I spoke to the Orlando Camera Club a few years ago and it was a frightening experience! This is one of the best and most talented camera clubs in America, and in fact has been named so on several occasions!!! To stand in front of this group and share is a daunting affair! One of the bonuses of getting to know that group is that I get their email newsletter, and it always contains some great images and information. This article by Simon Bray, a terrific shooter, was of real interest to me and I thought I would share it with you. I tried in vain to reach Simon and Wayne Bennett and both were out of pocket, but knowing this club they are dedicated to educating others and I’m sure Simon would welcome my reprinting his article, if not, my future posts will be from prison!
We often hear the phrase ‘less is more’, and this couldn’t be more apt than when appreciating minimalism. When executed well, minimalist photography can be an extremely simple but dramatic way to capture images. But how should we interpret, understand and execute minimalism within our own work
Step 1. Understand Minimalism
Minimalism is a style employed by many 20th Century artists, using a minimum amount of components such as colour, shape, line and texture. Within the art world it is considered an extremely subjective concept, leaving interpretation and meaning up to the viewers perception of the work.
Some appreciate the openness of this idea, embracing the freedom of interpretation, where others despise the lack of direction or subject matter. For photographers, this is less of an issue, as more often than not, a photo remains a real-life moment captured on film. Despite this, we can employ some of the techniques of minimalism to enhance the impact of our work.
Step 2. Keep It Simple
When understanding how to achieve minimalism, the rule is to keep it simple. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring or uninteresting. Try to pick a striking and engaging subject that will catch the eye. The subject has to be the strongest element of the shot, even though it may not take up the majority of the frame.
Before you take your shot, take a moment to consider what you are going to include in your shot, but also what you are going to leave out. The space around a subject will accentuate it’s prominence, so look to zoom in or crop out any distractions.
Step 3. Composition
Achieving a strong compositional element to a minimalist photo is absolutely key in enhancing the impact of the shot. Like I mentioned in Step 2, what you leave out is just as important as what you leave in, so take some time to consider the structure of the subject and the space within which it is placed.
The “rule of thirds” applies here and will help when deciding how to frame your subject. Strong composition can also incorporate square structures and line, which we will come to later on, but keep an eye out for strong shapes and lines which might lend themselves to a minimalist shot.
Be sure to focus in on the subject, and if possible, select a depth of field that will make the subject stand out, this will draw the eye into the shot and enhance impact.
Step 4. Complimentary Colour
The use of colour in minimalist photography is highly evident and it is an extremely useful tool when it comes to capturing an eye catching yet simple shot. What many minimalist photos lack in subject matter they make up for in colour and in this case, the brighter the better!
Try to use the available light to bring out the colours within the scene. Many shots work based around a single colour, including both the subject and the background, but this can be difficult to find, so keep an eye out for either colours that compliment each other, or a combination of contrasting colours.
Step 5. Strong Line
In a similar way to the use of colour in minimalist photography, the effectiveness of line within a shot can be vital in adding to the image when subject matter is limited. As I mentioned before, strong horizontal or vertical lines lend themselves to strong composition, as they will give a solid structure to the image.
The old adage of using line to draw the eye into the shot is also relevant here. Consider where the line is leading, for example from the centre of the image leading away to the edge, or from a corner into the centre, with regard to what you want to the viewer to take away from the image.
Step 6. Getting All Touchy Feely
Like a lot of minimalist art, some minimalist shots are based purely on texture and colour, yet they grab your attention even without any distinct subject matter. For this, you need not only an engaging surface, but also the means to capture it in an interesting way.
Consider whether there is any direction to the texture and whether that line can be used effectively in a compositional sense. Try to use light to enhance the texture, to bring out the contrast and look to capture the image so the viewer could almost feel what they are seeing.
Step 7. Keep Your Eyes Open
Once you have spent some time studying minimalist examples, you’ll begin to appreciate the examples of minimalism that surround you each and every day. When you’re out and about, keep your eyes open for spaces and blocks of colour, interesting subjects that stand alone and clean lines. Look up, look down, keep searching and you will be rewarded.
A good place to start might be within geometric shapes found within architecture, which often include a whole wall of re-occurring pattern that can be exploited as a minimalist photo.
Step 8. Process
Processing minimalist shots should be reasonably simple, as having captured your shot, you should have a good notion of what you want to produce-something simple but dramatic. Something you might want to consider is experimenting with the more surreal images, using an artistic viewpoint to create an image that may be unrecognisable from it’s original state but functions instead as a piece of art.
However, you may also want to stay true to life and simply process your image with a focus on bringing out the subject and enhancing the lines and colour within the shot.
Step 9. Tell the Story
Many minimalist photos are eye catching, featuring simple lines, appealing colours and could be considered an artistic expression, but once you’ve mastered capturing appealing images; it’s time to take on a greater challenge. Can you tell a story through a photo shot in a minimalist style? Is it possible to convey a scene or event using reduced subject matter, colours and shapes?
To achieve this, you may well need to incorporate some interest from light, people or movement, but next time you’re out shooting an event, once you’ve got all the shots you need, try summing up the event in one shot using as little subject matter as possible, you might surprise yourself!
Step 10. Get Creative
So hopefully now you have a basic understanding of minimalist photography and have a few techniques and tips to help you on your way with capturing your own minimalist images. As I said before, keep your eye out for possible shots and remember to keep it simple, the more eye catching the better.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Minimalism can be a very subjective topic, so what you appreciate, others may not, but get out there, see what you can find and get snapping!
Thanks Simon, great information!
Early morning shoot Sanibel Island, inspired by Simon!
…..and this is for my dear brother Homer, after the sweet note he left me, yesterday, this is the sign at the Sanibel Island Visitor Center
This entry was posted on Sunday, March 1st, 2015 at 1:07 pm
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Out of the fridge! We made it to Florida Thursday night and it has been great to not see any snow! Sherelene and I have been visiting family yesterday and last night and will head on down further south and to warmer temps today. Beach trips are for Sherelene, I’m a shade guy. I will be spending this week getting prepared for my time with the folks in Peoria and working on the Fuji X System book Volume 2! I will blog some this week but probably not every day.
Just a word about family. We visited my brother-in-law Ron Oliver yesterday. Ron had a some severe circulatory issues and had to have his leg amputated above the knee. I can’t imagine the trauma involved in this kind of surgery but Ron was in great spirits and was working hard to get used to his new life reality. I am so proud of him for getting down to business and facing this turn of events. Life is tough and you have to be fought to face some of the difficulties you will face, Ron is stepping up to the plate in a big way! I was worried about him and Diane but they are doing great, and will do great! Our family’s been blessed!
It has been great to spend time with Scott and Diane, Ben and Hannah, and the rest of Sherelene’s family. On to warmer temps!!!!!
This entry was posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2015 at 1:34 pm
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You have to have a plan! I have an upcoming trip, one I have been so excited about taking, but I would not consider even starting the car, without a plan! The map above is just wallpaper to make a more important point! Where I’m driving to, the hours on the road, and milage are of little importance to you, but what I will say next is!
a plan for raising money: procedure, scheme, strategy, idea, proposal, proposition, suggestion, action point; project, program, system, method, stratagem, formula, recipe; way, means, measure, tactic.
Let me pull one word out of this loose definition, Strategy! You have to have, you need, your success depends on, a strategy! As a Christian I have a strategy, trust God! My Heavenly Father has not only promised to watch over me, He has! Non believers will say, “then you don’t do anything and just sit here waiting on God?” Not hardly. I trust in Him, I also know that He works best when I’m on top of my game, and moving in the direction he has laid out before me. I’m big on developing a detailed plan, but I know He can interrupt it anytime, when “He” has a better plan.
So why plan? Because you need to know what your mission is. You see, mine is to go and do, and enjoy this life, and along the way, share His love. Offer help, a smile, and encouraging word, something that was not there before! It’s not hard, but you have to be committed! I’m not a lot of things I should be, but I am committed to a higher cause, purpose and goal!
Now, I can’t wait to get out there and start spreading His Good News, and take some images!!!!! Maybe even some good ones!!!
Tomorrow I take my bride for a well deserved week in Florida, for some rest. When I return it’s on to the big photo adventure!
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 8:38 pm
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Please indulge me in some rambling thoughts! I was talking to another gentlemen of my age, (crotchety old man talk!), and we agreed that things sure are different than when we grew up. I’m not saying that people are courteous, or nice, or hospitable anymore, that would certainly be stretching my point, but….. things are different. While I am not the arbiter of what is good behavior, I would like to make some suggestions to my fellow photographers;
1. When in-the-field, treat other shooters as you would like to be treated. Don’t step in front of someone else blocking their shot. Don’t make a loud noise while someone is trying to photograph a skittish animal. If you need to work close to another person’s spot, ask permission to “squeeze” in! Let me offer an example. One of the locations I do a lot with groups is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. It is almost always crowded so I encourage my groups to get there plenty early since the best spot to shoot from is not a very large space. If you arrive and others have the good spot you’re out of luck. Now its a decent hike in and you do it in the dark so I have a suggestion. My last time there my group got in early and we had secured the best shooting spots. Just before the light was going to get terrific, and it did that day, another group about as large as out (a dozen people) arrived. At first they were verbally upset that we had the good spots. Here is where playing nice comes in. I went over to their leader and said, ”listen the light is about to happens, why don’t we try to squeeze your guys in with our group so everyone get a chance at the good light!?” It was tight but everyone got the shot, even some of my folks, after they knew that had the shot left their spot for some from the new group. Everyone left happy, and an ugly confrontation was avoided, and we did the right thing. Play nice!!!!
2. Share what you know! A few years ago a photographer who will go un-named (no reason to be ugly – play nice???!!!) did a beautiful book on a very scenic area in America. The book had many stunning images and it was of a place few people knew anything about. Many photographers questioned the author about where these beautiful scenes were photographed. The photographer steadfastly refused to reveal their “secret” spot. I have to be honest, it frosted me. If a scene is on public land, and going to it, to make photographs, does not in anyway harm the environment, I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t gladly share your information. The area in this book has now been discovered by many and I’ve seen hundreds of images from this location, so the photographer did not protect their work!!!! They should have Played Nice!!!!
3. Never harm any living thing just to make the shot. If you have to harm an animal or put it in danger, or harm or destroy a plant, flower, or tree to make the shot, walk away. No image is worth destroying the subject!!! Play Nice!!!!
4. Be honest about your images. I once heard a photographer tell a long bloated story about lying under dead leaves for two days until the bear got close enough to make an image. First I don’t believe him, and if it is true, he’s an idiot for allowing a wild animal like bear to get that close! Hairy war tales are not needed, just make wonderful images that require no story at all! Play Nice!!!!!
5. Share your toys! Have you ever been making a shot and have a fellow photogpraher say I would love to make that shot but my lens is not wide enough or long enough!!!??? When you are finished hand them the lens you are using, (if it will fit their camera!) If I get the shot and you don’t, it doesn’t make my shot any better!!! Play Nice!!!!
6. Offer to help. If you see someone struggling to make a shot and you can see the mistake their making, offer a little help. Maybe it’s because I teach workshops, or maybe I’m just observant, but I see people all the time having trouble making a shot and doing something wrong. I try to be gentle, and offer to help. I’ve never had anyone say bug off. Most people appreciate a hand. Same goes for a family group wanting their picture made in front of some scene, offer to shoot the picture so everyone in the family gets to be in the image!. It’s just embarrassing when a 45 year pro shooter (me) can’t find the button on their camera!!! Plays Nice!!!!
7. Be careful how you critiques other’s work!!! You don’t have to draw blood, to help someone see how they could have made a better image! Almost all images have something positive to say about them, start there, and acknowledge that the photographer had a good idea, then start showing how a few changes would have brought that image to fruition more successfully. If your goal is to help people get more excited about making good images, don’t crush them in the process! Play Nice!!!!
8. If you think you’re the best photographer in the room, you may be wrong!!!! If you are sure you’re the best photogpraher in the room, never say it! Today one thing is very true: Even if you are an exceptional photographer, there are a many, many more just as good or better than you! Today great shooters are a dime a dozen. It’s the fact of photography today, we enjoy more wonderful shooters than ever before, So the next time you start feeling like you can’t be beat, step carefully, pride goes before a fall!! Remember, Play Nice!!!!
9. Don’t be a snob about your gear! We invest a lot in our camera gear, and we are proud of our choices, but be careful not to put to much stock in your gear. Rod Planck said it best, “Technique trumps equipment overtime!” Want to find something to be proud of? Be proud of how careful you are in your execution of this craft!!!
10. Don’t put to much stock in what others say about your work! You’re probably not as good, or as bad, as they say you are! Play Nice!!!!!
Have a blessed day!
…..and Play Nice!!!!!!
Grain Silo, Wall, South Dakota