A lesson from Japanese garden design

One of the things I look for when on a location are design elements, the interaction of forms and negative space can are where I start. As an urban designer these elements played a major role in how approached a project. My initial analysis of a site’s potential would be the extent these elements played in creating a human scaled space.

If you’ve ever visited a well designed Japanese Garden you will notice the immediate sense of peace and tranquility that seems to wrap around you. That tranquility is brought about intentionally by the designer, every inch of a Japanese Garden is thought out in order to optimize that feeling of tranquility. A key element of that planning is the basic principal of juxtaposition of opposites, that creates a comfortable tension no matter where in the garden you may be.

So, you might be asking how does this apply to photography? Well the same principles apply to a location and how it feels when we view the resulting image. As a photographer my eye is immediately attracted to the interplay of all of the locations elements and how I can interpret them.

Today’s photo was captured not because of the threatening clouds or the colors of the Aspen trees, but rather the tension created by the ground plane and the negative space of the dark sky. The vertical nature of the trees bring the negative space of the sky and horizontal plane of the ground together by penetrating the sky. Without the trees the shot would be barely ordinary and the dark sky would become the just a dark sky.

This is how juxtaposition of opposites works.


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