This week’s dPS challenge is “Simplicity“, a theme designed to get us thinking about negative space. Positive spaces are objects and the negative resides between them. The problem with dichotomies is that one is perceived as better than the other – good versus bad, light versus dark. Yet, one is meaningless without the other.
When I was taught how to draw, there was an exercise that forced us to see the world differently by drawing the negative space. Students were given the task of drawing a tree but, rather than draw the branches, we were told to draw the spaces in between. It was essential to pick vegetation where one could see between the branches. Too many leaves were a hindrance. That aside, it works.
The problem with photography is its need for an object on which the camera can focus. We are, by the very mechanism of the medium, forced to put the object front and centre in our mind’s eye.
My question for this assignment – do I simply allow the negative space to force the viewer’s attention onto an object, or is it possible to photograph negative space and give it meaning?
I turned away from the keyboard, looked up and there it was. My bottle of diet soda.
The learning curve this week revolved around setting up the shot. I wanted to photograph empty, colourless, TRANSPARENT space. Therefore, choice of background would be important. A dark background accentuated the edge of the plastic bottle, whereas a light backgound allowed much of the light from the plastic to diffuse, preventing reflections.
The dark background created intricacy, not simplicity. I decided that the light background suited my aim.
I then needed to experiment with the length of exposure. I usually bracket the auto exposure to just inside the -1 to +1 range, just enough to ensure that one of the three shots would appeal. Today I bracketed it to -2 and +2. Unfortunately, the overexposed shot was spoilt by too much camera shake, and as I had started drinking the diet coke, thereby stuffing up the level of the liquid, I had to rely on my only slightly overexposed shot. Regrets. Somewhere, in between 0 and 2 would be just the right amount of additional light to diffuse the plastic without completely losing its edge.
(And as an aside, I finally discovered what the AV +- button is for and how to use the Main Dial to move it this way and that … ready for next time I want to play with exposures!)
I worried that the image was not simple enough for the theme, but when I cropped further I found that my eye moved around the image quite differently, and the aim of photographing the negative space was lost.
If the crop is too tight, the viewer’s focus is forced to reside on the edges of the bottle and bounce from one side to the other.
As I look at my submission for this week, my eye does dart to the interesting bits at the top and bottom of the frame, but inevitably settles back into the negative space in the middle.
There’s something calming about the middle of the image; completely unlike the impact of the diet soda that used to reside there!!