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“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” -John Maeda

I’m in Acadia National Park leading two workshops, and happened to make this image in order to illustrate the importance of simplicity to students. I also share that quote by John Maeda, which is one of my favorites and gets at the real essence of what simplicity really is. Certainly it is difficult to achieve, and often elusive as we try and capture everything we see and feel in a landscape. But what we truly see is usually not the entire landscape, but the most compelling aspects that create our experiences. The rest becomes the backdrop, the supporting “harmony” that lets the viewer clearly see what you reacted to when you pressed the shutter button.

For me in this image, it was the calm lying just underneath the turbulent drama of the clouds, the stillness of the rocks and water, with splashes of color to add to the richness of the moment. That’s it. Breaking those feelings down to basic visual components is what simplicity is all about, and this lets the viewer look beyond the individual elements, and maybe, just maybe, imagine that same sense of wonder. Whether or not you achieve that is not the important part, it’s whether you start out with that intent. If you do, you have a greater chance of making simpler images more often. That’s the whole point of the creative process.

I’ve made many images of Jordan Pond, but the simpler I make them, the more I feel they convey what I love about the place. It’s a journey – not always moving in the direction of success as quickly as we’d like, but definitely one that adds more meaning to the effort and the results when they do come our way.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Robert! I often find, when seeing a big scene I want to shoot, that I ask myself what, in essence, attracts me to that scene. Once I identify that content, it becomes a matter of composing the photo around it and leaving out what’s nonessential (as much as one sometimes wants to include everything!).

  2. Thanks, Robert. First for sharing your beautiful photograph, and it is always good to be reminded of the importance of exclusion. Hoping to see you at Expo next week. Pax.

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