Seeking…. Balance.

Picture: Large rock boulder balanced on edge, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Large rock boulder balanced on edge, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Last week I posted this image on my Facebook business page. I’ve mentioned previously that I don’t do “art speak” or give my images artsy titles. However, on a few very rare occasions an image will speak to me, giving me a title. As I stared into this image, the name that came to me was exactly reflective of where I find myself in life; “Seeking… Balance.”

Ever since I was in college, I tried to use “balance” as a one-word mantra for how I wanted to live my life. And so it is, as I reflect on the last 12 months, I find myself coming through the tail end of the most out of balance period of my personal or professional life. I don’t have any shame or embarrassment in saying that, since it was a matter of circumstance and self-inflicted decisions that conspired to tip the scales. The important thing to recognize is when things are out of balance, you take corrective steps back toward the fulcrum. When life is out of balance, it’s something our soul instictively feels and understands, yet our rational thinking brain sometimes just can’t latch on to the exact reason. For myself, I can say that there is great joy to be found in working through or eliminating those things that carry you away from your point of balance.

And like it is with life, so it is for us as photographers and with the images we make. When I work with other photographers on a consulting or portfolio review basis, it’s easy to tell if their compositions feel balanced. One of the things that most intermediate photographers (those that are just starting to get good) find surprising is how a very small visual element can carry a huge amount of compositional weight. Often in a landscape, this might be something like a small bright rock in the foreground or an out of place branch on the edge of the frame in the sky. They seem to know in their gut that something isn’t right, but they’re not sure what it is. As soon as I cover up the distracting element, their image seems to fall into balance. To show them how much weight that small object holds, I ask them to watch what happens when I pull my hand away. You can literally see this “Ah Ha!” moment in their eyes when they realize that something so small could tip their entire composition completely out of balance.

And with our pictures or in life, it can be one big thing, a lot of little things, or a combination of both that can send something tumbling off balance. When I look at the picture above, it’s just as easy to think that some day an earthquake will send this rock tumbling, as it is to think that given enough erosion, it may reach a point where nothing more than a gust of wind will send this rock crashing to the ground.

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5 Comments on “Seeking…. Balance.”

  1. Michael McAreavy Says:

    Appreciate you sharing your very personal message, Gary. Very trying times for the art world as a whole. The one constant these days appears to be change. Hope all works out for you. -Michael

  2. Richard Says:

    That is a really good analogy, Gary. When I see my relatives travel pictures for example, I see so many nearly-there images but are near-misses because of just one or two elements like a head creeping into the edge of the frame or something else like that. I just cringe with disappointment when I see that because the vision was there for that split moment though they probably didn’t even recognize what they had so couldn’t quite put it all together.

  3. Guy Says:

    Wise words, Gary. Thanks!
    Balance is a myth, much like a photograph. It’s a frozen frame at a random point in an endless story. Things constantly change and fluctuate and evolve. In my own mind, a balanced life is not one precariously perched and held constant at one point, but rather one progressing down a meaningful course where vigilance is needed at the helm to keep it from being carried too far by rogue currents. I believe this is also what you describe here.


  4. Peter Bennett Says:

    Great photo, I think we see what we need to see.

    As for out of balanced photos, I call it the white van syndrome. I have gotten a fair share of submitted images which are perfect except for a horrible white van driving through the scene. Metaphorically speaking the white van might be anything, but as far as I am concerned, a white van has no place in a good travel photo or any kind of photo or that matter (unless you are doing a story on white vans of course)

  5. enlightphoto Says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    Guy, yeah, don’t get me wrong; I’m not looking for a boring flat line in the middle of the road. I see it more like a sine wave. Just gotta be mindful of both the peaks and troughs, as all points on the line are transient.


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