How simple photos can soothe a tangled world. Really.

Closeup of salmon art on concrete wall in Kodiak, Alaska

On a drizzly Monday morning, eight people gathered in our living room. They came to absorb a few photography tips and nibble on warm, oatmeal cookies.

Little did they know that this was more than a photography lesson…

Onto the TV screen, I projected a series of images that emphasized composition. In the 30+ years of teaching photography, composition remains the common thread that links all photographs — dating back to 1822 when Joseph Niépce created what is believed to have been the world’s first permanent photographic image.


first photograph,

In 1822, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce used a camera obscura to create what is believed to have been the world’s first permanent photographic image. This image is known as “View from the Window at Le Gras.”


Meanwhile, back in my living room…

When I reached the part that describes how to simplify an image, I turned to the group and said, “When you see an image that’s too busy, too complicated, guess what? Your brain shuts off.

“That’s because the human mind is a crowded room and we’re all suffering from sensory overload.”

Simplicity, I said, breathes fresh air into things like meals, vacations, and corporate logos.

Plus, our souls welcome simplicity. It’s relaxing, comfortable. That’s why we embrace simple things.


In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


The recipe behind two simple photos


Low angle view of ice skates near a frozen pond in Kodiak, Alaska

How did I take this picture? First, I laid down on my belly. This gave an “eye-level” view which helps connect you, the viewer, and the subject (skates). Then I selected camera settings (in this case, a lens aperture of f/4) to blur the lake and trees in the background. Voila! We converted a busy, complicated, background into an easy-to-embrace simple one.


Mountain ash, heavy with red berries, drapes over wood fence, Kodiak, Alaska

How did I take this picture? I went for a slow, meditative walk. I was attracted to the red, mountain ash berries. But there was also houses, bicycles, lawnmowers, and cars. Using my feet to “crop” the image, I walked around (keeping in mind what I liked about the view), and consciously removed distractions.


How to create simple photos?

Here’s the key: Before you take a picture, have a ‘selfie’ conversation. Ask yourself, “What do I like about this scene?”

Is it the sunset?

A shoe?

A basket of apples?

Then, go after what’s important. Zoom in with your camera or your feet. You might think this takes too much time, but after a while it becomes automatic.


Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.
― Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi


3 Photos: Before, during and after

See the photo at the beginning of this article? It’s a tight shot.

But it didn’t start that way…

We were on our boat, headed back to the harbor when I spotted this wall of swimming salmon. I took this photo to remind myself to visit it later.

Photo #1: Before

Wide angle shot of salmon art on concrete wall in Kodiak, Alaska

The next day, I walked over to the house to get a closer look at the salmon. I could see that they were crafted from brushed aluminum.

The yard was still under construction, which made for unattractive shrubs, weeds, and miscellaneous debris.


Photo #2: During

Aluminum salmon art "swim" on a concrete wall in Kodiak, Alaska

Then I asked myself, “What do I like about this scene?”

The salmon.

So I zoomed in with my feet and discovered flowers in the foreground — a wonderful surprise because the holes in the concrete looked messy and took away from the beauty of the salmon.

Photo #3: After

Closeup of salmon art on concrete wall in Kodiak, Alaska

You might be wondering…

Why did I write this blog post?

Consider this:

  • Everything begins with a thought.
  • Thoughts are energy.
  • Over 300 million images are uploaded online every day.
  • Every image is charged with energy.

That said, your photos can change the world by encouraging us to appreciate nature, demonstrate kindness, and extend gratitude, as you’ll see in this video of gorgeous photographs by Louie Schwartzberg (6:32):


Description: Nature’s beauty can be fleeting — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, is accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day…



Something else to consider:

We are all connected.

So please know, that with your camera or your smartphone, you can introduce more peace and calmness into your life — and everyone else’s — by creating simple images.


May you enjoy healthy doses of nature, beauty, gratitude, and warm oatmeal cookies.


Another article that might tickle your curiosity:

What if, while taking pictures, you felt all warm and peaceful inside, like curling up on rug by the fireplace? Or what if you could sense a connection to something bigger than yourself? It is possible, you know. I describe it in my article about nature photography.


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Marion Owen is on a mission to help busy people survive day-to-day life by condensing topics such as photography, cooking, and organic gardening into bite-size pieces. Get Marion’s free 4-page “In Good Light: Photo Tips for Busy People” to feel newly recharged when taking pictures.



  • marionowen
    September 16, 2019 at 6:53 PM

    Thank you, Angeline, for commenting. I enjoyed your essay about the guys working on the Bay bridge.

  • zibabird
    September 16, 2019 at 5:17 PM

    Excellent! Thank you for sharing your joy.

    • marionowen
      September 16, 2019 at 6:51 PM

      Joy dispels the darkness. I’ll keep working on it! Thank you so much for your comment. Big Alaska hugs to you!

  • Angeline M
    September 16, 2019 at 2:53 PM

    Lovely and meaningful post. A good reminder to simplify life.


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