Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous. – Leonardo da Vinci
About 4 years ago, I became interested in Scotch Whisky, after sharing a bottle with this guy on the boat we stayed on in Katmai National Park. As I learned more about Scotch, and in particular the Single Malts, it became pretty clear that this drink can be quite complex and full of subtleties. One of my favorite commentators is Ralfy, over at ralfy.com, who has my admiration in being able to pick out these subtle flavors that come from the balance and marriage of the spirit and the barrels it is aged in. To this day, I don’t know how he picks up the various notes and flavors he remarks on. Clearly something that comes with much more experience than I have.
I see parallels in appreciation of Scotch with photography, just like there are parallels with so many other things we experience… music, wine, painting, cinema, etc. Many of the distilleries are always trying to perfect these delicate characteristics. At the same time, many other regions of the world, that don’t have as stringent laws bounding them to what their spirit can consist of, can tend to drift into the opposite territory, embracing gimmick or trends that are anything but subtle. I am sure you can all think of examples of this when it comes to photography.
But, just like in my experience with Scotch, there are benefits in going to each end of the spectrum just so you can experience for yourself where your personal preferences rest. I think this takes awhile, takes some aging, and the experience is only intensified when you learn to appreciate those small nuances.