When nothing is happening, part two

Even when there is a lot happening, look inside scenes and use light, color, composition and distance from the subject to say something that isn't verb-driven. You can click on the image to see more photos by pdxcross photographers from this setting. © Mike Davis/2010

And as a followup to the last post: There are a couple ways in which nothing can be happening in a given setting. There can literally be nothing happening - no people, no activity - or the same thing happens over and over.

In both cases, the verb layer of the setting becomes neutered. If the same verb keeps happening time and again (they’re walking or eating or making shoes or talking or sitting) then you can’t just make the same image again and again. Well, I guess you could keep repeating yourself hoping that something more happens but it would be stupid.

The more things are the same in what a subject does, or in the absence of activity, the more varied you have to be in making pictures and by extension, the more sensitive to other aspects of a setting you have to be.

As I’ve said, I suggest that there are five tools that we as photographers can use to convey a quality about a given scene - color, light, moment, composition and distance from the camera to the subject.

If all five of these things coalesce in a photograph in a way that conveys a quality, chances are it’ll be a successful photograph. But if any one of the five isn’t happening in a given setting you have to be hyper sensitive to the others to compensate.

So if the moment layer is diminished - there’s nothing happening - then let color, light, composition and distance from the subject step up. Be hyper aware of how light falls on the scene or subject, of interesting comings together of objects that can make an engaging composition, of how color affects the feeling of place and use that color to say something and feel what it’s like to get very close or let the setting breath from a distance.

You should do these things even when there is a ton of stuff happening. But if you don’t become aware of non-moment-driven qualities when nothing is happening, you almost certainly won’t make an interesting picture.

This is a quick version of touching on this subject. There is so much more, literally a lifetime of exploring your mind's eye.

Inside the Presidential Bubble, a conversation with friends

Making pictures of nothing?