No compromise!

_T6C8527 - Version 2, hawk, red-tailed hawk, flying, Saskatchewan, Canada, crying

Whenever I think of my favourite photos, this one is always in the running. I can still hear the piercing cry as the hawk circled above me on that hot summer evening on the prairies.

No compromise is good. Right? I think of principled action, standing up against societal pressure or getting it right. I envision a movie plot where the hero sticks to his values whether it means winning or going down in a blaze of glory.

On the other side, compromise sounds like what committees do to get everyone comfortable, leading to a vague final statement that offends no one and does nothing.

When I think of no compromise in photography, my mind goes to excellence. I want to own no compromise in my photos! But the reality is that on most days I look at my photos and see areas to improve. Then I look at other photographers’ photos and find beauty. Even I can see a bit of an issue there!

The other day I stumbled upon a simple idea – perhaps every wildlife photo is a compromise. It stopped me in my tracks. You may be thinking that I’ve just crashed into the obvious … and you’re right. But you have to understand that sometimes I don’t give up my ideals easily. Maybe it happens more than I think.

I see a wild animal and inevitably there are issues to overcome such as pouring rain. I quickly make adjustments to capture the best photo I can. That sounds suspiciously like compromise.

If the photo will be a compromise, then I am freed to make the best photo I can under the circumstances. Somehow that perspective feels liberating and not about compromising in a bad way. It’s entirely possible for a photo to be beautiful and still have areas that could be improved. Maybe there’s even a life principle tucked away in there somewhere.

But just for the record, my movie heroes still aren’t going to compromise their principles. And maybe someday I get to take a wildlife photo where there is no compromise!

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Latest Comments

  1. Mark Kertesz says:

    Jaw dropping photography, simply amazing. Wildlife photography is not really my discipline however I can say I am truly enjoying many of the photographs on your blog.

    Like

  2. mariayarri says:

    Wish it be me taken that shot 😉 … But it wasn´t so congratulations to this stunning photo, i love it ! // Maria

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thank you. That’s about the highest, unselfish praise you could give. It was an amazing moment that lives on through the memories generated by the photo.

      Like

  3. Simply Light Photography says:

    Killer shot of this Swainson’s Hawk in flight!!!

    Like

  4. Scott Marshall says:

    I can hear the guy from here – perfect moment

    Like

  5. Stephen G. Hipperson says:

    “If the photo will be a compromise, then I am freed to make the best photo I can under the circumstances.” – I think for a photo that is not a compromise you must be in control of the circumstances. The more ‘circumstances’ you can control, the fewer compromises you have to make. Somebody working in a studio ought to make near perfect photographs if they photograph inanimate objects. A way of photographing insects might be to take them into the studio – perhaps a tank set up with strobe lighting.
    If we rely on chance to take our wildlife pictures we increase the circumstances that work against our ability to produce a good photograph.
    I have seen Woodpeckers in my garden, but I wouldn’t put much hope in taking a good photograph of one there – I’d increase chance by finding a wood and then a tree in a wood, maybe a nest. I’d then work out the best positions to photograph, etc etc.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      It makes sense that there is a relationship between how much I control the circumstances and how much I need to compromise – you described it well.

      I suppose I am a bit of an idealist since I really like to take photos of creatures in their normal habitat. I recognize it is a lot more difficult but I have had just enough success to keep me going. There is also the thrill of the hunt in being able to catch wild creatures. As you suggest, it makes it a lot easier if I can find a nest or regular spot where they tend to return.

      I appreciate your thots.

      Like

  6. judeconning says:

    I can hear the hawk as I look at the image. No I can hear a hawk – its a young collared goshawk who has chosen the trees around my place as it’s hunting grounds. Most of my images are of it sitting high in the trees tearing some little bird to bits. I I could come close to getting a shot like yours I will be one very happy photographer. Its just great!!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks – it was a great day when I got it and the photo brings it all back. And I would be happy to have a goshawk hunting around my place. Sounds wonderful.

      Like

  7. Audie Jean says:

    Now for a comment from a real amateur photographer. 🙂 Your truly-beautiful photos inspire me.

    I have just discovered your blog and website, and I am in awe. I have such a long way to go! But I know that it is not only the destination, but also the journey that attracts me. If I must choose, I would always rather see the wildlife through my naked eye and miss the shot if I have to, than miss out on both in my aim for perfection.

    Though others may argue, I choose to think of my photos not as compromises, but as the best I was able to do under the circumstances of the moment. They are what they are. And they do help me on my trek to wherever I may go next. They give me joy in the capture, and in the post-viewing/processing/posting. In fact, I see in them a reflection of both my limited abilities and also of life as I saw it during my shoot. Indeed, both are compromises.

    I love your “compromises” if that’s what they are! Thank you for sharing.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I appreciate those thotful and kind comments. I am honoured that you find the photos inspiring.

      I’m glad you made the comment about the journey because we are all on a journey to improve. Knowing what’s truly important to you is great insight. Sometimes I’m not so sure.

      The concept of no compromise was intentionally provocative, in no small part directed to me as a reminder to enjoy the beauty of all stages as you so accurately described. This photo has done that in so many ways. Every time I see it, I am transported back and all my senses relive the experience.

      Like

  8. mflahertyphoto says:

    Awesome flight shot Lyle, and you captured a great expression. It’s essentially perfect. I think you have to approach photography with a sort of perfectionism, at least I do. If I don’t, then I don’t wake up in time, I don’t bushwack to that better point of view, etc. But in appreciating both the process and the results, perfectionism does what it usually does; it lessens the joy. Also, it’s art, so very subjective.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks – I really like that expression.

      I think you have precisely captured the essence of the struggle. I want better photos and more joy at the same time. Tough to get.

      Like

  9. cindy knoke says:

    Gorgeous photo!!!

    Like

  10. artsifrtsy says:

    I think that every photo is a compromise – it’s the nature of photography. Focus, light, depth – all are traded off. I went to a seminar about landscapes and saw some amazing work – printed images over 10 feet across, pin sharp. Turns out that the photog is shooting very long exposures – he can show you amazing detail, motion spoils it – even the wind ruins his exposure.

    I think that hawk shot is amazing – what else could you want? A cloud? Really special shot. I think we see the compromise in our own work much more so than we do in others.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Landscapes 10 feet across would be something. No question there would be compromises made there. I qualified it with wildlife because I was thinking about studio shots where you can bring in the light to make your shot. But landscapes would require serious choices in changing light.

      No question we see the compromises in our work much more clearly. This post was an attempt to rebalance my pursuit of excellence with just enjoying my photos. I enjoyed the irony of putting up one of my best photos with it. The next photo I post won’t be half as good but I still like it. See – its working.

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      • artsifrtsy says:

        I do studio shots at work – product and model photography – there certainly is more control, but very little freedom. I totally get it though – I see things I wish I had done differently or better in almost every photo. It’s so important to enjoy your shots and the experience of capturing them.

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        • lylekrahn says:

          I didn’t know you shot in the studio at work – that makes you infinitely more knowledgeable in that area! I dread having to blow the dust off my flash to actually use it and find little freedom or fun in using it.

          Like

  11. photographybycalliec says:

    Bloody fantastic shot, sharp as a tack, and great position, LOVE IT… you should be extremely proud of that moving photo, I love how the mouth is open.EXCELLENT!!!

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  12. Deb W. Trotter says:

    That is an amazing photo! (You don’t have perfectionist tendencies, do you?)

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. I wish they all turned out like this one! Perfectionist is one of those provocative words, like compromise, that carries some negative overtones at least for me. I will readily admit to enjoying excellence in a few areas and photography is one of them. You might call it perfectionist. I’m guessing I’m like others in that I completely balance it out in other areas.

      Like

  13. Carl Milner says:

    That is such a stunning shot Lyle, the emotion in its face is amazing

    Like

  14. Honie Briggs says:

    I can see why this is the photo that comes to mind when you think of your favorites. The hawk’s expression is fierce, the shot, beyond spectacular. Now it too is one of my favorites. Thank you hardly seems enough for sharing your gift.

    Like

  15. doraiswamyganesh says:

    Dear Lyle, I am no great shakes in taking pictures,but I can only say that my vocabulary is drying up faster than the time you take to click such magnificent pictures. Each on is a master piece. I enjoy and also take a lot of pleasure in forwarding them to my young friends.Thanks and regards, Ganesh.

    Like

  16. rachel bar says:

    I’m with Mike Powell. Maybe you could have waited hours for a better picture, although I can see any imperfection ( but I’m not a photographer), but wouldn’t you compromise other things then? Such as time with family?

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      That’s true – life and photography are all about choices. In addition, if I don’t stop myself, I can always find something that could have been a little better on the photo.

      Like

  17. Stefano says:

    Awesome in flight shot in sweet light, Lyle! Just beautiful. And, I agree with the point you are making. Actually, I would go as far as saying that wildlife photography is the quintessential art of compromise since you are not in a studio, you do not have controlled lighting and you are totally dependent on the timing of your subject, and most of the times you just have to make do if (for instance) action happens in awful light (or hardly any light at all) or if your angle of view is not the one you would like it to be because you are confined in one spot and your subject moves “the wrong way”, or that defining moment you were looking for happens right when you were still setting up… Life happens no matter what and wildlife photographers, as you aptly put it, try to do their best under the circumstances. And the, occasionally, there are those perfect times when it all comes together at the right moment, in perfect light with you there all set and ready to capture that great image, just as you had hoped for – I think those moments are so big a reward that they make you persevere and keep trying to capture more.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thank you. I had initially written that all photos are compromises but then I thot the same as you that in the studio you have the opportunity to control the light and the subject. Life certainly happens and seems to happen a lot but it is so thrilling in those moments we are given.

      Like

  18. Sue says:

    I hadn’t thought about quite like that, which makes the idea of taking the “perfect” (uncompromised) photo that much sweeter.

    Like

  19. northerndesert says:

    Incredible capture!

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  20. pleisbilongtumi says:

    I am amazed by this picture ! an effort that is worth it. Thank you for sharing the idea

    Like

  21. Ed says:

    Very nice!!

    Like

  22. Mike Powell says:

    That shot of the hawk is amazing–it’s the kind of shot that I aspire to shoot. For now, I am content to try to take advantage of the situations that I find myself in (or put myself in) and try to do the best I can with the equipment and skills that I have. I served in the US Army at a time when its recruiting slogan was, “Be all that you can be.” Perfection is hard to define and virtually impossible to achieve.

    You framed the issue as a question of compromise. The word “compromise” is so tainted that it may be better to frame the issue as one of decisions. In all photography, we have to make a series of decisions about camera settings, framing, angles, etc. that will have a huge influence on our images (what some others talk about as “creative choices”). Is it a compromise when you come to a fork in the road and choose to go one way and not the other? It’s also an issue of balance, of balancing competing priorities, like when we juggle multiple options for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. We make a choice (or choices if we are doing multiple exposures or are bracketing) and take the shot.

    I am increasingly learning that there are no absolute “rules” for photography–at best there are loose guidelines and best practices. I try to follow them, especially as I am learning, but know that I may need to sacrifice them (i.e. compromise). When the moment comes, I have to choose. I working to improve my ability to make informed choices.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      I always look forward to your thotful comments on my posts.

      In my dreams I get shots like this every time but a lot of hawks have come and gone without being able to compete with this one. Being the best I can be ends up being varying degrees of quality which makes me appreciate the special times even more. Perfection is an elusive ideal and I’m not sure we ever quite get there.

      Sometimes I try too hard to get better which leads to a more provocative word like compromise. Ultimately compromise is about choices and balance in a lot of areas as you suggest. It turns out there are a lot of decisions to make and no end of variables! It makes photography a lot more interesting.

      I completely agree on your comments about the rules of photography and I try to avoid that terminology. It is helpful to know what generally looks good but it’s even better to go beyond that to find my own ideal of beauty and wonder. To call anything a rule in photography is actually quite laughable. Get a few good photographers in the room and they are likely to have all sorts of different opinions on the same photos. Years ago I would have expected at least a general consensus.

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  23. Seenorway says:

    What a shot, Lyle! Lucky you!

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    • lylekrahn says:

      I was so fortunate. Like usual it was the confluence of practise and luck. I noticed the hawks seem to hang around one spot as the sun was setting. I made sure I was back there and I was so lucky that it kept circling right around me with that cry.

      Like

  24. Gunta says:

    Hard to find any compromise in that shot. It’s simply wonderful.

    Like

  25. Kavita Joshi says:

    beautiful shot dear..thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

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