Ambiguity engages imagination

Charles River Boston

Charles River Boston

Here is an idea for you to try. Rather than showing us everything in the scene, leave something to the viewers imagination. Leave space for us to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, or guess at what is just beyond our visual grasp. This will invite the viewer to linger, look deeply and really savor the experience rather than just recognizing the scene and moving on.

Just as I am always encouraging you to slow down and take your time when creating photos, the same advice holds for viewing images. Take your time. Slow down an participate in the scene using wonder and curiosity. I invite you to try it out with this image. Click on it to view full screen and then just relax your gaze and look beyond the obvious to see the invisible.

Some tips for creating ambiguity: over expose, use weather like fog, snow, or rain, shoot through windows, use reflections, soften your focus. Just be sure your are not creating visual confusion. What you are going for is revealing the subject layer by layer in collaboration with the viewer. Give hints, and nudges but let them find the soul of the image in their own way based on their own life experiences.

Wizard of Oz in Boston

Sometimes there is the promise of snow, the possibility that Boston will be transformed overnight. This week the promise was kept. And I was ready. Batteries charged, boots by the door, alarm clock set. I thought I was ready, until I actually stepped outside. It was impossible to prepare for what Boston looked like completely coated in white.

Every branch, bench and brick was now candy coated. It was like stepping out into a black and white movie. Like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door and the film goes from black and white to color, but the opposite.

 At first I was so excited by the scene I just just started snapping away for fear that it would all vanish any moment. The wind might pick and knock the snow off the trees.  Eventually I realized that the snow was here to stay so I could slow down and be more relaxed. That shift made all the difference.  Instead of taking photos, I was giving attention and enjoying the moment that ended up out lasted my batteries.