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Simplify

Every photographer has a different style.  It usually takes a good deal of time to understand what exactly that style is when the photographer is yourself.  As I have mentioned in the past, one of the things I understand about my own photography is that I like portraying clean, simple lines and shapes in my images.  One of the ways to do this is to simplify the photograph.   By this I mean removing clutter and isolating the parts of the image that portray just what you are feeling about the subject.

It is often said that what is outside the frame can be just as important as what is inside the frame.  I first saw this demonstrated almost 10 years ago when I ‘returned’ to photography after a long hiatus (see my bio).  At that point, I attended a photography workshop by John and Barbara Gerlach.  During one of their lectures, John showed a photo of a cluttered, messy forest scene with no organization whatsoever. It revealed what the location looked like when he walked into a forest clearing.  He asked the workshop participants if they could see a picture within the clutter.  He then showed a series of images that slowly honed in on the final composition, with each photo placing more and more of the landscape outside the frame until he ultimately ended up with a beautifully composed image.  Truth be told, I don’t even remember what the final image was anymore.  But I don’t think John would mind; the fact is that I remember that very important lesson……a lesson that was meaningful enough to me that it ultimately became part of my style of photographic expression.

What brought all this to mind?  In my last post, I showed this photo that I took at Jennings Environmental Education Center (for more on Jennings see the 8/3/11 post):

Blazing Star Simplify

Blazing Star

Liatris spicata

Copyright Howard Grill

What I didn’t show was what the prairie scene looked like when I first came upon it.  When I looked out on the prairie, the first thought that came into my mind (after admiring and being amazed at its beauty) in regards to composing a picture was the lesson that John Gerlach had taught that day.

prairie.jpg Simplify

Some photographers have styles that are very effective at communicating a feeling using the whole prairie at once.  But without a foreground that could be set apart from the rest of the image, I felt a strong need to simply simplify.

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