Thursday, June 16, 2016


[This is a long and circuitous post about minimalism. And yes, I see the irony!]

I've been thinking about my photography, how I don't see the big picture, just the smaller details, and have come to a conclusion.

Those of us who call ourselves photographers got into it for a variety of reasons. There are those who enjoy the gadgetry, the technical aspects, the cameras, the lenses, etc.

There are those who are the opposite, who couldn't tell you what's the maximum aperture on each of their lenses, who do not want to fuss with dials and numbers, who just want to shoot.

And there are those who dabble a bit in both ponds: who don't want to worry about numbers but lust for a longer lens; who don't have the patience to meter a huge landscape, but will wait an incredible amount of time for the pelican to turn its head just so, etc.

I've never been much of a technician; but I can see and compose quite well. I've always considered technicians the superior photographic species, have felt less-than when around them, and often quite apologetic about my own apparent lack of expertise.

I'm an adult now. An older adult. And I can look back to see where I began and how I've evolved. And have decided there's nothing to apologize for. I'm really good at seeing. And I know just enough technical stuff to emphasize what I do see.

Would I be a better photographer if I were more disciplined and learned more about the technical side? Probably. Do I care at this point? No. At this point I'm thrilled that I have a good eye, that I notice things that other people don't, and that I take joy in the noticing. And it's the joy that keeps me going. All throughout my teaching years, it was the seeing that I emphasized, with the technical stuff sneaking in. And that's what my students picked up on -- the seeing aspect of photography. (My stock phrase being, "If you can't see it, you can't shoot it.")

Other photographers, more technically inclined, get their joy and satisfaction out of creating a finely crafted image, of really working a scene, tweaking the settings, and seeing the big picture. And thank goodness there are people like that, who show us things others do not see, do not create.

And equally important, thank goodness there are people like me, who show us things others do not see, do not create. But most important (to me), is the realization I no longer have to apologize for my lack of technical expertise, that I am not less-than.

It's therefore with a sense of calm and quiet satisfaction that I show you these three very minimalistic images, images that contain just a few elements and that, to me, look pretty cool.

The first shot, of the drainpipe, I took yesterday as we were walking around the little town of La Conner, Washington. The sun was very bright, very harsh, and so I was looking for shadows. (That's my personal rule of thumb. When the sun is bright, look for dramatic shadows.) I liked the repeating narrow vertical elements, each one separated from the other via shadow and/or texture. I took the shot using my iPhone. And I adjusted the exposure by metering primarily for the brightest, most glaring element, which was the drainpipe.

The next two images I discovered today. They were on a memory card that's been missing for a year and a half, and were taken looking down through the window of a condo we were staying in in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I used a longish lens to isolate little sections of the swimming pool down below.

The memory card also contained photos I took of pelicans, of a great blue heron, of a grebe, reflections of a lighthouse, some landscapes, etc. But, when I came to the two pool pictures, I felt that little zzzzzzz of excitement. This is what I'm good at and what I particularly love doing -- taking weird photos such as these, images that most people wouldn't see, and if they did, they probably wouldn't consider shooting. And I get that. But no way and no longer will I apologize for shooting the way I do. (But I will apologize for the long blog post!) 

Wishing you joy in whatever you create and however you end up creating it.

©Carol Leigh
All text, photographs, and other media are ©Copyright Carol Leigh (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from Carol Leigh.


  1. Lengthy comments. You have such a gift for seeing and creating pieces and parts of what is there.
    Angles, lines, shadows, all part of the scheme. Any writing to explain yourself is also a wonderful shared gift. Keep it up kiddo! Hugs

  2. Fabulous comments -- almost like another class! I never miss......Bugsy

  3. Yes, Jan, it was a lengthy (too lengthy!) post. I should have deleted a lot of the first few paragraphs. And Bugsy? So glad you're still reading. Remember when we were in the eastern Sierra, the Alabama Hills, and it was so cold you stayed in the car and shot through the window? And your photos were terrific?! The glass in the Explorer made the coolest filter for your images. Who knew?


I know it takes time to leave a comment. I truly appreciate it when you do. Thanks!