More About Balance

Hall's Harbour, Nova Scotia
Hall’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

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.

(Kathy's Photo) Cunard House in Pictou, Nova Scotia
(Kathy’s Photo) Cunard House in Pictou, Nova Scotia

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.

The Glenora Inn and Distillery, Glenville, Nova Scotia
The Glenora Inn and Distillery, Glenville, Nova Scotia

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.

"Adopt a Lobster" Pictou, Nova Scotia
“Adopt a Lobster” Pictou, Nova Scotia

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.

Hooked - Hall's Harbour, Nova Scotia
Hooked – Hall’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

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.

Waiting for The Tide, Hall's Harbour, Nova Scotia
Waiting for The Tide, Hall’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

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!

The Glenora Inn and Distillery, Glenville, Nova Scotia
The Glenora Inn and Distillery, Glenville, Nova Scotia

9 thoughts on “More About Balance”

  1. Love the hanging hook image! Yes, balance does mean different things to different people. We’re are probably safe to say our understanding of balance will change as time moves on. Time balance is probably my biggest thing in my life, at the present time. 🙂 Another great post. Bring on more!

    1. I wish the hook was a little sharper, but as long as I don’t try to make a 16×24″ print I think I’ll be OK. 😉

      I seem to be processing photos a lot slower than I’d like and am having a tough time writing words to go with them – that balance thing again. I may have to toss out some photos without text for a while until I get caught up!

  2. Another great post about balance. I like how you some of our responses and how they differed. As Monte said, our understanding of balance will change as time moves on.

  3. I agree with Monte, not only will the major components we feel the need to balance in our lives change over time, and as we grow older and develop different priorities, but the balance point will also shift. Balance is definitely not all 50/50 — it seldom is.

    You took some great photos, Tom — and tell Kathy nicely seen composition on that Cunard House photo.

  4. Once again, a beautiful set of photographs Tom, which as an aside, make me yearn to return to Nova Scotia some time. In this set, my favourite is easily the one of the Glenora Inn and Distillery with the three pipes. An absolute gem of a photo.

    I feel I should have explained myself a little better in your previous post. For me, an unbalanced photograph is not one where you have the subject matter on one side and negative space on the other. Negative space in a photograph acts as an anchor and automatically balances the image. Going back to your pipes photo, I see that as a perfectly balanced, albeit minimalistic, image. The white wall provides the negative space needed to offset the one-sided placement of the pipes. The fact that the pipes are dark and the wall is light simply adds to the balance on a tonal level. Similarly for the hook photo (also beautiful) where the negative space of the blurred background gives context to the hook which once again, balances the image.

    Speaking for myself, an unbalanced photo is created when the subject matter on one side of the image, demands that there be something on the other side and, in a perfect shot, provides a clue as to what the viewer should expect to see but instead, leaves the viewer with something that is either, not there or completely out of place and unexpected. Such photos don’t come by very often, at least not to me and I suspect that is partly because brains are wired to balance everything out, from contrast to subject matter. Many years ago I saw an exhibition by some young artist who’s entire portfolio was made up of such jarring images. Sadly though, I learned later that all his images were staged which spoiled it a bit for me. Anyway, I hope most of that makes sense.

    As for how I balance my time… well, it helps to be an exceptionally boring person. Boring people have all the time in the world 😉

  5. I think we’re saying the same thing with different words, Cedric. And I don’t think you or your photos are boring at all!

    Thanks for the comments on my photos. I like those pipes, too!

    Sorry for being so slow to respond to all of the comments. For some reason I’m not getting the notifications when someone posts.

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