Simplicity-In-Seeing: The concept of stage

It is hard to believe but it has almost been two months since we started our Simplicity-In-Seeing platform, which mostly focuses on the craft of seeing. Your response has been phenomenal and it is great to know that so many of you are interested in the process of creating great imagery.

For those who missed our announcement, Simplicity-In-Seeing is a subscription based platform focused on a personal approach to photography, creativity, visual risk-taking, composition and what we call “Mechanics of Seeing.” We have also started publishing exclusive guides to the most magnificent but less-travelled photography locations in North America.

Today I would like to share with you an excerpt from an article published on Simplicity-In-Seeing and dealing with the concept of stage.

Fujifilm X-Pro2, XF 35mm F1.4 

When talking to photographers one question often comes up: “How can I identify a scene worth exploring visually?” It is especially true for street and travel photography as the abundance of elements witch often change quickly, making it difficult to focus on one particular scene.

One of the methods I use quite often is the concept of a stage. The starting point is to think of an image as theatre. You have a stage with many different elements on it. For example, it could be a play that takes place in a living room. Then you would probably have a table, some chairs, furniture – some elements that do not move. Then, you would have actors who usually move around.  

This concept applies directly to shooting on the street.

Instead of trying to find your seeing in the ever-changing chaos of the city, try to find a stage. Please keep in mind that at this point you shouldn’t worry about people or any moving elements (cars, animals, etc). Your objective should be to find a place to serve as a stage for your subject. Let me give you an example.

A few months ago I was taking photos in downtown Vancouver and for some reason I just couldn’t find any visually appealing subjects. However, I noticed a red wall beautifully lit by late-afternoon light. In addition, the light was hitting the branches of a nearby tree, projecting a strong pattern on the wall and adding drama to the scene. I immediately framed the wall making sure a distinctive door on the left would be positioned roughly in 1/3 of my frame (the rule of thirds – but don’t follow it religiously). In the middle was a bench with a man reading a newspaper. Initially I didn’t include the black space on the left in my frame, allowing the red wall to occupy the entire frame; however, the image looked too heavy and lacked breathing space. Then I repositioned my framing, adding part of the alley on the left. Not only did it give the photo extra breathing room but it also added a sense of mystery. But there was one problem. The whole scene appeared too static. It lacked an element that would balance the sitting man and the black shadow on the right. Then I noticed that a man was walking along and about to enter the “stage.” I immediately knew that the green doorframe would provide a perfect space to accommodate this man. Placing him on the left would project movement and direction (he is walking from left to right). His distinctive slow-motion walk was just a bonus. Also please notice that the black space on the left from which the man appeared makes the whole scene more theatrical.

I immediately knew I had captured a very strong image here. Please note that I started working with a stage. Only then did I begin thinking about elements that would be “placed” on this stage. In this way I felt comfortable taking the time to make sure my composition was right.


Next time…

We have a lot of new content shot with the X100F including a major update on our project “Mechanics of Seeing.” Also, truly yours was a guest on the Fujilove Podcast. Tomasz and I had a really fascinating and honest discussion about photography. Look for it on – and don’t forget to subscribe to Fujilove magazine!


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