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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Machcinski

Turning missed opportunities into an exercise

Reading through my old work and looking at past photos I shot is an exercise similar to scratching nails on a chalkboard.

As I searched for photos to go with my last two posts, I kept having that quivering feeling creep up my spine. How could I use the wrong version of then and than? Why didn't I focus that photo better?

So I turned the punishment into an exercise. Using August 2018 as a date (that's when I figured out how to shoot with my Nikon in manual mode): Find three photos that I love and find three photos that I hate and what I'd do differently years later.

Photos I Messed Up

I've been to Beale Street in Memphis a few times now, but I never feel like I did the location justice. Bands like this group just sit outside of the bar and play for hours. Across the street from these guys was a group playing Jimi Hendrix covers for an hour (I didn't do them justice either, but I did record them).

I shot with my Nikon D60 back then, and while I love some photos I got with it, it was terrible for me in low light. Factor in that I wasn't shooting in manual and here's what I'm left with -- a blurry image that doesn't show much of anything.

There's quick fixes to this photo -- drop the ISO and raise the shutter speed. But what kills me when I see this photo is why did I move in closer? Now, I'd shoot this photo closer and with my 50 mm portrait lens.

I'd want to capture the emotion on the harmonica player's face or the details on the guitarist's instrument. So why didn't I drop a few bucks in the bucket and stand in front of the band? It all comes down to confidence.

It took me a while to get that confidence. I still didn't have it around Christmas 2015. I can still remember the thought I had photographing this musician -- "I don't want to screw him up by being in his eyesight and taking his photo."

UGH. This is a guy playing music at a New York City subway station. There's hundreds of people passing him by the hour, and yet I thought that I'd be the one who screwed him up?

Now? I'd stand across the hallway from him and shoot him straight up -- similar to this shot from Denver. One of these days post-COVID I'll get back into New York City and do these photos right.

I've been obsessed with abandoned things since I started photographing. One of the first places I shot when I got my Nikon D610 was an abandoned factory in Pittston, Pa.

Back in 2014, I walked this abandoned rail line out from my hometown in New Jersey. I don't hate this photo as much as I did the others. Shooting with my D60, I dropped down and grabbed this simple and quick photo.

If I ever did it again, I'd make two changes -- move up so I cleared the bridge and I'd shoot from higher. I was obsessed with these types of abandoned train track photos, but didn't realize that they're shot a lot higher than what I was looking.

Moving forward would've allowed me to capture more of the trackbed, which is the most interesting thing about this photo since Hurricane Sandy washed most of the bed away.

Photos I captured well

In 2014, I had a knack for long-exposure photography. Even with the D60 and a stock lens, long exposures were easy as long as you had a tripod.

What separated this from other long-exposures I did was the chairs in the foreground. It layered the photo in a way I didn't know at the time.

When I lived in Wrightsville, the Strasburg Rail Road was a 30 minute drive from my apartment, so I shot a lot of photos there. Yes ... a lot.

But this photo stands out to me because it was a lot of luck: We had snow the night before, the wind was blowing in the right direction and I caught the train as it was coming back into town (when the trains go east, they run backwards, and it throws the photos off).

The thing I hated most? Standing in the wind and cold waiting for this shot and not being able to feel my hands. At least it was worth it!

This is the photo that started everything. I took it back in 2016 with my D610 right before I figured out manual. I hated this photoset when I took it and just left them to rot in my hard drive. I thought the photos were out of focus, the lighting didn't work and I wish I had tried another angle.

But four years later, I edited this photo for the first time. It didn't take long for me to finally realize this actually was a good photo. I didn't need to be super close, the lighting was fine and it captured everything I needed it to.

It's funny how time can change the your perspective on what you love and hate.

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