Unexpected Jewels / by Hilary Hann

I often try to explain why I never delete photos I’ve taken.   And I mean NEVER!  Not the out of focus ones; not the shots of my foot; not the white or black blanks. I haven’t met anyone yet who can understand my reasons.  When I’m away on safari collecting all the base images I’ll need for the following year’s work, I often don’t have time to relax and think about the day’s happenings.  My raw images as they are downloaded into Lightroom provide me with a snapshot of my day.  I see the struggle I may have had with a new technique as shot after shot is altered slightly until I reach the moment when I can see all the efforts come together in something approaching my vision.  I can see the hours when nothing is working and I remember why as the images and the mood often co-exist.  I have windows of joy when every frame has a little bit of African perfection nestled within the pixels and I feel again, the sense of success that knowledge brings me.  None of the images are viewable in isolation, at least not to me.

I’ve used images successfully when many would have deleted them on review, so as storage is cheap I think the benefits of keeping everything outweigh other considerations … for me.

The following example illustrates my point.

In 2011 I was wandering around Lake Nakuru National Park with my sister and our private guide Ken.  Already the light was harsh although it wasn’t even mid morning.  Sitting in our 4x4 looking through our binoculars, the three of us scanned the surrounding bush trying to find something interesting.  Something else was also scanning the surrounding ground, a black shouldered kite, sitting on top of a type of thorny Acacia (now Vachellia) and swivelling its head from one side to another.  The patterns of the branches curved nicely up towards where the kite perched and the sky was a rich and brilliant blue.  So I took several photos and thought nothing more of the moment.

Straight out of camera

Straight out of camera

A month or so later I was trying to find an image to make a gel cover for my iPhone and thought that a bird photo would look nice.  I wanted something clean with good eye contact and eventually found my little kite.  At the time I had started my journey with textures and detail extraction and so I experimented with the file, knowing that it was unlikely that anyone would see the final result.  In what seemed like a very short amount of time, my little kite had evolved into the magnificent, predator bird that it is, staring down the viewer with authority.

A few weeks later my new gel cover arrived and that was the end of that story, or so I thought.

Towards the latter part of the year I was selecting and creating my submissions for the South Australian Professional Photographic Awards, (SA Division of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography) and was one image short in the Fine Art category.  I looked at the phone in my hand and thought, “why not?” and so began the journey towards fully fledged fine art print.  Presented at the SAPPAs, it scored a 94, Gold, and was part of my winning Fine Art Portfolio.  In 2012 I reprinted the file and sent it to the Australian Professional Photographic Awards in Melbourne where it scored a 90 giving it a Gold at national level (one of three I achieved that year) and helping me win the Fine Art Category.

My little kite, as I always call it, taught me many things and it will always have a place in my heart.  Sadly it doesn’t show as well on screen as it does on the beautiful Hahnemuehle Photo Rag paper which really brings out the rich textures and colour.

Now back to the files to see if there is another jewel hidden away, waiting to be found.

The final image

The final image