I’ve been editing a whole lot of photographs lately, my ‘slow time’ at home giving me the opportunity to process pictures and reflect on the year’s work. Through this process, I always evaluate what works, what doesn’t, etc. As I came across this image that was used in my most recent book Expressive Nature Photography, I was again reminded of the power of pattern, and the need to break it, often.
I was drawn to the pattern of the pine cones, above, but it was really that little piece of lichen that grabbed my attention. I call this ‘lagniappe’ in photography. Lagniappe is technically defined as “a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.the surprise gift. (according to Merriam-Webster). I take creative license with this definition, as I consider that little piece of lichen a ‘gift given to an artist from the universe, or Mother Nature.’ I remember first learning about lagniappe from a good friend, Dewitt Jones, in a lecture he once gave to a photo conference. I had always looked for it, and captured it, but hadn’t a definition for it – until then. So thank you, Dewitt!
Why is that piece of lichen so important? Because the brain is stimulated by contrast. Think about it; a pattern can be visually dizzying after a while, like a carousel you can’t get off of easily. It becomes monotonous to the brain, after a while; but if you can find something, -anything – of contrast, it actually serves to enhance the pattern, as that element will create the contrast the eye/brain need. That’s not to say you can’t photograph just the pattern, and I often do – they make great jigsaw puzzles – or wrapping paper (!), but more often than not, for a picture that can hang comfortably on a wall, I’ll find something to break that pattern up to create greater impact.
Maybe it’s just one yellow flower in a meadow of blue lupine; or a sea urchin shell amongst pebbles on the beach; or an interesting window in a stone or brick wall. Whatever it is, you’ll find that often the inclusion of something ‘different’ in the pattern will enhance the picture.
There’s a metaphor, here, too. Just like that contrast in a picture stimulates the mind, a little bit of break-up in the patterns of your daily life can make it a lot more interesting, too.
Thanks for being here!