Man in a rowing boat on a lake with reeds
Lens-Artists,  Photographic techniques,  Themed galleries

Gallery: empty spaces

Thirty spokes meet in the hub, but the empty space between them is the essence of the wheel. Pots are formed from clay, but the empty space within it is the essence of the pot. Walls with windows and doors form the house, but the empty space within it is the essence of the home.

Laozi, Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism

This is the task set for us by Patti for this week’s Lens Artists challenge. And as it’s a favourite technique of mine I was spoiled for choice when I searched my archives. I have tried to cut them down, I promise!

A lot of my images seem to involve water. A small boat, or bird, on an expanse of water emphasises a sense of vastness, whether of a lake or the sea. My feature photo is of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared it before but it’s a favourite of mine and ideal for this challenge topic. Here I’ve edited it, using Color Efex Pro, to bleach out the background and isolate the fisherman.

The other obvious ‘empty space’ to use is the sky. Isolating an object against it creates drama and can also make that object seem small even if in reality it is not. Empty space in an image can mess with your head in that way!

But really, any plain or at least uncomplicated surface can act as empty space. A wall, sand on a beach or in a desert, snow …

We’ll start with a couple of shots from my recent Madagascar trip followed by a selection from my archives.

Small boat under a pale sunset sky

Fishing boat off Baobab Beach at sunset, Madagascar

I couldn’t resist including another ‘lone fisherman’ shot as they fit the empty space brief so well. The space isolates the small boat and reminds us how vast the oceans are.

Two insects mating on a concrete ledge

Soapberry bugs, Iharana Bush Camp, Madagascar

A very different shot, taken at one of the lodges we stayed in. Little insects like this need an unfussy background if we’re to see exactly what they are doing. And it’s very clear what these two are up to!

Backlit jellyfish in deep blue water

Jellyfish, Osaka Aquarium

Here the empty space surrounding the jellyfish emphasises its delicate beauty.

Horse and cart on a causeway

View from Souimanga Lodge, Senegal

I’ve shared this or similar shots before, as I took a lot from the terrace of our bungalow here. The empty space and mist isolate the horse and cart, creating a sense of loneliness that seems appropriate to the early hour at which the photo was taken. But photos can be misleading; even at this early hour the causeway was busy with locals heading to work or to the market, and I had to be patient to catch just one on his own!

Black and white duck on water reflecting the sunset

Lighthouse on a hill under a blue sky with white clouds

Slender metal cross in a hilly landscape with grey skies

Woman walking her dog on a hill next to a monument

Admiral Collingwood monument, Tynemouth, N E England

In a similar way, including plenty of ’empty’ sky in this shot isolates the woman and her dog from what could have been a messy backdrop, and makes the monument stand out from its surroundings.

White dune with small figures seated at the top and child running up

Large sand dune and small tree

Sand dune, Sossusvlei, Namibia

Two empty spaces here, the sky and the dune, while the lone tree adds scale and a point of interest.

Flamingos feeding in a shallow lake with distant mountains

At the Salar de Atacama, Atacama Desert, Chile

A different desert but the same sense of emptiness, emphasised by the line of flamingos.

Bench covered in and surrounded by snow

Park bench in the snow, Ealing

From the heat of the desert to a snowy scene close to home!

Spindly fern against a concrete wall

Two white daisies against a dark backdrop

Sunset sky with silhouette of beach umbrella


Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!