There were a number of good and thoughtful comments to my previous post about balance. Some of them related to the visual balance of photography, but mostly the comments seemed to revolve around the time balance involved in making time for photography, and to a lesser extent about time balance in our lives in general. I find myself more and more preferring to photograph as a part of traveling or doing other things, as opposed to making photography the central purpose of my activity. There is a subtle but important distinction between the two. Mostly it just means a change in subject matter, but because I’m photographing things that attract me or grab my attention as I go, I’m more likely to photograph things that have more interest or meaning to me, rather than just going down a checklist or conforming to some predetermined agenda or formula.
Cedric’s comment was perhaps the most interesting to me, because he read my words in the context of the accompanying photographs, which were more of a “centered” type of composition. Relating it to his personal preference for photos that are “grossly one sided across the vertical” he said that he rarely shares that type of photograph, “because generally they are not popular and sometimes rattle people too much.”
My reaction when reading those words was “why does “balanced” have to be “centered?”” If your vision (or your preference) results in a photograph that has the subject off to one side and it pleases you and suits your intention, isn’t that OK? Balance should be dictated by what works for us in a particular situation and what feels right to us. In most cases that might mean a result that is closer to the center than to the edge, but it doesn’t have to.
Mark’s comments focused on the parallels between visual and time balance, and the fact that he feels that he has more control over the photographic part than the time part. I agree, as there are more outside demands on our time than there are on our photographic vision. I probably would have been perfectly willing to get up at 4am for sunrise a few days, were it not for the fact that our days didn’t leave room for catching up on lost sleep, that daylight went until sunset at 9:00 and that I didn’t want to go home from vacation needing a vacation! It was a lot easier to convince my traveling companions to head out for sunset than to get up for sunrise, so it was an accommodation I was more than willing to make, even if it meant completely forgoing sunrise.
Paul’s comment referenced my decision to leave the laptop at home, stating that he often does the same when I he travels. He said that he sometimes goes so far as to leave the camera at home, preferring to remove the “self-pressure to get out and photograph and carve out that time to do it.” I’ve found that, too. Sometimes I just want to go and watch, to experience whatever it is I’m doing for what it is. I don’t need to capture it with a camera if I see it, experience it and remember it. There is a time and place for the camera, and there is a time and place to just watch.
As it relates to photographic composition, I’m convinced that “balance” doesn’t have to mean “middle.” I’d love to see some of Cedric’s “unbalanced-balanced” photographs. I’ll bet we would love them, mostly because they would reflect his vision and are made from his heart. On the subject of time, some of us choose and are able to spend all of our waking hours doing photography. That’s great. If others of us are only able to carve out a few hours a day or a week for our photography, that’s just the other end of the continuum and is OK, too. When I’m faced with a choice between a nice dinner with my sweetie and a possible sunset opportunity, more often than not I’m going to choose the nice dinner. Except for those rare times of the year when I can do both! Several of us have given up television in exchange for more time doing other things. If that’s a decision that works for us, then that’s OK. If I post dozens of photos a day to my blog or Facebook while Paul leaves the computer at home and each choice works for us, that’s cool.
I think the main lesson in all of this discussion and conversation is that balance means different things to each of us. What is balanced to me may be nothing but tension for someone else. And what someone else finds comfortable might be like chaos for me. And you know what? That’s part of what makes this life so wonderful! Each of us has our own take on what works, for the most part we have the ability and the means to express it, and in the end what matters is that what we do makes us happy. If we are able to share our work and make a few other people smile in the process, that is just gravy!