  I'm not going to get all astrophysicist-y here - don't bother correcting me, we all know what's really going on*.  What I failed to realize, is the moon moves relatively fast.  From my first exposure to my last, it had traveled about 5 moon diameters in my frame.  I was going to have to do some serious 'shopping to get them to have a "standard" position if I was going to line them all up and stack them for an HDR. 

Cropped portion of the sky from a poorly rendered first draft of an HDR from the stack.  Naturally it is behind a bunch of tree branches to make any attempt to fix that much more of a pain.

Then came the second realization - the one that stung.  I didn't - hell, I shouldn't have waited for that perfect alignment of all those events to get my shot.  All I needed was most of it.  I should've done it without the moon, then added the moon in post.  Not only could've I had the shot I wanted years earlier - it actually would've been easier.  Instead of having to move the moon to a standard set of coordinates from an arbitrary location in a ton of different shots, I could have simply inserted a moon into a fixed position from nothing. 

In the end I actually waited years just to make things harder on myself.  Talk about crossing the street to get your ass kicked. 

But by the moon really being in the shot, is my image is more genuine?  I'd like to think yes.  I'd like to think that because I waited so long and put in so much effort and practiced such patience that it somehow translates to the result being more genuine or pure or authentic or something.  But when I remove the emotional investment and look at it critically, there really is just one conclusion.  Nobody cares how "authentic" the image is.  All that matters is the finished work. 

In the end, the final image alone has to stand up by itself.  Nobody cares if I lost 3 fingers to frostbite in the process or bought some awesome piece of gear that somehow takes perfect shots through a car window and never myself had to step outside.  Choosing to work "harder" instead of "smarter" doesn't make you any more of an artist.  Your gear doesn't matter, your technique doesn't matter, and you yourself don't matter.  The finished image matters, and nobody gives a shit how you got there. 

Someday you'll probably eventually see the shot I'm talking about listed here.  After some moonless night when I go back and re-do the whole stack of shots, then borrow the moon from one frame of the images taken from this failed night. 

*Yes, the moon orbits the earth, which itself spins and orbits the sun, tectonic plates shift, the whole galaxy is flying through space, etc.