My family and I always make it a point to visit the Minnesota State Fair each year. Over one million of our fellow citizens go and its the absolute best place to watch people and eat food that's decidedly bad for you.
After a couple hours of munching corn dogs and taking a dare to eat something like fried Spam on a stick, I tend to break away for a half-hour and head for the Fine Arts Building at a far corner of the property. It's my annual "I'm not worthy" tour.
The Fine Arts Building is a wonderful old square brick structure about the size of a very large chain restaurant. At one time, it may have been dedicated to display something more agricultural in nature but now it's a "yuppified" mecca for art types and art wanna-bees like me.
Amateurs from around the state submit works of all kinds for competition. I've seen some spectacular carvings, sculpture and paintings over the years. Naturally, I'm drawn to the photography. Every year I an very impressed with the depth and quality of the images my fellow Minnesotans can create. But it makes me envious of their talent. I love photographic technology. Love it. I just can't seem to take a picture that's any damn good.
The worst is when I've seen photos taken in my own hometown of places I see everyday. But it's the way the photographer saw the same location or subject and translated it into something with so much better lighting, a far more interesting viewpoint and a perfect cropping that floors me. Same place, better eye.
By the time I reach the exit, I'm a muttering old guy with a crinkled, unhappy face and festering revenge growing in my heart. I tend to get angry - at my own lack of ability.
"Just once," I say with my index finger pointed skyward, "just once I'm going to take a photo as good as that one over there and submit it to the fair. That'll show 'em." I never do. I'll spend weeks afterward scouring flickr or photo.net for inspiration. By Christmas, the fair will be far enough behind me that my resolve fades.
So I was telling all this to my wife as we drove home from this year's fair. We've been together for over 30-years, so she's heard the rant easily more than two-dozen times. While still concentrating on her knitting, she said, "Well just think how that stop at the Fine Arts Building every year helps get you out and take photos again. And I think your photos are very nice."
She's right. The Minnesota State Fair is my personal demon that spurs me on to try and take better images. I may not ever have a photo hang on the wall in late August a the fair, but I can always get a blue ribbon from a judge I most admire. Good enough for me.