How Looking For Nothing Can Provide Us Something We Need

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Photography by Bradford Chase

Photographers use several concepts to create photographs which stand out from everyday snapshots. Some of these photographic principles work in everyday life helping us see our world in a clearer and more perceptive manner.

I have a perfect example that only takes a few minutes to read through, and it’s worth your time.

A few years ago, I woke before dawn to arrive with the morning light as it slowly pierced a heavy fog drifting through an open meadow.

There is little to compare to the empty sound of fog muffled silence while sitting quietly in a chilly mist with wide-open space surrounding me.

Just as the sun brought clarity to the dark shape of a large tree in the field, I heard a faint rustle of wet grass in the distance. Looking through the clearing haze, the image of a single doe materialized in my camera lens.

The deer, the fog, the tree; all seemed to stand in perfect pose while I silently snapped pictures to capture the moment.


Using Negative Space helps you see and feel what I want from the picture (photo by Bradford Chase)

While composing this shot, two specific ideas helped bring out the story I wanted to tell. One is the rule of thirds. The other is negative space.

The rule of thirds divides the canvas into nine equal boxes. Placing the subjects on the intersection of these sections makes the composition easier for the eyes to appreciate most times.

The one I want to focus on today is Negative Space.

Negative space is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the empty space left in the picture on purpose to drawn the eyes to the intended subjects.

The large tree, the small doe off to the side standing at the bottom of a photo with a large gray sky above. It pulls your eyes down to the tree and over to the deer. In a picture crowded with lots of other plants, trees, or flowers the small deer is lost to the eye.

I want you to see the deer, but I want subject subtle. Zooming in and putting a large doe in the center of the frame causes you to lose the emotions present when you see it feeding alone on that cool foggy morning. It becomes just another picture of a deer.

So how do we use this idea in our daily journey through the tangled web of business, friendships, social media, and all the other noise tugging on our mental and emotional well being?

Zoom out.

When I find myself so focused on me; I only see a picture of another poor victim. Or perhaps I am so wrapped up in a specific current event; politics, social justice, racial tensions, that I cannot understand the views of those who think differently than I do enough to feel any empathy for my fellow traveler in life’s journey.

Zoom out.

Frustration with daily living increases exponentially with the level of tunnel vision we develop because we give up our ability to see clearly through the clutter that surrounds us.

I realize taking a step back and re-framing the argument or rethinking my position clears my head and releases at least some tension. I try to better understand how I might develop a solution to the source of my stress by taking advantage of different perspective.

Not to get lost in the cliché, but: Look at the big picture. Understand negative space and how it draws me to look at what I should focus on.

Doing so allows me to apply a logical approach to removing some of the clutter. It gives me the freedom to appreciate that, while I may not agree with someone else’s views or ideology, I can still give them due process in explaining why they feel the way they do.

They need not convince me to think like they do and I’m not required to change their mind. We just learn to understand each other a little better.

It’s OK to disagree. It’s OK to be different. How boring would life be if we all looked and acted exactly the same?

Getting angry with or belittling someone just because they are different or hold opposing views is the simplest sign I lack the intelligence to process ideas separate from my own. Again, I don’t have to believe them or agree with them, but I need to try and understand why they are who they are.

I think this is the first step to leaning empathy. With that, my emotional intelligence improves significantly, giving me the tools I need to move through my day with less self-induced stress and I handle the world stressors attacking me on a more even keel.

Using Negative Space allows me to focus on accomplishing my goals, help others develop their own successful path, and lets me walk away from people and situations that would otherwise hold me back.

About Bradford Chase

All who wander are not lost; but some of us like to get lost by design. It helps us to find ourselves a little at a time. I like adventure and to wander off whenever possible, always with camera in hand. I typically must be stirred by something in the viewfinder in order to snap the waiting picture, and always build a story on what I see. I share them here. Please feel free to share as well.

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