I am a firm believer in keeping it simple in just about every aspect of life and living. Simple solutions are my preferred choice and photographic composition is no exception. It’s what you leave out that makes the difference.

Shooting landscapes with a wide angle lens it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of a big sprawling beautiful landscape and attempt to include everything. I believe it is much better to leave almost everything out. Nature can be quite chaotic and messy and I find it makes for a much better photo if you can isolate just a few elements in a strong composition. You would be forgiven for thinking that simple isolated strong compositions are the easiest to shoot. They’re not. They demand an eye for simple composition, an eye you have to constantly train. It is much easier to point your wide angle lens at everything or shoot a stitched panorama with a huge viewing angle. Much harder to isolate and pick out the best composition from the chaos.

I will present 3 landscapes from my Australia 2007 trip as examples of keeping it simple. These are subtle and simple photos and I didn’t pay them much attention at first among the many thousands of RAW files from the trip. Obvious shots jump at you when sorting the RAW files but obvious quickly becomes boring. Simplicity has staying power. The magic revealed itself later and I now consider these among my very favourite and best shots. For me all 3 of them have a special quality that somehow defies definition.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Uluru and tree in the desert
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

A few but key elements make up this composition. A dead tree in the hot dry arid red centre of Australia is the main subject, Uluru and a deep blue polarized sky serve as a powerful background and colourful contrast to the monochrome tree. Almost every element is placed on a “golden mean”, a “thirds” position. The sky and Uluru divide the photo and create a balance. Something about the photo feels otherworldly to the viewer.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Pandanus Palm and Termite Mounds at Hawk Dreaming
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

A few Pandanus Palm trees and Termite Mounds are the subjects and are balanced by the view of wide open space at Hawk Dreaming. The soft light at dusk lends a tranquil quality to the emotional impact. Most people will also feel the exotic subjects of Pandanus and Termite mound creates an otherworldly alien feel.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming Savannah View
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The cleanest and simplest of compositions, only 3 elements. The sky, the trees, the foreground. To create the dramatic wide angle composition and have the trees line up on the horizontal dividing line, I simply lay down in the grass and almost had the camera on the ground. The clouds create a strong sense of movement balanced by the detailed motionless foreground.

Simplicity demands an effort

I have found that it takes practice and effort to shoot simple. It’s easy to slip and include too much meaning you loose having a simple single focus point in the picture. Next time you compose a photo think about every elements you choose to include. Do they add to the photo? Do they subtract? Study the scene in your viewfinder, try different compositions – and keep it simple!

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12 thoughts on “Simplicity equals Longevity

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  1. suburbanlife 11 years ago

    I completely agree with your assessment and add – rigorous consideration of visual situations, and aiming for an austerity and simplicity of means tends to help one hit the mark more often than not. Works in painting, life, dance or what you will. You have a very fine visual sensibility and I'm looking to see more of your work. G

  2. Dylan Fox 11 years ago

    This is one of the first things that I learnt in photography and something I try to abide by. Simplicity is truly difficult and can be hard to perfect, but a simple photo will stand out above the rest!

    The third is my favourite and I also quite like the first.

    Cheers

  3. Stephen Williams 11 years ago

    great post Flem. it is so true.
    it's so much harder to find one point in a scene to extract a shot from that. I find that it's more personally satisfying as well. they only come about from taking your time and thinking through the shot.
    i especially like close up shot's of flowing water.
    anyone can take a photo of a waterfall or creek. but the more impressive one's are usually small sections of these.

    i really like your hawks savanah shot here.
    fantastic detail in the foreground and beautiful clouds

  4. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

    Thanks Dylan and Stephen. Stephen; you're right it's very satisfying actually succeeding in extracting and capturing a single perfect composition from all the chaos.

  5. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

    Forgot to mention the clouds in the Hawk Dreaming savannah shot; they're amazing and they look like they're moving. A bit magical since shutter speed was fast at 1/160th so it's not motion blur, it's just magic clouds!

  6. thomasparkes 11 years ago

    Hi Flemming,
    I love the Hawk Dreaming shot.
    So true about the blog.
    I will try and adopt that philosophy into my photography.

  7. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

    Hi Thomas and thanks. Yes, simplicity and thinking about what to leave out instead of what to leave in is a great philosophy!

  8. tonymiddleton 11 years ago

    wonderful images Flemming – I like the 3rd one the best as the sky also compells the eye through the frame.
    I often find minimalist and abstracts amongst nature as great subjects to photograph as well.

    happy travelling ! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

    Cheers Tony ! I love the sky in the 3rd one too. Takeoff in two days now ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. Matt Reed 11 years ago

    Hey Flemming, just checked out your blog for the first time. Thanks for all your posts and thoughts. Love the Hawk Dreaming Savannah Shot, its a captivating photo. Beautiful country up there… nice shots mate!

  11. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

    Cheers Matt, it certainly is amazing country in the Top End! Welcome to my blog mate, I will add a link to yours!