Life seems to invite periods of time in which I think, “I’ve been here before.”  For example, my first readings about contemplative photography occurred about 6-7 years ago.  Even though this genre resonated with me, I chose to put it aside as there was limited resources on the internet and what training programs I was able to find were a bit outside of my financial resources.   

In June of this year, I began to explore contemplative photography as part of this A Photo Study project.  Today, this 12th posting of contemplative photography has been motivated by A Karr and M Wood’s discussion of “simplicity” within their book, The Practice of Contemplative Photography  What I find interesting is that the January, 2018,  blog of this project was, A Photo Study: Simplification and Negative Space, which was inspired by one of Ted Forbes’ composition videos.

Even though life seems to move in a linear progression from birth to death; at times like this I find myself wondering if there are periods of time in which there are episodes of circular movements within one’s life journey in which we are “presently” invited to pause and reflect upon our “past”  before time nudges us into a new present, our future.  

Well, I think I’ve digressed from this week’s photo study, simplicity.  Karr and Wood note that their simplicity exercise is to open us to the relationship between form and space, to open ourselves to the experience of simplicity without seeking an external validation of our concept of simplicity.

Space intensifies the experience of form, and simple form intensifies the experience of space.  … Simplicity and space are aspects of our perception. Visual space can be produced by a red wall, a length of gray fabric…a smooth beach…a backdrop of dark shadows, gray pavement…sky..  An object seen seen against any unadorned expanse will be surrounded by visual space. 

Their definition of space brings to mind the post, Negative Space,  in which I wrote:

In photography negative space is perhaps the most important element as it embraces the subject within your image — the element of interest — helping it stand out and inviting the viewer’s attention.  It is the aspect within a photograph that generally doesn’t attract much attention.  It is sometimes referred to as white space and has the potential to change what appears to be an average subject into an outstanding image

For this exercise, Kerr and Wood encourage a point of departure in which our intention should be to recognize perception where form and space produce strong contrasts—where the experience of form is weighted because of the space around it.   …to look at one thing at a time.  Look at objects and also look at their environment.  Don’t hurry. Proceed in a relaxed way that allow you to see the space around things, not just the things themselves.

The first series of the images in the slideshow below are of a couple of photo walks directed by my understanding, thus far, of contemplative photography especially in regards to flash of perspective, visual discernment, and forming the equivalent, comparable to what I perceived—nothing more, nothing less.  


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The second series of images in the slide show below are part of the images I created as part of the simplification and negative space blogs posted earlier this year.  These images, I believe, were created by a natural inclination towards flash of perspectives, visual discernment, and a bit of digital darkroom creative exploration.  


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I enjoy the creative playgrounds offered by Photoshop, Capture One, and Nik.  Am looking forward to a comparison of images you created in repose to the earlier blogs on simplification and negative space with those of simplicity as defined within contemplative photography.  Please tag with #aphotostudy. 

For this week’s photo study, I decided to continue with Ian’s creative composition posts as they seem to be an ideal way to revisit basic elements of composition and explore how to incorporate them into street photography.  He begins the second positing with noting the importance of slowing down with intentional “seeing” as a foundation to finding the ideal background and good light and then deciding to or not to press the shutter.

via Creative Composition in Street Photography – Part Two

Photography is not what’s important. It’s seeing.
The camera, film, even pictures, are not important.
~Algimantas Kezys (cited: H Zehr, The Little Book of Contemplative Photography)

Setting the Stage, Timing the Steps (fishing)  Ian writes, “The key concept for this approach is to establish the static elements in your frame first (i.e. background and light), then patiently work to add interesting dynamic elements by moving close and far, exploring various angles, adjusting the camera’s settings, and finally with patience waiting for the person who fits into your story to walk on your stage.


Frame within a Frame  Create a frame within the image through the use of doorways, windows, window displays, trees, or any object that creates a frame around your subject.


Leading Lines  Drawing the viewer’s eye is an important compositional element  especially when lines converge toward each other and draw the eye to the subject.  I found that the gaze of both the man and the dog create an implied line as well as invite a story.


Juxtaposition  Ian describes juxtaposition is where two adjacent objects appear to contrast with each other, as within the image below.   The person in the foreground leans to the left opening us to the elderly man in the midground who is leading left.  The Starbucks coffee cup in the center adds a social justice element as well as a contrast to both men.


Perspective – create high-angle images by standing on stairs, platforms, balconies or low-angle photos by  getting close to the ground and shooting upwards.


Scale  Images where the subject is dwarfed by the environment seems to be a way of introducing feeling into the image and drawing the eye to the person within the frame.


Color  Color intermixed with light, shadows, and silhouettes have the potential to create unique photographs that nudge images away from the photojournalism and documentary genre.


Reflections  Entire stories can be created through the layers that are created when photographing through glass.


Light and Shadows  Using your exposure compensation to drop the exposure on the frame (which protects the highlights while creating wonderful deep shadows) will create amazing interactions of shadows, light, and silhouettes.


The Candid Frame  Within “Less than Obvious”, Ibarionex encourages us to open ourselves to “seeing” the world’s amazing detail and “being” intentional before we press the shutter.

I hope you find Ian’s educational blog and the Candid Frame to be an invaluable sources of information as well as doorways to a world of creative possibilities.  I’m looking forward to seeing your creative work as well as reading your throughs about the use of basic composition elements into street photograph.  Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.  Until next week…

This week’s  photo study was inspired by The Candid Frame’s video in which Ibarionex speaks about the opportunities of light and shadow that a photographer will find in rural communities as well as in the dynamics of cities such as New York or Hong Kong.

Bring out the play of light and shadow within the scene.


Be open to how light and shadow shifts the mundane into something exciting.


Allow the shadows to go black by adjusting the exposure.


Find a scene and wait…


throughglasswebI appreciate the encouragement to silence the envy when viewing photographs created within the dynamics of large urban areas by waking up to the amazing opportunities of light and shadow one will find…anywhere.

I hope you, too, are inspired by The Candid Frame’s video, Street Photography Anywhere.   I am looking forward to reading your comments and seeing how you play with light and shadow within your town.   Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.

This week’s photo study has been inspired by A Cemal Ekin’s article, “Seeing is the Essence of Photography, And You Can Learn to Do It Better.”

Within this article, Ekin wrote, “Photography is an analytic art form. We aim our lenses to specific parts of the world around us to pick a frame because, in our analysis, that particular frame presents the photograph we wish to take. We can certainly raise the camera, lower the camera, rotate it, pitch it, yaw it, aim at a different part and end up photographing something different.

“Seeing is the essence of this process, it is the essence of photography. It is our ability to absorb what lies in our view, process that, and target the frame that is the most compelling; that is the analytical part. Seeing is a mental process, it starts with our eyes capturing some information from our surroundings but continues as a mental activity.

“It requires awareness; and awareness is a state of mind. There are many things in front of you now but you are not necessarily aware of all of them. For instance, you are reading this post on a screen, it feels normal to you. But, are you “aware” of the screen dimensions? Are you aware of the distance between the screen and your eyes?

“Seeing can be improved — you can actually work at it and start seeing things you did not notice before. It requires looking with intention and awareness and learning to appreciate many different things. The movement of the tree branches may create delightful patterns, flight path of a butterfly repeating itself, the huge scissors in front of a tailor shop mimicking the open legs of the pedestrians, there are many, many things to notice and see.

“The result is that you may actually start photographing things that you did not before, partly because you did not see them before and partly because you have come to appreciate them! Seeing is part of your experience, you should feel that you are seeing something as a result of your keen awareness, in that state of mind.

“Here is a simple exercise you can try. Take your camera, any camera and go down to your basement. If you don’t have a basement, go to your garage. If you don’t have a garage, go to your bedroom. You have 15 minutes to produce 30 photographs in that space with the following requirements:

  • Need to stay in the same space
  • Your images will be cropped to leave the square area in the center, frame height determining the size of the crop, no cheating!
  • If your camera allows setting the image ratio, you may set it to square or 1:1
  • Don’t get into serious editing, the idea is seeing with limits (the square crop in the center), just crop the images as promised

“Try to focus on things that normally escape your attention, like the folds of the bedspreads (if you are in the bedroom), the way the stairs may be worn going down to the basement, the stains on the garage floor, etc., etc. Look for texture, lines, shapes, forms rather than “things” to photograph.

“You also need to limit your vision to the center square section of the viewfinder, this makes you truly aware of what is outside your frame, because you actually see them knowing that they will be cropped. Why are you leaving those things outside the frame? Why are you including the others you include within?

“Now look at the cropped images, they are probably not your typical photographs. Do you find any that you would like to share with friends? What appeals to your sensibilities in them? What about those that did not work? Why do they not work?”

Erkin ended his article with an introduction to Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See

To learn more about Cemal Erkin’s, visit his website

Would love to read your thoughts and see some of the images you created during Erkin’s 15 minute exercise.  Thanks for taking the time to visit.


Photography is an art form and as such need not rely on rules.  Yet, it is important for the photographer to keep in mind that the composition rules help create balanced, dynamic, and interesting images that invite a viewer to stay and visit in comfort.

The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is the element of composition that begins with dividing an image into thirds, horizontally and vertically, creating nine imagined sections.  


The theory is that if you place your subject in the intersections or along the lines, your image becomes more balanced and will enable the viewer to interact with the story more naturally.  

With the rule of thirds in mind, it is recommended that the photographer should compose a photographer by asking, 

“what are the points of interest in this shot?”

“where am I intentionally placing them?”


Studies show that the human eye naturally is drawn more to one of the four intersection points than the the center of the image.  Yet, sometimes a photographer finds that placing the subject right in the middle of the frame makes for a more interesting composition. 



“Breaking” the rule of thirds opens the door to symmetry, creating balance on both sides of the image as well as the top and bottom. 

We find beauty in natural symmetry. A butterfly, for example, has perfect symmetry when it opens its wings. Snowflakes, flowers and seashells also gift us with the beauty of balance.   


Depth of field

Scenes that feature a shallow depth of field may also not require rule of thirds placement. That’s because a shallow depth of field creates dimension in a photograph, and our eyes are drawn into images that have dimension. You will look into a shallow background even when you can’t identify what’s there, because your eye automatically wants to move through a scene that seems to have depth and dimension.


Love to hear your thoughts about rule of thirds and see how you use this basic composition tool in your creative endeavors.

I hope you enjoy Saurav Sinha’s discussion about composition.

Photography, in a nut shell, is lines, shapes, colors, and feelings

In photography negative space is perhaps the most important element as it embraces the subject within your image — the element of interest — helping it stand out and inviting the viewer’s attention.  It is the aspect within a photograph that generally doesn’t attract much attention.  It is sometimes referred to as white space and has the potential to change what appears to be an average subject into an outstanding image.


The simplest example of positive and negative are the words in this blog.  These words draw your attention while the background doesn’t.  The words are positive space, and the white background is negative space

Some images have high amounts of positive space creating what some identify as busy, cluttered, crowded creative works. These types of images generally reflect the busy nature of the scene being photographed.


The elements of positive and negative space are two elements of photography that are important because of the emotions they evoke. Images created with high amounts of positive space have the potential to evoke feelings of power, strength, action, chaos,  busyness, or…as in the image above…anticipation.

Negative space, in contrast, awakens feelings of peace, calm, quiet, loneliness, isolation. It is less about the subject within a photograph and more about awakening a feeling in the viewer.


Negative space can create a sense of lightness, airiness…it can strengthen the positive emotions in a photography, emphasize the feelings of your subject, conveying whatever story you as a photographer wishes to evoke in your viewer.

duckswebNegative space provides “breathing room” giving the viewer’s eyes a place to rest and preventing an image from appearing too cluttered…creating a more engaging composition.


Negative space generally mutes detail or color; yet, in some cases well-defined buildings and people can act as negative space as it conveys a story or evokes feelings.


It is easy to focus our attention on the subject, on what we see as most important element of the photograph. Adding to or taking away negative space affects the subject within an image as they effectively become smaller or larger within the frame of your image.


At first, it seems that to set out to find empty space may be a difficult undertaking; yet, searching for elements that don’t stand out becomes more natural over time…try including the sky in your composition…it is expansive, everywhere, and often filled with negative space.


Our mind formulates ideas about how objects in our world look and that is the reason an art instructor may invite her class to draw an object upside down. This engages the eye to see as opposed to allowing the mind to impose a preconceived idea into a drawing.

longexposurehorsetoothweb copy

Unfortunately these preconceptions distort the way we see a scene, and this can lead to photographs that we see as good, but not so in reality. My readings noted that a way to step out of the boundary of our minds is to ignore the objects in the scene altogether and instead concentrate on the gaps between and around them. This also aids in giving more attention to composition and seeing sizes and shapes in a more accurate manner.

Negative space, in the world of photography, may be more important especially if the photographer tends towards creating images that are simple; yet effective. Michael Kenna, Bruce Percy, and Masao Yamamoto are three artists known for their minimalistic images.

Examples of images that “focuses” on specific compositional tools are an invaluable learning tool. I hope you enjoy seeing these amazing images offered through Ted Forbes.

In closing, I’m deeply grateful for the exchange of ideas and images that I have experienced thus far in this photo study project and am looking forward to reading your thoughts and seeing your images.

wpc_friendTempo as a composition element within photography is an extension of Ted Forbes’ discussion of rhythm…the beat…the pulse within images. He notes that tempo is the means by which we display speed, movement, as well as the passing of time all within a frozen moment.
Within the comment section of the YouTube video , Tempo in Visual Composition and Photography, Ted Forbes furthers his discussion by noting that

tempo is different than the ‘rule of xxx’ stuff. Every photo has a tempo—a pace at which the elements relate to one another. This is simply becoming conscious of these relationships and learning how to vary the pace of the images you create.

Speaking of music within composition, here is a blog by Moss and Fog who offers us a video that is “a fascinating experimental film by Marcin Nowrotek [who] combines 3D footage of jazz musicians and 3D animations to create a video that brings amazing depth and physicality to the screen.”  Enjoy.

As always, I would love hearing your thoughts and seeing how you understand Ted Forbes’ discussion of tempo within photography.

This week my topic of study was shape.  Shape, the basic two-dimensional element within composition, is defined by line, space, color, and contrast of differing light areas. There are three basic shapes – square, triangle, circle.  There are also combinations of basic shapes, organic – leaves, trees, people, flowers – and abstract configuations.

Ted Forbes noted that abstract shapes can often have

…phycological associations with the viewer on various levels of depth. At their most obvious they tend to be object identification. A silhouette of a chair can be identified as a chair because its an object just about everyone can identify. Same with any other subject or shape of familiarity. Shapes that are abstracted either by blur, shadow, distance or scale begin to have a more dramatic effect as they might hit the viewer on a more subconscious level. In other words they might not be the first thing the viewer sees or recognizes on first glance. This can often create interest and a stronger visual impact.

Shapes can be made more dominant by placing them against a plain contrasting background. The greater emphasis of shape is achieved when the shape is silhouetted thus eliminating other qualities of the shape, such as texture and roundness, or the illusion of form.


Shape is the foundation of  form.


Form is the three-dimensional counterpart to shape. Shape is to form as a square is to a cube.  Form is shape with dimension or volume. To change a shape to a form, dimension must be created by the addition of tone or color transitions within the shape. This results is the illusion of three-dimensions in a two-dimensional space. With the proper application of light and tonal range, shape will transform into a three-dimensional quality of form. Lightening can also subdue or even destroy form by causing dark shadows that cause several shapes to merge into one.


To apply this understanding of shapes and form in composition, I set out to complete an assignment outlined by Ted Forbes creating images in a studio type environment with oranges as a subject and using the techniques of: cropping, scale, fragmentation, focus, lightening, metaphor, and implied.

I found that this assignment to create images in a studio type environment to be a challenge as I tend to be more “improvisational” and thus the use of flames and goslings within the last two images (metaphor and implied).

Thank you for visiting.  As I noted before I would love to have you join me in this learning journey and to read your thoughts.  I hope you find this Ted Forbes Youtube video informative:

The fourth week of this journey exploring a particular element of photography invited me to open my eyes to triangles.  It is easy for the eye to see triangles and they are often created through the use of three prominent points of interest, particularly if they are similar in content and size.

The first time I was introduced to triangles in photography was through the writings of Eric Kim who noted, “Triangles are one of the best compositional techniques you can use in your street photography to fill your frame, add balance, and add movement in your images.”

Within an image, you may notice three variations of triangular compositions: real triangles (actual triangles, triangles formed by perspective, inverted triangles formed by perspective) and implied triangles through the use of people.


Within street photography, implied triangles are often created by the direction of the subjects’ eyes. Within the first image below, both subjects are looking to the left creating a triangle that extends outside the photograph. In the second, the gaze of the father, daughter, and two geese create an implied triangle.

If you wish to join this learning journey at any time, please do so.

Please enjoy this educational video, Composition in Photography (Ted Forbes, The Art of Photography)