I was that guy once.

It’s good to look back and remember where you were. It gives you a perspective that you lack if you don’t.

One of the things I feel I’ve been lacking lately is perspective. the United States is going through a bit of crazyness at the moment, and it’s made me wish that I had the perspective of having lived through the Nixon resignation. I feel like I’m not properly equipped to understand the situation, sort of like getting strapped into a roller coaster, not knowing if it’s safe, or if it ever ends. It changes the experience.

Photography is the same. If you don’t have the context of your back catalog, you can’t make clear decisions about photography. Many times when I’ve travelled to famous places in Japan, my photography was heavily informed by my experience the last time I was at that same spot, and I always leave thinking about the things that I want to shoot differently the next time. But there were times when I didn’t have that knowledge.

Once, I was that young kid, seeing Japan for the first time, with his tiny instant digital camera. And it does help to look back at that time and see what I was doing right, and what I was doing wrong. The photo above was taken in 2005, when the only digital camera I owned was a Casio EX-S3. It doesn’t even come close to matching the quality of your current cell phone camera.

The thing is, I’m old. Digital photography hit the mainstream about the same time I got to Japan. But I had shot film, and I had worked for public access television for some time before that. I was most of the way through a media production degree when I first came to Japan. I did know the basics of image composition. I may not really have known what I was doing when I took this photo of the Japanese Inland Sea, but I got the basics of composition mostly right.

Looking at it now, I would have chosen a wider lens, and I would have tried to go for a 16:9 composition that included more on the sides; probably more on the left side than the right. Perhaps I would try to have included more sky to get the horizon line a little closer to the upper 1/3 line.

The things that stand out to me are the lack of dynamic range. The blown out sky to the left is probably within the modern DSLR’s ability to photograph, but if it hadn’t been, I would have bracketed and built an HDR image later in Lightroom. I probably also would have boosted the black point in post, and maybe tried to adjust some things to make it appear a little less hazy.

There’s a value in this process, nitpicking your old photos. There’s a list there of things that I can do the next time I’m shooting the inland sea. There’s a list of things that I’ve learned in the last 15 years.

And there’s more… there’s the understanding that people are on their own photographic journeys. When people try out that sick-making color adjustments for that “cool” Neo Tokyo/Bladerunner style, they’re learning. They will have the hindsight to look back at those photos and see their mistakes. They have the chance to look back and realize their mistakes in composition, editing, and gear. They have the chance to learn and grow, just like I do.

So I have to make sure to grab that chance with both hands and go with it. Full on.

I want to be better today that I was yesterday, and I want to have the empathy and understanding that everyone else is on their own journeys through imperfection.