The Power of Negative Space

Clearing winter storm over  Teewinot Mountain, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming USA (© Russ Bishop/

Clearing storm over Teewinot Mountain, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Successful landscape photography is often comprised of several elements coming together in harmonious balance within the frame. This can be quite complex or deceptively simple. Spacial relationships and color are the building blocks used to balance most compositions, and careful lens selection is essential in distilling an image down to its essence.

But sometimes less is more and an effective use of negative space can be a great tool to elicit an equally powerful response. This basic, but often overlooked principle of design, gives the eye a place to rest and increases the appeal of a composition through subtle means. The Japanese word ma is a perfect example. Roughly translated to “the space between two structural parts”, it is best described as a consciousness of place – the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision.

The image above was made as a late winter storm was moving out of the Teton Range. By using a medium telephoto and focusing on the predominant white space I was able to isolate the spires and ridges to give the illusion that the mountains were floating in the clouds.

With the right conditions, adding negative space to your visual toolkit can be a simple yet powerful way to create images that resonate with your viewers.

Independence Day

Ships wheel, USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") on the Freedom Trail, Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Ships wheel, USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), Boston, Massachusetts

I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July celebration! Here’s an image from the Freedom Trail in Boston where it all began.

The USS Constitution, named by President George Washington, was one of the original six frigates of the United States Navy. The ship saw plenty of action and earned her famous nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812. In 1830 she was immortalized by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his famous poem, which helped preserve the ship as a national monument and made him a household name.

Aye tear her tattered ensign down
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky …

Happy Summer Solstice!

Sunset over the Sierra Nevada foothills from Moro Rock, Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, California USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Sunset over the Sierra Nevada foothills from Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park, California 

Sunday, June 21st is the Summer Solstice. It’s the longest day of the year and the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere.

Historically Midsummer’s Eve has been a celebration of the solstice dating back to ancient times. It was believed that mid-summer flowering plants had amazing healing powers when picked on this night, and huge bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits thought to roam the earth when the sun turned southward again.

The word solstice comes from the Latin solstitium from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), because it appears as if the sun stops its course at this point. The sun doesn’t rise precisely in the east during the event, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west creating a longer arc in the sky. The solstice occurs when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. During the event it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.5 degrees. It’s a good thing too, because without this small offset we would have no seasons!

This year the solstice occurs at 12:38 P.M. EDT, and with nearly 15 hours of daylight it’s the perfect time to explore the great outdoors, have ample time for photography, and maybe even wrap up the day with a barbecue and a bit of stargazing.

Nature Photography Day

Pink Dogwood, Yosemite National Park, California USA (© Russ Bishop/

Pink Dogwood, Yosemite National Park, California

Monday June 15th is Nature Photography Day!

Created in 2006 by NANPA, the North American Nature Photography Association, it promotes the enjoyment of nature photography and spotlights the many ways images of the environment have helped to advance the cause of conservation and habitat preservation both locally and internationally.

NANPA’s mission is to further the art and science of nature photography as a medium of communication, nature appreciation, and environmental protection. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Nature Photography Day, a great time to celebrate the beauty of nature and share your passion for photography with friends and family.