Simplify To Amplify; What You Don’t Show In The Frame Is As Important As What You Choose To Include Page 2

The photo of the little dessert is the same idea. It was served on a paper tray, but I thought it would look better on the rattan tray I saw on the counter. So I moved it, photographed it, and then ate it. And when I walked by the stones, there was only one leaf on them. I went and found more leaves, arranged them, and took the photo.

The stacks of silk pillows were low-hanging fruit: easy and typical, yet effective. Here the simplicity is achieved with symmetry and composition. It's a simple shot, but not thoughtless, not a snapshot or a grab shot. I watched all the edges and I was aware of that vertical line right smack in the middle; that's by design, with color left and right. There's a lot of color play here, a lot of balance. Simple often means a lot of planning.

Take the umbrellas, for example. What you're seeing is a small section of a long wall display. I cropped out the other colors, eliminating the red, yellow, orange, and green umbrellas. Then I cropped into the blue and purple ones, to isolate just a few. I wasn't interested in including everything in the frame--the entire selection of umbrellas or the crowded gift shop in which they were displayed. That might have made a valid picture, but it would have been a picture with a meaning and feeling that I wasn't after.

The people photos have the same feeling and philosophy. Each photo is comprised of the person and one other element; they are one-to-two-element compositions, and I seriously believe that if there are more than two elements in a picture, there should be a very good reason. More than two is generally distracting. I photographed the people in a place called Edo Wonderland, an area that reflects how Japan was 200 years ago. I guess you could say it's Japan's equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg, with traditional costumes, ceremonies, and food. Sure, I took some overall shots of the place, but to me they're the secondary images. Overall, the simple, two-element pictures I took are, I think, the most effective.

The idea of simplifying your photographs will not only affect your images, it can affect you, too. People are often overwhelmed by everything going on around them, especially when they travel, and especially when they travel to a place for the first time. Don't let it get to you. You can't capture Tokyo in one frame; you just can't cram it all in. But you can capture it through a series of simple images that depict slices of life and pieces of culture. I guess I'm talking about close-up and telephoto thinking rather than wide angle.

Of course, there are two sides to every story, and wide angle thinking might be a good topic for a future column.