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My Favorite Quotes: Henry David Thoreau


What else do you see besides clouds?

What else do you see besides clouds?

“It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see” This quote, written by nineteenth century author, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau (you might remember him from your American Literature class as the author of Civil Disobedience) is probably one of my all time favorites and one that I’m always sharing with my online class at the PPSOP, my six-month private mentoring program, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet.

My workshop and classes are all about using the six principles of Gestalt and the elements of Visual Design and composition to aid you in taking your photos what I refer to as “up a notch”. Line, Form, Shape, Texture, Pattern, Perspective, Tension, Light, Color and Negative Space are the elements we work on every day and there out there all around you. you just have to see them.

You walk up to a tree and you see a tree. But what else is it? It’s the whole made up of several parts. It’s made up of Lines, Patterns, Texture, and various Shapes. How does it relate to the environment around it? How is the Light affecting it? Does it tell a story? Does Color factor in?

What about golf cart tracks or a stream? Does the golf cart tracks converge at a point on the horizon creating a Vanishing Point, leading the viewer around the frame to that point? Does the river sparkle or glow because the light is coming from behind it? Does it lead the viewer in and out of the composition suggesting more content outside of the frame? How could power lines running along a small highway be of any interest?

 Do you ever look at an old decayed window and see the beauty in it? Can you envision how father time has transformed it into a cacophony of colors, shapes, textures, and patterns.

What about something as simple as clouds in the above photo? Do they create a design? Shapes? Do they suggest some type of colored line that divides the frame from white to gray?

The next time you go out shooting, don’t look at things the way they are, look at them the way they could be.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2014 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime. Join me in my next Springtime Workshop next May in Portugal.  I only have two spots left for my joint trip with epic photo tours to Myanmar.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.



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    { 2 comments… add one }
    • Valeriano October 9, 2014, 8:26 am

      The window shape implies a face, aside for all the other elements of visual design it has, I think it’s the best example to show the concept of your article.
      Did you arrange it somehow for the shot, or was it already in that way?

      • Joe October 12, 2014, 2:21 pm


        It was like that. I climbed into the attic of an old deserted house.

        What’s interesting is how different people will see something different. I’m not a religious person, but when I saw the window, I immediately saw a cross.


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