Chapter 1, Task 1
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Task 25 – See the whole picture

Task 25

See the whole picture

The Camera Cure task 25
After having sailed for almost three weeks across the Atlantic, coming to the Caribbean was like encountering a feast of colour. In this picture I had to make sure to allow the viewer’s eye to go across the entire area of it. I had to take small steps forwards and to the side to get the elements in the picture where I wanted them to be. In particular, I had to focus on the outer edges since they are easy to overlook.
Saint Lucia, 2013. Photo: Torkil Færø


Overlooking important things

For many years I used to have a couple of glasses of red wine in the evening. I had read plenty of articles that recommended doing this and it served as a kind of reward at the end of the day. What I had done to deserve the reward was generally unclear. Feeling tired often the next morning had become a habit. But then I worked in Sykkylven eight days and nights in a row, of course without drinking alcohol. When I finally had a day off, I bought a bottle of wine. It seemed well deserved after being on call for 192 hours. But the next morning it hit me – even if I had had a day off, drinking the wine had made me more tired than I had been after working eight days straight at a busy emergency room. Then I had understood that I was doing something wrong. I cut out the alcohol and since then I have experienced a higher level of well-being and capacity to work.

Our brains have made it easy to lock our focus on a few areas in our lives. It does this automatically, in order to save valuable capacity for thinking. The narrower the focus, the greater the danger to overlook our greatest problems, or best solutions, since they lie in the periphery outside our sharp vision. An example of this is what you are reading right now. Up until I was 45, it never occurred to me that I could write a book. It was beyond my imagination.

Is there a something in your blindspot that is disturbing your life, consciously or subcon- sciously? As a doctor I have experienced that people can be blind towards even the biggest elephant in the room. The power of denial is enormous. The lies we believe about ourselves threaten the well-being of ourselves and others. Often, we overlook, consciously or uncons- ciously, what harms us or what we are lacking in order to succeed.

To become good photographers we have to train being attentive to what is outside our main focus. This can be decisive for the success of the entire picture. Ask yourself these cri- tical questions: What is in the picture that ruins it? What is superfluous? What is lacking?

These uncomfortable questions should be asked in other areas of life: Are you with a part- ner that treats you badly? Is there a bad habit that you should get rid of? Are you neglect- ing to take care of your body? Are you wasting your money on things that don’t give you pleasure? Are you deceiving yourself or others? Or, more constructively: Do you have any opportunities that you are overlooking? Can you get more out of life, be more productive? Hold a course? Are you interested in music? How about arranging a festival or volunteer at one that already exists? Can your experiences be useful for other people?

How relevant is this issue for you on a scale of 1 to 6?:


Become aware of the blind spots

One of the most common things that ruin otherwise good pictures is bright areas. A white plastic bag or some other bright object will draw the eye towards it. It doesn’t happen in the moment when we take the photo, since we normally have our gaze fixed on our main subject, but when we study the picture afterwards the bright areas will pull our gaze in its direction. Therefore, it is so important that we actively check the whole viewfinder (or frame on the LCD screen) before we press the shutter button.

Strong colors can also steal the focus of a picture. A colorful object can draw attention away from the people we are doing a portrait of. If something like this has happened, the solution to it can be to convert the picture to black and white.

In the moment of taking a picture, our brains are filtering out many visual impressions deemed to be irrelevant in everyday life. Just like reflections in task 24, bright spots are never essential for us as we move around in the world. It only becomes important for us as pho- tographers, as they affect our pictures. Only a small part of our sight is sharp and can see details. Hold your thumb out and notice how everything except your thumbnail is out of focus or unsharp. The camera however is able to register everything in sharp focus, including what our eyes overlooked. If we become more aware of this, we will not so often be unpleasantly surprised when we see our images on the computer screen later. If our whole field of vision had been just as sharp, our brains would have required much more space in order to handle all of the information. Instead, our brains have developed a warning system that tells us if there is something important happening in our peripheral vision.


This time, concentrate on letting your eye move around the outer edges of the picture. Try to forget about the main subject and search the frame for elements that can disturb the picture. And look outside the frame to identify elements you can include to make the image more interesting. This training of observing, and dealing with, elements on the outer edge of our focus can also be transferred to our everyday lives.

On a scale of 1 to 6, how useful was this task for you?:

BOOK SUGGESTION: Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan 

The biggest catastrophes that we’ve witnessed rarely come from information that is secret or hidden. It comes from information that is freely available and out there, but that we are willfully blind to.

Margaret Heffernan

At best, people are open to scrutinizing themselves and considering their blind spots; at worst, they become defensive and angry.

Sheryl Sandberg