My barber always talks about shape and balance when it comes to a good haircut. Three of my photos hang on the wall of his shop, and he always refers to those photos when he is talking to a customer about balance. I’m also aware that he says this partly for my benefit when I’m there, but it also illustrates his point. He also happens to be one of the biggest fans of my photography. 🙂
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balance, mostly in terms of managing competing priorities, but also how it relates to my photography. Visual balance is relatively easy, I think, partly because it is subjective, but also because there is a pretty wide range for success. Time balance is somewhat more difficult, and is really what I have been spending my time thinking about.
Whether at work, spending a weekend at home or on vacation, I struggle at balance. It’s mostly because of the classic “only 24 hours in a day,” but is also because there are so many interesting things competing for my time! I have to spend a certain amount of my day at work, because they pay me to be there. And I have to spend most of my time there doing the things they want me to do, because that’s what they pay me to do. Other than that, my time is mine, but within certain constraints, and subject to multiple distractions. Those of us who work for a living and have interests outside of work – which I think includes just about everyone I know – constantly face the dilemma of competing priorities.
When we sold our house and moved to our apartment in May, I was looking forward to all kinds of time to work on some projects I had been trying to get to for a long time. I promised myself time to write more on my blog, process more photos, update my website, make some prints and build a new computer. I haven’t done any of those things – yet. But the reason for that is that I have been doing other things that have had a higher priority. A lot of it has been Kathy & me taking a collective sigh of relief from the drama of selling our house and moving. And our new place is still mud and dirt, so there’s going to be a lot more time, I think. Now that we’ve had a nice vacation and I have several thousand more photos to process, I had better stay glued to my chair for a while!
On our recent vacation, I faced a dilemma regarding the balance of time for photography and time to enjoy the other aspects of being in Nova Scotia. With sunrise before 6:00am and sunset after 9:00pm, trying to photograph sunrise and sunset, especially sunrise, was going to be problematic. I love sunrise, but it comes way too early for me most of the year, so I was satisfied to rise with the rest of the world at 7:00, have a nice breakfast and be on my way at a reasonable hour. And I managed to sneak in a little sunset activity after dinner in a few locations. It was enough to satisfy my photographic needs while enjoying the tourist side of things by having a nice dinner every night. Did I miss some photographic “opportunities?” Perhaps, but this wasn’t a photography trip, and there is way more to do in Nova Scotia than take pictures. They have food and wine there! This was a vacation with Kathy and friends. So I accepted that, adjusted my mindset accordingly and we all came away happy and satisfied. Good balance.
I chose to not take a computer with me on this vacation. Besides the obvious weight and bulk, my opinion is that having a computer along provides a huge potential for distraction. If it was just a matter of backing up my photos every night and putting it way that would be fine, but then comes the temptation to process a few “just to see what I got,” then there is some kind of software update, while you wait you open Facebook and before you know it you have wasted 2 hours while everyone else is waiting to go to dinner. No thanks. The people I care most about are with me, and those who aren’t can wait until I get home.
We deal with visual balance in photography, and I think that dealing with visual balance helps to deal with time balance, because it forces us to evaluate all of the possibilities and come up with the one (or the few) ways to achieve the balance we are looking for. Just like I feel that visual balance is essential to good composition, I’m convinced that time balance is essential to a happy life. How a photograph is balanced visually is a huge influence on how successful a composition is. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that every photograph has to be IN balance, just that HOW it is balanced influences the success of the composition. And the same principal applies to how we manage our time. I’m working at finding that balance in my daily life, so I can find that right mix of time for work, time for me, and time for those who love me and who I love. I hope to continue to work on that balance for a long time!