Wide Open Spaces

As a child traveling with my parents, the first thing that attracted me to the American west, long before we got to the mountains, and years before I explored the deserts, was the space. The great prairie with its rolling hills just seemed to go on forever. No cars out there on the prairie, no buildings, no people. As far as you can see…..space. Dear God I love space. In parts of Wyoming, there were more Pronghorns than people. In fact there were more Pronghorns (and cattle) than people in the state. It was wonderful. The land was a wide open, natural work of art.

Space is an integral part of all art. The moments between the notes of a song, be they brief or protracted, are just as important as the notes themselves. The pause (space) between the words of an actor in a play, paces the lines being spoken in a way to convey the meaning of those words to an audience, so they will deliver either/or what the playwright, actor, or director want you to know.

Space is one of the most important commodities in a photograph. There is space even in “crowded” photographs, and how you use it, can make or break your photo. Sometimes when I was composing a photograph, I wished I was a painter. How great it would be, to control the space, or better yet, to create space within the boundaries of a picture, instead of rely on what is already there. In some ways it takes  more artistry to create that space in a pleasing way, while working with something that is already there. You have to find the space.

Minimalist photography with its “minimal” use of space-filling subjects, and maximization of open space such as sky, water or land, is an obvious example of wide open spaces in photography. But all photographs, including those which are crammed with subjects, contain space that counter balances (negative space) those subjects, and provides relief for the eye.

Minimalist imagery is the most common way to show space in photography. If the subject is small or at least a small portion of the area of the image, or there is little or no detail apparent in the picture area surrounding the subject, then space is much of what the picture is about. You are to decide what to put in to fill the space, instead of what to take out to create space as a counterbalance.GpondWhooper 036b

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This might be the ultimate example of filling in the space, rather than finding space to balance the image. The fact that there is implied (in a still photograph, all action is implied) activity here, tells us that there is even more space than we see. A very freeing picture.24DSC_7790

Skies or water do not have to be featureless to create a feeling of space. Look at the entire image in its totality first, and then travel through the photo bit by bit. The clouds are interesting when you examine them. They have shape and detail. Yet when you view the entire picture as one entity, those clouds provide empty counterbalance to the tree and the lake bank.FoxnStuff 027b

Photographs with mostly sky, even when the sky is busy, still add a feeling of space to pictures. The pictures below still represent land, even in silhouette, which we know as solid and full of details. The cloudy, stormy skies, provide the alternative, via the extreme amount of space I’ve allotted them with my chosen composition. This is despite the fact that these clouds all have shape and “almost” seem to have texture. If my composition would have been the opposite, with the two sunrise shots. The featureless foreground would have become the negative space for the (featured) clouds. That same reversal would have a different effect with the image of Arches N. P. (third photo) because the land forms contain lots of detail. If I had chosen mostly land with very little sky for my composition, unlike the sunrise shots this would have become a busy photo full mostly of details. Still that little bit of sky, even with those clouds, would have a counterbalance of negative space for the land. DSC_0224



Space in vertical pictures tends to be acknowledged differently by the viewer. The narrow image from east to west, changes the way we (usually) compose our image north to south.

There was very little thought, but much instinct used in this composition of  Great-blue Herons on the nest. Space is still a big part of the image. I obviously had little choice but to include a lot of sky, or space in this picture. It became a matter of what I did with it. Notice that the birds are composed left of center, giving the taller bird some “space” in the direction it is looking. I also kept the nest far enough to from the top of the picture frame to allow that bird, “space” in the upward direction it is looking. The composition here is mostly about space. The morning sun with a few wispy clouds helped to make the image special. When it comes to wildlife photography, my subjects are the artists, and my job is to recognize it and share it.DSC_5417

This female Purple Martin needed visual space that not only gave her room to look, but accented the way her body is curved. It is helpful that the landing platform that she sits on, does not protrude beyond her own body. This is a close-up of a small bird but there is still a lot of space, all of which makes this a decent picture.PurpMart1 077

A similar compositional technique was used for this image of autumn leaves and the shoreline of a northern Wisconsin lake. The branches are accented by placing them well into the picture frame, then you are taken on a fairly long trip around the shoreline of the lake, but there is still more space in the picture than there is subject. The warm reddish leaves also contrast with the cool blue autumn sky to create a 3D effect which separates them, and gives the sense of……you guessed it, space.NwiFall 058

Space adds much to horizontal images of birds as well. Whether it be blue sky, or green Duckweed, space is an important part of these images.Copy of KbirdEgret 026

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There certainly is a lot going on in this picture. Flowers, flowers everywhere. Still there is a small amount of space created by the use of shallow depth of field. Only one blossom is in focus and that creates an air of space between the foreground and the background. Remember the pacing used by the actor? After your first overall view of this photo, we tend to take a breath when we see the first sharp flower and the soft background flower. Space creates pacing.dFlowers 032

Telephoto lenses can create compression, and make a frame filling image out of what might otherwise be a loose picture. There is no real space anywhere in this picture. Art is in the eye of the beholder and to me, the lack of space and development of a continuous group of layers, makes this photo interesting, albeit a bit closter phobic. There is not and hopefully never will be, only one way to make a picture.DSC_0013

What about frame to frame pictures that contain only one subject? There is space in this picture. I was attracted to this frost covered tree stump mainly because of the sidelight. That sidelight not only provided texture by creating tiny shadows in the cracks in the wood, it provided avenues of space that break up the subject and deliver some visual relief. Space is important.10Frost 085

Some of the landscapes we make don’t include a lot of space, and some do. Whatever space there is, will be important.

I will admit that this west Texas canyon, is mostly rust colored land, with a small stream, and only an ounce of sky. Still, that little slice of sky does provide some balance to the scene. What little you see of the stream, does show us a “highway” headed directly towards the freedom of the that sky. There is space in this image but you struggle a little to realize it. That’s okay because that is in fact the visual truth of the canyon. I felt tiny a bit confined even amidst the beauty of this place. That river and the sky, opened up the land just a little. This picture appears to be composed under the “truth in advertising” law.21DSC_0122

The world opens up with a little bit of space in this picture from Colorado. My composition here is comparatively symmetrical in relationship to the Texas picture, but I made sure not to divide the land and sky evenly which might put any future viewers to sleep. This is an instance where the warm rock and cool sky provide dimension, which I believe, adds a small sense of space to the picture. Dimension is one way of showing space in an image.ANatWRef 128

I added space to another Colorado landscape in a very different way. This corner to corner comp, is broken up by the tree, and by the clouds. I think it works better at angles like this, instead of the way I composed the first Colorado shot, accept that first image was always made have a pano format.ANatWRef 152

Open space in the Badlands picture makes this shot sort of a “window to the world”. A little less of the rock form and a little more sky, or more rock and less sky, would have made this image very different, Either way! I think both of those alternatives would have been as good as this, and maybe better.  Open space would have decided the success of the picture no matter what.19BL9

In this Monument Valley picture we return to a very spacey picture. Even with the clouds and distant rain showers, all of that sky, along with the way the land forms are spread out, make this an image of wide open spaces. The distance between the rocks creates space almost as well as the open sky does.cDSC_2522

I’ve made my share of images at White Sands New Mexico, with all sand and pattern and no sky. I stand by the feeling (maybe art), and information you get in those sorts of pictures, but come on, white sand and blue sky? It doesn’t get any better than this for finding small but important space in a photograph. Notice I composed both images in a very similar fashion, despite the difference in east and west, and north and south for the formats.1E2


How important is space? I think both of these images display how a little bit of space can go a long ways. There was no way to give the photographic importance I wanted to, either to the Texas rock or the Wisconsin flowers and wetland, and include a large counterbalance of open space, I did make images with no sky showing in both cases, but I knew even as I made them (years apart), that these pictures needed that sliver of sky technique to produce the balance what I wanted to be balanced. There’s not really enough sky to provide a true counterbalance, but just enough to give the viewers of these images, some breathing room. Sometimes in photography, and in life, we just need a little space.6DSC_0087


Sometimes even in macro photography, a little space is just what the doctor ordered. In this case a lot of space provided the room necessary to create an abstract yet simple design from two frosty pieces of grass. This picture is about the design of those grasses……and the space that accompanies them.11Frost 060




16: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the Faith of Jesus Christ (faith in what he did at the cross), even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the Faith of Christ (in Christ), not by the works of Law: for by the works of Law, shall no flesh be justified.

17: But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? ( is He to be blamed for our failure?) God forbid!

18: For if I build again the things which I destroyed (returning back to law), I make myself a transgressor.

19: For I through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

20: I am crucified with Christ: never the less I live ( born again), yet not I (not by my own strength), but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the Faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.

21 I do not frustrate the Grace of God ( my faith is in Him only, and what he did on the Cross), for if Righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The verses above, (these are from the Apostle Paul) are among the thousands of new Testament (Covenant) words used to explain to saved Christians, that you cannot satisfy God by your own works, deeds or will. That is precisely why Christ was sacrificed on the cross. He took our place and penalty,  it is up to us to accept Him and have faith in Him.

Even the Old Covenant, while predicated on keeping laws, was still satisfied by faith. The faith you had in the animal sacrifices, the blood of innocent (like Christ) sheep, bulls and goats, as covering (not cleansing) your sins, was what saved you. Along with of course, God’s Grace (love). These sacrifices however, could not wash away your sin, only the Messiah (Christ) could do that. All old Testament Law and sacrifice, was basically an arrow, pointing to The Savior that was yet to come. Nobody except Christ, ever kept the law. Nobody else ever could.

The first lesson on the sacrifice, and man’s inability to “save himself” through deeds and works, came with Cain and Abel. Abel sacrificed his best lamb, because of the faith he had in the Lord and his Command to do so. Cain decided the vegetables (can never be substituted for an animal, there can be no innocence in a vegetable) that he worked so hard to cultivate, would show God how smart he was, and how hard he worked, rather than some lamb that grew on it’s own. He had no Faith in God‘s command, or His Grace (love). That mistake was not only committed by millions during Biblical times, it continues today. We have all done this at one time or another. We simply cannot believe that Faith, Grace and the confession of sin alone, is what God requires. That shows our lack of faith, and our constant belief in self, and ego. first and foremost.

This does not mean that there is no place in life for will, or works. Omitting sin, although that absolutely requires God, does require will, and good works towards our fellow citizens, is both admirable and Biblical. They do not however, clean us of our sins. The biggest do-gooders in the world, are still sinners. You cannot sit with God, while stained with sin. Only the Blood of Jesus will cleanse us from that stain. It is a gift from God.

My journey over the past few years to thoroughly understand this book has been incredible. The Bible is the best-selling, and most read book in human history, and there is a reason for that. I would suggest this journey for anyone and everyone. I use the King James (not the latest one) version of the Bible and believe it is probably the best. It was hard for me to read at first, and it likely will be the same for you. A good teacher is invaluable but I must say, tread carefully. There are minor disagreements between honorable people, and many of those will not make a large difference. However there are disagreements, some honest and others sinister, that can cost you your salvation. You can take or leave this next part, as we always have the free will to do so, but when you are born again as a Christian, the Holy Spirit of God , or the Holy Ghost if you prefer, will begin to work inside of you and open up the understanding of the meaning of the Word of God, like nothing else ever will. If you let yourself drift away from God, that Spirit becomes distant and that help will stop. I have experienced it both ways. Never believe a proclaimed Christian who says The Holy Spirit ended with the final writings in the Bible. The third head of the Trinity is still alive and active each and every day. I know that some of you who read writings like this, which come from me only when I feel moved to write them, get confused and even angry when you do read them. There are yet others who are laughing at me right now. Why do I do it? I want every living soul to know what it feels like to have the Spirit of God working inside of you.

Have a spectacular day,                                                                                                                 Wayne



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