Some posts back, I had written about the power of simplicity in photographic composition. When I was watching an interview on a video, the two photographers mentioned that one of the crucial things that a photographer must do, when deciding which elements to put into a photograph should “isolate & simplify”.

These are powerful words indeed. Essentially, you isolate the critical elements of a composition from all the surrounding muck, and simplify the composition.

Now, when I was in discussion with another photographer around the whole area of story telling in photography, he kept insisting on the theme that the elements that are included in the frame must balance and reinforce each other.

So, if I were to add my two bit, I would say that the key words that one should focus on are, “isolation, simplification and relevance”. Why “relevance”? Do the elements that are in the photograph balance and strengthen each other? Or, do they subtract, distract and take away from the main subject.

The picture that is in this post is actually one of my favourite shots. I took this sometime in 1984, using black & white film, my Olympus OM-2n Camera and a 70-300 mm lens. I used to shoot using 100 ISO film those days. I shall talk about this in a later post.

However, it does illustrate my point about simplicity in a photo. Any other element would have been a distraction.

This picture was taken on a summer afternoon. It was somewhat cloudy, with enough sky to create a few nice reflections in the water. The picture was taken at the Gateway of India, in Bombay.

Now, I did not consciously think of the Rule Of Thirds, or the Rule of Off-Centering the subject at that time. What appealed to me was the simplicity of this boat floating gently in the water. It reminded me of Hemingway and his book, “The Old Man And The Sea”. It is a wonderful book. In my view, books like this, or books like Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” are marvellous books for any budding photographer, particularly one who wants to do nature photography. They have nothing to do with photography, but in both books, the author captures the essence of man, the essence of nature and, the essential relationship between them. This is what we, as photographers, seek to capture. This can only happen when the mind is still.

The rules follow a still mind, and not the other way around!


  1. Terrific post and photo, Rajiv! I agree that simplicity, relevance, and isolation are the best rules. I also think interactivity is important too–between the elements in the photo. In this case it’s between the boat and the water. The strong horizontal and perpendicular lines in the boat interplay beautifully with the gentle ripples in the water.

  2. isolate and simplify ..what great words, could be used in decluttering life too I think…
    I like this photo very much…a story unfolding as the boat rides the ripples of thoughts in my thoughts 🙂
    not sure that makes sense, but I like your art form here Rajiv….one can feel the calm surrounding it
    Thank you for sharing…always beautiful art in your photos and wisdom in your thoughts
    Take Care…You Matter…

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