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Simplify – June Photography Challenge

One of the things I see most often with beginner's images is that they try and put too much into them. The images are cluttered and busy, and the subject isn't immediately obvious – sometimes not even to the photographer, when they view it later.

Have you had that experience? Have you ever looked at one of your images, and asked yourself, “What on earth was I taking a picture of here?”

If so, this will be the perfect challenge for you this month:


After using two duplicated layers and blend modes. One in Color Dodge mode which brought out more texture on the rocks, and a second in Screen mode which lightened the water. Both were masked to only apply on those smaller defined areas.
Waterfalls and streams are a popular photography subject. But think about getting only part of it, get closer and focus on one element.

Less is more, simply put. Going more minimalistic in your approach to your photography can help you take your work to the next level. Let's look at why that is the case:

What makes up great images?

Great images usually exhibit one or more of the following qualities:

  1. They have great lighting (read: Quality of Light – What is it? How do you use it?)
  2. They have a clear subject (read: 5 Mistakes Beginners Make Using a Wide Angle Lens and How to Avoid Them)
  3. The viewer is drawn into the image
  4. There is a story being told (read: What is your message? Storytelling photography)

Let's dig deeper into #2 – having a clear subject. If you haven't already read the article on using wide angle lenses mentioned above, start there. Most kit lenses and intro camera kits include a wide angle lens, and it's common for newbies to not use it to its advantage.

So, what can you do to simplify your images?

Well – simply get closer!

I was down on my elbows in the sand to get this shot in the Sahara desert.
Many boats and fishermen on this beach, simplified by focusing on one,and framing to only include part of the guy and net.

Physically get closer, zoom in, or a combination of both. Look at the edges of your image – all the way around. Is there stuff in the shot that isn't needed? Get closer and crop it out. Is there stuff in the background that is distracting from the subject – get closer and get rid of it (you may also need to adjust your camera angle: get lower, higher, move left or right). Macro is an extreme of getting close. See if you can do simplify without going fully macro!

Make a point of slowing down and examining the entire image, looking for things that don't belong there. Then remove them. Yes you can do some of this later by cropping in computer – but you can't change the camera angle, or the aperture to blur the background, or the lighting.

Here's a list of things to help you simplify:

  • Check the edges of your image and remove extraneous things
  • Look at the background behind your subject for distracting elements and remove them by getting closer, zooming in, or moving your position (move your feet!)
  • Get closer – physically or by using your zoom. Take an extra challenge by doing this with a prime lens like a 50mm – then you have to move yourself and the camera.
  • Review the image and count the number of things you see in it. If you have more than one – get closer until you have just one!
  • Shoot a shadow or a silhouette.
  • Use a large aperture for a shallow depth of field to focus on the subject.
  • Crop in tight – shoot tight on people, maybe even crop into a head, or show only part of the body, or how about just hangs or feet?
  • Think minimalistic – one chair in a plain room, a lone duck floating on a lake, a shadow and nothing else, a silhouette – take almost everything out of the image until you have achieved minimalist.
Fuji X-T1 tilt screen feature is helpful
One thing in the photo, clear subject.
Busy intersection in NYC simplified by changing to black and white and cropping to show only the shadows.

Winner of last month's challenge – macro photography

I'll let you think about all that for a moment while we recap last month's challenge, macro photography. There were over 265 comments and 50+ entries into the macro challenge that started in April – well done guys! Some of the things I noticed in the comments:

  • Some people used macro lenses, a few used extension tubes, one person tried close-up filters, yet another tried reverse macro.
  • All kinds of cameras were used from SLR, mirrorless, compact, point and shoot and one entry was even taken with an iPhone. Just proves there is no one or right way to do it, they all worked.
  • There was lots of creativity in subject matter and some great images.
  • I was thrilled to see you helping each other, and answering questions about your images. In particular tjeerd who mentioned the Raynox DCR-250 macro lens attachment and focus stacking and helped others try them out. Great job, way to be a team player and give back to the community, thank you!

To quote P James in his comment, “the macro lens provides that ability to view things a little differently” which I think sums up the challenge beautifully. So from all the eligible entries, one was randomly selected and the winner is . . .

Rita Heinrichs – congratulations!

Your copy of Don Komarechka's book Sky Crystals will be on its way to you shortly.

Details for this month’s challenge – simplify

scarab bettle closeup with Fuji X-T1 mirrorless camera
Shallow depth of field using a large aperture.
Try photographing only parts of people – hands, feet, or faces.

To be eligible to win the prize:

In order to participate in this challenge and be eligible for this prize you need to:

  1. Upload your SIMPLIFY photo to the comments section below 
  2. Include your shooting data (camera, lens focal length, ISO, aperture, shutter speed).
  3. Tell us about your experience and what you learned by doing this challenge? Did you shoot differently than usual? Did you notice a difference in the resulting images? If you shared your images online elsewhere did you get good comments?
  4. Upload your photo and shooting info by the cut-off date of July 15th, 2016 (11:59 pm EST or UTC-5).

Please note: if you do NOT fulfill all the steps above your entry will not be valid. Just adding your photo will NOT be counted as an entry. I want to hear about it too please. The point of these challenges is to help you take better photos – tell me about that. 

You may post more than one photo, and do this as many times as you like over the month (you can comment as many times as you like, and share as many photos as you want – but it will be counted as one entry per person). The more you practice the better you’ll get at it, like anything.

The Prize

This month is all about learning. A great way to improve and grow is to have your images reviewed and to get constructive, helpful comments. So the prize for the winner this month is:

FIVE of your images reviewed by me!  

I'm my own worst critic – you too?

I don't normally do image reviews (once a year maybe), so this is a special one. I will take your images and do a spoken review of them, then record it to video for you to watch on a private page for your eyes only. When I do image reviews in my classroom sometimes there is some anxiety around that, but fear not.

  • No one else will see this – just you, and whoever you share it with.
  • I always find positive things to encourage you, and give a few tips on things you can either improve through post-processing, or in-camera next time.
  • The goal is to make you feel good about your images and have something to move toward.


You are here: Photography Challenges » Simplify – June Photography Challenge

  • Peter Richardson

    Hi Darlene. This photo was a bit of a concession. I was at a horse show last weekend and was trying to get a tight shot with a narrow depth of field of just the horse’s hooves landing after a jump. I wanted the flex of the ankle and ideally a bit of dirt kicking up. I tried for about an hour to get my vision, but I had to guess at the landing spot, the pre-focus distance and then get the timing bang on. I got a couple of shots that more or less met my criteria, but they didn’t really tell much of a story. Meanwhile I was also trying to get a shot of the airborne horse and rider from a low perspective. I was lying on the ground (other side of a fence) and this ended up being my shot of the day. Having just a portion of the horse and rider really focuses on the strength and grace. I might have loved it more if I were a fraction of a second earlier to give a better sense of the movement through the frame, but having caught the subject a bit late gives a sense of urgency in my mind. I often shoot wide open, and this helps isolate the subject more, though I would have liked it if I had less of the clutter of the course behind. Nikon D750, Nikon 70-200 VRII, ISO 100, 70 mm, f/2.8, 1/2500.

  • This is a Sunset with a fishing boat at the Mangalore Beach on the coast of Karnataka, a state in South India.
    Shot with a Nikon F3, 70-300mm Nikon G, set at 300 mm. Film is Kodachrome 64 ISo set at 1/1000, f8 underexposing by 2 stops. From of my first roll of Kodachrome Film Shot in 1982.

  • The Cable Guy, An urban Indian Squirrel scurrying across a cableTV wire. Nikon D90, 70-300 Nikon lens, f11 1/250 ISO 400 shot around 10.00am

  • Nitish

    Hi Darlene!

    Thanks again! You inspires me a lot. My Photography skill is improving day by day. On the trip of my historical city KURUKSHETRA (India), I saw a statue. It was nice sunset time so I go for silhouette to achieve minimal approach.

    This silhouette represents the great epic of India – “Mahabharata”. Here, lord Krishna (Charioteer) edifying about Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna (great warrior).

    Shooting data : Camera – canon 700D, Focal length – 116mm, Shutter speed – 1/250 sec, Aperture – f/9.0, ISO – 100 and lens – canon 55-250mm IS II

    • This image is great. Consider using either a smaller version of your name or not doing a watermark, as it goes right through the middle of the image and really takes away from the viewer’s experience of your work. Watermarks really don’t protect you from image theft much either.

      • Nitish

        Thanks for your valuable suggestion, Darlene!

        Here’s my more simplified version of image.

  • Gregg Hasenjaeger

    Ice formations from raising and lowering water levels.

  • Gregg Hasenjaeger

    A Blue Jay yielding to temptation.

  • Jim Payne

    Hi Darlene. Here’s a shot of one of my granddaughters running barrels on Sterling. Location is Queen Creek, AZ. ISO 1250 46mm on Fuji 18-55mm X e-2 camera at f6.4 1/2000. I really enjoy your posts, and have learned a lot from them. This is as uncluttered as i can make this type of shot.

  • w1srb

    Bob Solosko – Skate Board Jump – Nikon D800, Tamron 70-200mm lens at 70mm, 1/1600 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400. This is my first attempt at this kind of photo – I was looking for something with feet when I came across several teenagers skateboarding in a parking lot. Not only did they agree to me photographing them, but they told me where they would start and where they would attempt a jump. I hadn’t thought about the shadow when shooting the image, but recognized its impact on the image when I later looked at the image.

    • w1srb

      Uploading my image has failed after trying numerous times (and verifying the image size is under 2 MB. Any suggestions balut what might be the problem?

    • w1srb

      Finally I got my image uploaded using a different browser…

      • This is fantastic great job!

        • w1srb

          Thank you Darlene – I took this image about 2 1/2 weeks ago, before I read your notes and thoughts about simplifying. I’ve intuitively felt this is a good image but I didn’t know why it would be. Reading your notes about simplifying gave me a much better understanding about what makes this a good image.

          Thanks again.

  • Alan Edwards

    Hi Darlene. Here`s my simplified image of a feather, a 105mm macro lens shot. I think monochrome also works to simplify images.

  • Teresa Wilson
  • Teresa Wilson

    My image for this challenge is more about post production. I took the original photo several years ago because I loved the water lilies (we don’t have them where I live.) For me the photo was too busy though, with dirt on the leaves and junk in the water, so I never did anything with it. I recently revisited the photo and did some work on it in Photoshop and Topaz. It has now become one of my favorites and I had it framed to hang in my house.

    Canon Rebel T5i
    ISO 500
    1/200 sec

  • What a fun challenge! I took this photo a of couple days ago, on the back porch at the Potato House Project in Williams Lake, BC This is a rescued heritage home. I’m actually working through a series of images from the same place, a first for me, and putting together an album on my Flickr gallery. When I saw the broken shell I was drawn to the irony of it. In one piece it would have said, “Life is fragile, handle with care.” I also liked the blue peeling paint and patterns from the screened in windows. Then I realised the sun was setting through the window behind the shell and got really excited. I’ve been practicing really paying attention to the light, and capturing sparkling bokeh and backlight in particular. Lately I’ve been taking a lot of images at f/4 and zooming in to isolate my subject. This was shot with my Nikon D750 with a focal length of 98mm, f/4, 1/400, ISO 640

    • P James

      Amy, I really like this image. The screen texture, the bokeh, the aged wood and paint and then the broken shell with the “irony” of it all. Wonderful. It made me smile.

      • Thanks so much for your feedback. So glad you like it!

    • christine pillari

      Love this image…invokes emotion with its simplicity and message.

    • I agree, well done. The complementary colors go well, the variety of textures opposing one another, and the light is all great.

  • Wayne Hoover

    The image of this majestic fellow was taken out on the Serengeti In Tanzania. I used a Canon 6D, ISO 800 at 600mm, f8 at 1/20 of sec. I was not actually very far from him, but I wanted to fill the frame with his face to get an idea of what it would be like to be that close to the king. As a result of the this fabulous safari experience, I have organized a return expedition for next January to take friends to experience all that Tanzania has to offer.

  • Edwin Derriman

    Hello Darlene, I took this picture while waiting for my partner to finish her canoe lessons a couple of weeks ago (I was meant to be getting pictures of her performing on the water!). The seagull (who I fondly named Jonathan Livingston Seagull) landed on the quayside a few feet from me and stood gazing over the harbour wall in Penzance, Cornwall, UK. Camera is a Nikon D5500 with a Tamron AF 18-270mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens. The photo is not post processed and was taken at ISO200; 270mm; f7.1; and 1/800sec. This is the first time I have posted any of my shots on this site (I have ‘lurked’ for ages), so any constructive criticism or comments would be appreciated.

    • This is very well composed. I like that he’s sort of hiding a bit. My only suggestion would be to watch and take several shots, waiting for the bird to turn his head more towards you so you can see the eye more.

      • Edwin Derriman

        Thanks Darlene, point taken. I did take four shots, but he then flew off. If the camera had been set on continuous shooting, I could probably have ‘snapped’ a frame where the head was positioned better. Many thanks for your comments, much appreciated.

  • waynewerner

    I just shot this while helping set up for our yard sale. Canon T5, Canon 40mm f/2.8 at 2.8. ISO 100, 1/200s (auto ISO, aperture priority).

    I actually had to hold the branch to get the leaf at a decent angle with the back lighting off the concrete. One thing I found really neat about this one is that the autoexposure for the leaf totally blew out the backround. For a normal shot that might be undesirable, but you can’t get much more simple than nothing (or would that be everything?), so I left it blown out 🙂

    • In this case the blown out background is perfect. There is no rule that says you can’t do that or that you need detail in the background. Anyone who says that is incorrect, that is just their opinion. YOU as the photographer get to decide which part of your image is well exposed, in this case you’ve chosen wisely!

  • Paul Le Roy

    This was shot with a Canon 7D II, at a f/l of 74mm, f4 1/60th, ISO 100. I was trying to make the viewer think about what was being shown by giving just enough to tell the story. I had to work quickly and required a number of shots to get what I thought I wanted!! I post my work on flickr and got some positive feedback.

    • I’m not sure it comes across. I think it’s a hand but not entirely sure why it’s red or glowing or what it’s doing.

  • Steve Buss

    Taken at a macro workshop. Pretty minimal so I thought what the heck give it a go,

    • To be eligible for the contest and prize please remember to tell us what you learned about this exercise and your settings.

      • Steve Buss

        Hi Darlene. This photo was taken on my canon 70d camera with a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens set at iso 200 aperture f/5.6 shutter speed 1/400 manual exposure auto focus adobe rub (1998).
        I learnt that a silhouette picture can convey the image effectively without the need for full details as in a conventional photo.

  • christine pillari

    I took this on a night out in the city…..I like the simplicity of the city lights through the rain splashed car window.

  • Richard Henderson

    Canon EOS 5D MkIII
    ef 24-70mm f4/L IS USM
    @24mm 1/30 f/4 iso 100
    Taking this photo taught me some more about the lighting that my camera and lens can capture. Several attempts were made from various angle to get as much lighting as possible on the Yellow Tag so that I could process it as a simple stand out item.

    • Good job. To make it even simpler you might crop off the bottom part of the image. As the lightest area it will draw the eye there, and all the wires tangled there add contrast – another attention getter. So you have sharpness and color going to the subject – just a little crop may make it more powerful.

      • Richard Henderson

        Many thanks for the comments. Like thus?

  • Brian

    Hi Darlene,
    Shot with Canon 5D Mk 111, 50mm, ISO 1600, 1/50s. f6.3.
    I returned yesterday from a trip to Italy. This is the Duomo in the main piazza. It is a magnificent building that takes my breath away whenever I see it. On this trip I challenged myself to travel light. So I took the 50mm lens only, bought a small camera bag which took the camera and the lens, and enjoyed the light approach to travel. This photo was taken at dusk, hand held. If you have seen the Duomo you know that with it’s size, and in the space limited by surrounding buildings, you need a wide angle to fit it in. I didn’t have that option. Dusk is the optimal time to take a photo here. I tried early morning before the sun rose and the crowds appeared, but the light was all wrong. The setting sun adds a slight hue and added to the lights on the Duomo and the lights in the piazza, the marble of the facade starts to come to life.

    • Hi Brian, the blue is intriguing and it’s an interesting shot. I’m not sure it fits for simplify though as there is a lot going on in this image, lots of detail that’s quite busy. So while it’s a nice image – you tell me, does it represent simplify?

      • Brian

        Hi Darlene. Thanks for your thoughts. My interpretation is twofold. One, the Duomo is a large building and this is a smaller and simpler view that shows its beauty. Two, simplify also means equipment and process to me. In simplifying my trip by just taking one lens, it also created a need to take a different perspective in many situations, thus forcing a condensed view in this case.
        As a general comment, I found one lens created a simpler (and lighter) approach on the whole trip. I enjoyed the challenge of having to narrow my view in many cases, use my feet to find the best composition, and be more creative at times. It was a positive experience.
        That said, I am happy to accept your interpretation, Thanks for your efforts, you are doing a great job. B.

  • Interestingly, I’ve been doing a personal project to improve my skills a telling a story with photos. I had this mental picture but really had to work to pull it off. This photo was taken with my Nikon D7100 while lying flat on my stomach on the parking lot. I’ve named this photo “Adventure Awaits”. The biggest challenge was figuring what to leave in and what to leave out. Everyone has their own mental picture of what an adventure on a motorcycle would be. I left enough pavement to suggest open road ahead without showing any detail per se. I used a shallow depth of field with just a portion of the rear tire tread being sharp. The whole idea was to provide a hint of the vehicle and pathway to adventure but leave the rest to the viewer’s imagination. The lack of specifics allows this to be whatever the viewer imagines it to be. This was taken using a 35mm prime lens at f/2.5, ISO 400, and a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second.

    • Sure that works. It may have been even more powerful if the bike was on the road on a yellow line, or if a person was on it and you could see feet instead of a kickstand. Just some ideas for you.

  • Stan Mah

    Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70, ISO 64, 70 mm, f/2.8, 1/200. SB910 flash with modifier.
    This is as simple as it gets. Shot at f2.8 to limit depth of field, as close as I can get with the 24-70 zoom, fill with flash (and modifier) to soften the light.

  • KP Karunakaran

    I honed in on this solitary figure walking down a staircase against a backdrop of graffiti which was very clever as it is over two planes (the staircase divides). The graffiti was in B&W so made the whole image monochrome in post. Composed in camera. Nikon 800E with 105mm f2.8 at f4, 1/100.

    • Cool. What if you tried cropping out the dark parts on each side, right to the edge of the artwork? It might make it more graphic and abstract and keep the viewer guessing.

      • KP Karunakaran

        Considered that and tried it – it takes the bottom of the curved staircase out (if I balanced it). For me, that takes the cleverness of the graffiti out which combines work on two planes to make the composite image. Also, I liked the curve giving it depth and a direction. But comments taken – could make it more abstract by cropping. Thanks for commenting, great to have a pro provide feedback.

  • KP Karunakaran

    Silhouettes of sombre figures walking up a colourfully lit up staircase late evening. Sony A7R, Zeiss 55mm 1.8, f5.6, 1/60.

    • Karen Boggs

      It’s great…it looks “surreal”

  • Kathe Selby

    Hi Darlene. This is part of a larger photo I took from underneath our Japanese maple. I liked the repetition of the patterns of the leaves, the openings between the leaves at the stem, and the shadows where the leaves overlap. Canon T5., 18-55 mm lens, focal length 55 mm, f/5.6, ISO 400.

  • Kathe Selby

    This was in a wheat field at dawn, and very misty out. I liked the hint of dew on the stalks. Canon T5, 18-15 mm lens, focal length 28.0 mm, f/5.6, ISO 320.

    • Nicely done and composed. Do you process your images at all?

      • Kathe Selby

        Thank you! I do process a little, although I am finding I like to keep I things as natural as possible. That may change as I learn more about the kinds of things I can do. Still pretty new at this. This photo was part of a larger photo, so I did a lot of examining to find the portion I wanted to highlight.

  • P James

    This capture, from a while ago, are backlit water droplets from a lawn sprinkler taken during an evening sunset. I shot this with my original DSLR, a Canon Xsi and a 70-300 Kit lens. Handheld at ISO 400, F18 at 1/60th, lens out to 300. I was lucky that the background was dark spruce trees. Also uploaded to a “Flowing Waters” challenge on the DPS site.

  • Always enjoyed your tutorial. I have always felt overwhelmed whenever I am at a car show because there is too much to absorb on the beauty of a car. I love to photograph cars especially antique cars in their full beauty but the crowd factor and other distractions have been a chore for me in terms of compositions. So here’s my Simplify attempt. Focusing on the fuel gauge – at least i think it was the fuel gauge 🙂 Canon 6D | Oshiro35mm manual lens | F2 | 1/500 SS | ISO 100. so far i have not share this image anywhere else — yet 🙂

  • Bill Goodwin

    Hi Darlene, this is a photo I took while walking in the woods in November. I couldn’t think of anything to photograph and I saw this tree. I thought the colours were very attractive and I wanted to isolate it from the background.
    It was taken with a Nikon D5300 18 – 140mm lens at 116 mm. ISO 400 1/125 at F5.6.

  • Pauline

    Hi Darlene – I think some negative space adds to the simplicity …

  • Karl Boddenberg

    A crowded beach, to much clutter, lots of people bathing, but then suddenly I saw this young boy, a uncluttered space, trying to pull in a boat, and really having fun. I loved what I saw, without any hesitation I took this photo, with my Sony SLT A77 f/4.5 1/200sec, ISO 100, 50mm, Metering – Pattern. A few minutes later, he gave up and just sat down, or had I been a few minutes late, this shot would not have happened.

    • Karen Boggs

      I think this one is an excellent example of simply! Great job.

      • Karl Boddenberg

        Many thanks for your comment Karen, really encouraging

  • KP Karunakaran

    Blue Mountains (named because of vapour emitted by Eucalyptus trees that has a blue hue) not far from Sydney, Oz. Early morning, tried to focus on the shapes of the mountains. Nikon 800E, 14-120 f4 Nikkor.

  • Nitish

    Shooting data : Camera – canon 700D, Focal length – 55mm, Shutter speed – 1/60 sec, Aperture – f/5.6, ISO – 100 and lens – canon 18-55mm IS II.

    A newly born puppy is drinking milk at noon within my range. I didn’t want to miss the chance to capture this awesome moment. To make simplification I went for close-up shot. My intention is not disturbing them, so I make appropriate distance and rotate the zoom ring to last possible focal length.

    • A nice intimate moment. I might be even better if you can see that the puppy is drinking, maybe more from the left side.

  • Emmie’s Grandpa

    Great challenge Darlene. I have been attempting to shift my shooting style toward simple subjects that tell a story so this challenge came at the perfect time. The little model is my granddaughter and it was her first time on the beach. Yes, there was sand tasting too.. Taken with a Nikon D610 and a vintage 75-300mm zoom. At the time, I had only recently taken up photography as a serious hobby and I learned many lessons that day about shooting at the beach, dealing with hard light, shadows, the wind and sand. One of my takeaways was that professional wedding photographers must secretly loath beach weddings.

    • C E

      This is gorgeous! I am amazed at the quality of this photo considering the time of day you took it.

    • Well done, yes lens changing on a beach is dangerous and a baby handler is a great idea!

  • P James

    Heart rock on Sand. Shot with an iPad mini in the mid-day sun. Settings (auto in the device) 1/750 sec, ISO 32 and F2.4. A little adjustment in Photoshop Elements to bring back the blown-out white detail as much as I could. I learned from this lesson, it’s not all about the gear, it’s what you see before you and how you capture it.

    • C E

      Well seen!

      • P James

        Thank you. My wife is the inspiration for images like these…

  • Peter Bryant

    Good afternoon Darlene. Here goes my first attempt. This is our resident Iguana. Shot with a Nikon D3200, FL @ 270mm, ISO 250, Aperture of 6.3 shutter sp. @ 1/125.

    • Hi Peter great job. Try to get a little closer to him either by moving, cropping or zooming in. Place him just out of the center of the frame with more space to look into than behind him and you will have a stronger, more dynamic composition.

  • Peter Bryant

    Hello again Darlene. Here is my second attempt. Using my Nikon D3200 with a FL @ 140mm, ISO of 360, F stop @ 6.0 and shutter speed of 1/500.

  • Peter Bryant

    Darlene, here is my favorite picture the 3rd attempt. Taken with a Nikon D50 with FL of 300mm. An ISO setting at Auto(100), F/6.3 and shutter speed of 1/400. This nesting Eagle was right out in back of my condo but I haven’t seen them here in a couple of years.

  • Peter Bryant

    OK Darlene here is my comedy entry a Dragonfly hitchin a ride on a turtle. Again taken with my Nikon D50 at a FL of 300mm. ISO set at again Auto(100), F/6.3 and shutter speed at 1/500.

    • Actually this is MY favorite of all the images you posted!! It exemplifies “simple” much more. The eagle and iguana while tricky to get – would not be what I’d call simple. They have a lot of elements and the trees are very busy in the background. This one is clean and simple. All you have to look at is the turtle and his little buddy.

  • Mark Stanley-Adams

    This is a detail of the entrance to the building where I work. I was outside having a smoke break one morning and I found myself enjoying the graphic quality of the lines and shapes, both positive and negative. I popped back inside and grabbed a friend’s Canon 5Dmk2 with a 24-105mm lens, and went back out, telling my boss I had a quick errand to run. It was about 10 in the morning and a cold winter’s day, hence the absolutely clear skies, as well as being the perfect time for using a polarising filter. I was afraid of camera shake because it was so cold and so I shot at ISO 400 in order to get a fast enough shutter speed of 1/200 of a second. I chose f/8 because I think that’s the sharpest aperture on that lens, as well as wanting enough depth of field to cover the whole scene. I shot at a focal length of 32mm, though this wasn’t a conscious choice – I just zoomed until I got the framing I liked. I was pretty happy with the result, and I REALLY liked that camera. One day I hope to go full-frame myself.. currently my budget keeps me within the APS universe, but maybe, just maybe… *sigh*
    Hope y’all like it.

    • Mark, nicely done. But what is it that makes you feel you need full frame to take good photos? I’ve actually gone the other way and I use an APS-C Fuji mirrorless camera the most now and my Canon 5D3 stays home. Give this a read before you decide:

      • Mark Stanley-Adams

        Hi Darlene.. firstly, thank you for the positive feedback and the link to your article. Reading it confirmed my feelings about upgrading to a full-frame. Thinking clearly and objectively, I know that going full-frame isn’t going to improve my photography and that I don’t actually ‘need’ to upgrade. What appealed to me in the 5D2 was more about the ergonomics of the camera, rather than the sensor. For one thing, I have biggish hands and long fingers, and therefore felt right at home with the bigger body. The other thing I really liked was the big bright viewfinder – it reminded me of my old 35mm film slr. As it happens, I did upgrade recently from a 500D to a 70D, which I’m very very happy with. I find absolutely nothing wrong with an APS sensor. In fact, I’ve got some quite decent large-ish prints off my old 500D.
        And then of course there’s the cost of going FF, as you so correctly pointed to in your article. Apart from the cost of the body, I would have to upgrade most of my lenses as well, and I just don’t have the container-load of cash it would take. Frankly, if I’m going to spend a wad of cash, I’d most likely be better off expanding my lens selection than starting again with a new format.
        So, sanity prevails – do I need a FF? Nah! It’s more a case of it being a ‘would-be-nice-to-have’.
        As for mirrorless, I’ve had a good look at them and there’s a lot to like, but I’m a bit of a dinosaur, and I do like a good ol’ fashioned optical viewfinder.
        Thanks again for sharing your expertise with all of us here.. it’s always much appreciated. The wonder of learning is that there’s no end to it. Looking forward to the next challenge.

        • Good choice Mark. If you want bigger you can get battery grips for some cameras, look into that maybe. As for the optical viewfinder, that’s what I thought until I started using the Electronic one! There are a lot of benefits to them, especially for new photographers, as you can see the changes you make on the screen before you even shoot. You can see if your white balance is off, exposure is too dark, you can even see the histogram. They do eat a lot of battery power but I’ve been pretty happy with the Fuji. Bottom line is you need a camera that is the right fit for you.

  • Hannu Pohjannoro

    Eventually I decided to post three photos, none of which are perfect, but I’m on my way…

    Nr1 is an Agapanthus in autumn, after blossom. I like the
    graphic image of the empty stems, but I’m not quite happy with the composition
    – there’s still something too much (in addition to that, some of the stems are
    slightly out of focus.)
    Nikon D7000, Zoom-Nikkor 18-105, ISO 800; 105 mm; f/5,6; 1/200

    Nr2. In a bright winter morning, the fox trail got my attention
    at first. Then I noticed the beautiful contrast of sharp shadows and softer
    ones, and the contrast of blue and ochre. I tried to get more feeling of space
    and emptiness into the photo, but it was impossible because there was all kinds
    of disturbing objects just outside of the frame (I took the photo in the park
    in my home town, not in the wilderness…)
    Nikon D90 Nikkor 18-105 mm; ISO 200; 45 mm; f/11; 1/500

    Nr3. A nearly abstract monochromatic view to the sea, taken from
    the second floor of the Turner Contemporary Art Museum in Margate, UK. Due to
    cloudy weather, the light was very pale and rather low: I placed the camera on
    the table to get a steady base for shooting. After some unsuccesful shots with
    unsatisfying framing I decided to include the reflections of the table surface
    as a part of the composition. The picture was taken through a window, and the
    focus is in the pillar like frames of the windows. Therefore the buoy in the
    distance (in the middle) is not as sharp as I hoped it to be.
    Nikon D7000, Zoom-Nikkor 18-105 mm, ISO 100; 30 mm; f/5,6; 1/250.


    Hi Darlene – took a walk around my father in law’s farm. Lots of fun, but not simple pictures to take in the Oregon hills. Finally decided to use depth of field to simplify a bit, and a simple, natural item for this experiment. The camera is a Nikon D7000 with 18-200mm lens, shot at 135mm. I had shot a field of wild flowers a few minutes before and still have a small aperture. Lower f-stop would have been better but the long lens still gave me the bokeh I wanted. Speed of 1/80th and ISO was 640. Was rushing to catch the leaf as I could hear the wind increasing in the trees. My wife says this is a Japanese Maple variety. – Tom

  • C E

    I love simplified photos; but as much as I try, I don’t often succeed at accomplishing it. I know I need work in this area, so thank you for the challenge. I hope we are allowed to post several photos.

  • Sharon

    My grandchildren enjoy making bubbles. On this afternoon I was trying to capture pictures that showed their expressions as they play. I took my pictures at various focal lengths. This one is my favorite. I captured my grandsons enjoyment and I also was happy with the colors reflecting in the large bubble. I used a Nikon D90, F/9, 1/800, ISO 640.

  • C E

    My second attempt at simplify

  • Karen Boggs

    Yesterday this beautiful butterfly caught my eye. It was flitting so fast! It never did just “rest”, the wings were constantly going. They tend to land for a second then circle around and come back so I had time to grab my camera and change the lens. I use a Pentax K3, this was a 55-300 zoom lens. ISO 200, f/11, 1/200s.
    I already had the camera set to multiple exposures, otherwise, I would not have been able to capture this guy at all. So? What did I learn. 1)Just stand there and wait for the subject to return; 2) I learned how to remove unwanted items and use Content Aware to blend in Photoshop Elements 14.3) Using the same software I removed haze. I wanted to crop the photo but a background leaf would have still been there. I have also “discovered” that if I save under “save for web” the size is just right for posting!

    • waynewerner

      That’s great advice – *most* of the time in nature, things repeat themselves. Insects return to the same spot, etc.

    • Great job and great lessons learned. One you might want to add it to make sure you use a faster shutter speed for fluttery things, especially if you’re all the way out to 300mm on that lens. Remember one over the focal length so 300mm needs 1/300 or faster. For this guy you’d want at least 1/500 maybe 1/1000. You could open the aperture a bit and/or increase the ISO to get it.

      • Karen Boggs

        Thank you Darlene, I always have my camera in manual mode and I have (finally) gotten better at my settings, I had not known about the one over focal length. I do sometimes feel rushed in trying to get the photo and I don’t pay enough attention to all my settings. Practice, practice, practice.

  • Matteo Russo

    Hi Darlene, This is a pic taken while I was working in Oman last year. Was taken with a Nikon D800, Iso 100, 40mm, f8, 1/125 sec. I can’t really express what drove me to take this picture, I just know, when I saw the bike, I had to take it. Once downloaded on my pc I knew it would work better in B&W. Thanks

  • tjeerd

    Hello all of you. Last year we were visiting BC, Canada and the beautiful Cootenays. In Kaslo I saw a picture in a

    shop of a small sailing boat on a lake against a dark threathening background.

    That picture inspired me to take this one. No dark clouds as background but the blue haze against the mountains at the othe side of lake Slocan as seen from new Denver.

    On flickr I added the comment:

    A lone SUPper (Stand Up Paddler) on lake Slocan near New Denver.
    It’s not exactly what the camera saw and what my eyes (and brain) saw, but watching this man, who I did’nt know at all, glide over the water, nor knew his purpose of paddling or destination, I overlayed the state of my mind on the picture, so that where he came from or went to are invisible. But I would have been left with blue only had I made the fact visible that he is unknown to me.
    So I salute this unknown man who so peacefully and one with his environment did this solo performance.

    (See )

    What did I do do different? Well shot with a purpose, a goal in mind.

    Taken with Canon 70D, 18-135mm lens at 135mm, ISO 100, f8, 1/400th

  • Lester Ike Follero Montefalcon

    Humans are my common subjects. So I have decided to take photographs of human body parts for this challenge. And this one just happened while having a short break on a shoot with my friends. Summer just started here in Dubai and the birds gets thirsty much often. This, I believe, was a lucky shot. Water’s still dripping on his chest from a mini waterfall display on the venue of our shoot. I think this is far more interesting than the shoot that I intended to do. Thanks Darlene. This is another level for me as I don’t do bird photography. 😀
    I was using a Nikon D5300 with Tamron 70-200 lens at 165mm, set to 1/400 sec, f2.8, ISO 400.

  • csowmi89

    Hello, This click was taken using Canon 1100D, 18-55mm Kit lens, 35mm focal length, AV mode 4.6 Aperture, on a small forest area within the Hyderabad city. Its a very small thorn, yet unique in its own way, giving a beautiful mood to the photograph. 🙂
    (It should be one clockwise rotated. Not sure, how to do it in Disqus)

    • You have to rotate the image on your computer and save it that way first. Disqus doesn’t allow editing.

  • C E

    I took this photo at my husband’s family lakeside cabin in 2005. I loved this photo then, and I still love it. I went out fishing in the wee hours of the morning with a few others; the sun had come up and was burning off the lake mist.

  • Gerald Perkins

    A mangrove tree in the Everglades National Park. Taken with a Canon T5i, EF70-300@140mm, ISO 100, 1/400 sec f/5.6. I see simplicity in the single tree, but there is a lot of complexity within the tree. If you look closely you can see a bald eagle in the lower left part of the tree. I’m learning to crop more aggressively. The original pic has a second smaller tree to the right that I cut. Hopefully learning to crop more aggressively will help with better initial composition while taking the picture.

  • Darlene,
    Your challenge was perfectly timed. Our local club, The Southern Colorado Photography Society, held ther annual outing downtown Pueblo starting with a photo shoot and finishing with a touring the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center. Having photograhed the area many times, your challange geve me a new perspective, so to speak, and shaped my entire shooting experience for the day. One wall near the railroad tacks was covered with grafitti, rather than capture the entire wall, I focused on this cry for help.

    Sony ILCA-77M2, Sigma 17-70mm at 45mm (67mm effective), IS0 640, 1/250

  • Darlene,
    I am not sure if a second image is allowed, but here is another. One of the things about your challenge is it got me focusing on elements of design. So on the photo walk I mentioned earlier, I was looking for tonal ranges, shapes, leading lines. etc. Watching for small details I noticed how the light played off of this spider web.

    Sony ILCA-77M2, Sigma 17-70mm at 22mm (33mm effective), F3.2, ISO 320, 1/1000 full color exposrue, processed to BW using CaptureOne.

  • Rita Heinrichs

    Hello, this is my contribution for the Simplify challenge. I enjoy hiking in the hills near where I live. This was a day in early spring and as I neared the top of a steep climb, I spotted this cloud. I dropped to the ground-flat on my belly-to take this shot. As I watched, the cloud gradually changed shape and drifted away. It was a moment that took me back to days of childhood when clouds held imaginary shapes and I created imaginary stories about them. Taken with Canon EOS Rebel; 1/250 sec.; f 16; 37mm; ISO 200

    • tjeerd

      Like it, lying on one’s belly in the grass, one can daydream about many monsters…….

      • Rita Heinrichs

        Thank-you tjeerd . I suppose one could say “the sky is the limit” .

  • P James

    Hands of care. My mother visiting her brother in his nursing home. Her care, love and compassion demonstrated by her holding his hand while they visited. I took lots of photos of the two of them together, but this was my favorite because of what it said. Captured with my Canon 6D, ISO 400, f2.8, 1/60th, with a 24-70 lens at 40mm. Available overhead hall lights. Converted to B&W and cropped in Elements.

    • C E

      This tells such a great story; you can see the emotion it emits. I love this one!

      • P James

        Thank you so much!

  • Terry Titmarsh

    Hi Darlene, I have String of Pearls succulent plant which is currently in full winter bloom. The plant has tendrils of small pea sized nodules that hang over the edge of the pot. However flowering is all on the top of the plant in the pot. The flowers are very small and often referred to as insignificant but when one gets in close they are quite pretty. In my photo I decided to get away from the most often seen tendrils and concentrate on the flowers. I used my Canon EOS 40D with an 85mm prime lens with settings F.Stop f5.6, Exposure 1/100 sec, ISO 200 and 85 mm focal length. After uploading I selectively cropped the photo to simplify the whole image and better capture the flowers reaching towards the sun. I also discovered some spider web that I think adds some extra interest to the image.

  • Terry Titmarsh

    Hi Darlene, My interest in plants is a bit exotic and like to enjoy how plants can survive in different climates. The attached photo is the flower head on a branch of a Desert Rose that grows out in the Australian desert, and of course in many other less challenging areas. I have several in pots and flowering can occur pretty much any time as far as I can determine. The flower head has been pushing up from the tip of a bare branch with a strong leaning towards the sun. I expect the bloom to open in three or four days. Rather than photograph the whole plant I concentrated only on the flower head to simplify the main focus point. I used my Canon EOS 40D with f 5.6, exposure 1/100 sec, ISO 200 using my 85mm prime lens. I set my camera on a tripod because of a breeze blowing around. In each of this entry and my string of pearls entry I was very interested to practice how to visualise the result I was seeking, with particular emphasis on keeping it simple. I think I achieved that aim.

    • Yes I think you did indeed. One question – what did you want to focus on here? The green leaf on the right or the flower?

      • Terry Titmarsh

        The tip of the larger flower was my focus point and hopefully the greenery of the leaves in the background would add a bit of balance. Thanks for looking at my entry.

        • It looks like the leaf is sharper than the flower. When you’re in so close where you focus is critical as the DOF is really shallow.

          • Terry Titmarsh

            Yes it appears so. My 66 years old eyes have just received the benefit of new glasses, unfortunately I cannot look through my view finder with them on. I will certainly try to do better and will do some extra practice. Cheers.

          • If you’re doing macro have you tried the Live View and zoom in technique?

          • Terry Titmarsh

            I am not familiar with that technique but I will seek some tuition from some experienced members of my Grafx (photographic) club, and search your online tutorials to get the knowledge. When I have had an opportunity in the next few weeks I would be happy to send an example if that is ok.

          • Terry Titmarsh

            Hi Darlene, Great article, thank you. I have now also received some hands on training from my photoclub colleagues and getting to understand the Live View / Zoom technique. I have been practicing and hope to send a sample or two in the next couple of days.
            My Canon camera is an EOS 40 D and is not a movie camera but it can still do Live View / Zoom so I am quite happy with that. Cheers Terry.

          • Terry Titmarsh

            Hi Darlene,

            I have now worked on the Live View and Zoom technique as you suggested using your guide to great advantage. In the attached photo of a Desert Rose plant about to flower, I focused on the centre (one shoot from the top) of the three plant shoots and managed to obtain a much clearer image. I used my Canon EOS 40D on a tripod with an 85mm 1.8 Canon prime lens with f/10 at 1/125 sec and ISO 400.
            I took it at about 07:07 am just before the sun rose over the trees in my back yard. While the photo subject itself is not thrilling, I believe the end result of the Live View and Zoom technique has helped me get a clear focus of the point I wanted and will enable me to further improve my macro photos.

            Thank you ever so much for your help.

          • Looks great!! Make sure for macro you use the mirror lockup function and a remote trigger also.

          • Terry Titmarsh

            Ah! Another skill I need to master – “mirror lockup”. The remote trigger I can handle but will now learn how to do “mirror lockup”. I’ll look up my trusty Canon User Manual.
            Thank you again for your help and guidance.
            Just as an aside, my photo club had a photoshoot last Sunday. I took the photo below using my 85mm prime lens late in the afternoon by a boardwalk near a local dam. I was quite happy with the reflection image.


          • For Canon mirror lockup is in the menu somewhere. But yes your manual should tell you how to apply and use it.

  • Nina Cudjoe

    Cannon EOS 600D, focal length 39mm (EF-S18-65mm lens), ISO100, f/8.0, 1/125 sec.
    A visitor to our garden afforded a good opportunity to try a simplified approach. I’m a beginner and only recently ‘graduated’ from Automatic to manual settings. I tried several settings before deciding this was the best I could do on the day. Luckily, my model obliged by moving exceedingly slowly thus giving me plenty of time to experiment.

    • P James

      Nina, I think this is a great start to the simplify challenge and congrats for getting off the Auto settings. I really like this little guy. You’re so fortunate to be somewhere with such interesting creatures to photograph. I’d really love to see him from another perspective like his eye-level. This means getting down-low to his level (yup, it means lying down to shoot or at least placing your camera near ground level) and then you can create other points of view to your images. The same could hold true for your image of the wet paw prints. Get low, focus on a near one and frame a few more in the distance, with the rails of the bridge acting as vanishing lines…. Just a suggestion. I’ll attach a couple examples of “near eye level” shots.

      • Nina Cudjoe

        Thank you, P James, for your feed back and good pointers. I’d love to take some more pic’s of that camelion, but unfortunately she’s moved on. Paw-prints on the other hand I can get as many as I want, so will definitely try your suggestions there.

        • P James

          You’re welcome and thank you. I’m certainly not an expert in the field of composition but I feel it comes down to seeing things from different angles, lighting and perspective and judging for yourself what you like. I thrive on looking at how/what others shoot and I really enjoy the challenges that Darlene creates. Super helpful and fun.

      • Nina Cudjoe

        Btw James, really love your eye level shots. That’s something to aim for.

    • tjeerd

      Fantastic creature to photograph and I agree with P James, go low down as far a possible so that it stands out more. Maybe difficult through the viewfinder with your chin in the pebbles. Maybe LiveView mode in case your LCD can swivel. I’ve also seen Anglefinders, which allow you to look through the viewfinder under 90 degrees, like this one…

      • Nina Cudjoe

        Thank you tjerd, that looks like a very useful tool. My LCD does swivel, so will try that first. It’s just after 5 in the morning here and all your comments and suggestions have inspired me to grab the camera and go out in the garden in search of creatures to shoot.

    • Great job look at all the comments you got here! Cute little guy for sure.

  • Nina Cudjoe

    Cannon EOS 600D, focal length 25mm (EF-S18-65mm lens), ISO100, f/9.0, 1/160 sec.
    Walking the dog on the hill I noticed her wet paw-marks on the footbridge, got the camera out and took just one shot. Looking at it later I felt rather pleased at how it turned out. Must be beginner’s luck. Reading Darlene’s texts have made me see things I might before have ignored.

  • Ayush

    Hello Darlene! This was taken along the Rocky Beach in Pondicherry (a Southern Indian place). I particularly liked the colors on the footwear the lady was wearing which depicts the colorful diversity of the country. I also shows the calmness one experiences sitting along the serene beach on the East Coast of India which is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal.
    Camera – Canon 1100D
    Lens – 55-250 Canon
    Focal length – 250mm
    ISO – 400
    Aperture – f/5.6
    Shutter speed – 1/250 sec.

  • Ayush

    Hello Darlene! This is another one for the Simplify Contest. I liked the Depth of field which was I able to achieve getting closer to the subject. The story behind taking this picture was that the pollen grains of the plant resembled the Swinging Rides for children found in the amusement parks and it depicts the fervor of happiness which the children experience thereby indicating that pollen too are having some fun.

    I must thank you for the useful articles you publish which really helped me understading the technicalities of the DSLR and Photography per se. I appreciate that.

    Camera – Canon 1100D
    Lens – 18-55 Canon
    Focal length – 55 mm
    ISO – 800
    Aperture – f/7.1
    Shutter speed – 1/800 sec.

    • You’re most welcome, yes I can see the amusement ride – funny.

      • Ayush

        Thank you for your valuable comment! Appreciate it!!

  • peta vowles

    Hi Darlene, I downloaded your free ebook a while back and want to thankyou for challenging me to look through the lens with a different perspective, and was trying to get low with these. These are my simplified images taken with my canon 700D. The dandilion, 145mm, ISO:800, f5.6 1/200s. The Terrapin 153mm, ISO:500 f5.6 1/250s. I have never posted to a site before and have finally plucked up the courage!! So this is really stepping out of my comfort zone.

    • P James

      Very nice images. Love the Terrapin. Great shallow depth of field.

      • peta vowles

        Hi there. Thanks so much for the feedback.

      • peta vowles

        Hi there. Thanks so much for the feedback.

    • Good for your for sharing. These are great examples of simplify.

  • Nina Cudjoe

    Cannon EOS 600D, focal length 34mm, ISO100, f/4.5, 1/3200 sec.
    There is a plant in our garden called Queen of the Night on account of its flowers opening for one night only, and what a wonderful scent they emit. The bulb looks rather strange, one can almost imagine that it’s an animal. I have done a little cropping, and I also adjusted the temperature slightly in Lightroom. I find this challenge really fun and I’m learning so much from your lectures, Darlene, and from viewing the great photographs posted here.

    • P James


      • tjeerd

        Love this one.
        Our queens of night is a cactus with large white flowers, also for one night….

  • Nina Cudjoe

    Isn’t it just great! I’ve got some shots of the flower too taken a little after midnight. I’m not sure it’s god enough to post here.

  • Rob Stewart

    Hi Darlene, I didn’t know if this met your simplify criteria or not? So I thought I’d ask. Enjoy. Rob

    • Sure why not. You’ve simplified by shooting in tight on the face, and in the method you used for processing.

  • Jim Furey

    I like shooting into the sun. It often provides a view or perspective that you don’t normally get. For this one, I perceived a “Lady in the Leaf”. If I’m the only one that sees her, please let me know.

    • Karen Boggs

      I see her. It’s almost like the picture where when you look at it one way it’s a young woman with a hat and the other way is an old woman (some would say a “hag”). Very cool.

      • Jim Furey

        You’re right Karen. I know the two-way picture you’re referring to, and maybe that’s why this one caught my eye.

    • Or two people about to kiss?!

  • Jim Furey

    Shooting into the sun – again. This “Streetlamp” is decorative and has no inner flame. The light is coming from the setting sun, through some interesting clouds.

    • FYI Jim, if you’re so inclined you can turn the lamp on by using processing techniques in LR or PS.

  • Jim Furey

    This a ratty old shed, with a serious lock. Makes me wonder what’s behind the plywood door.

  • Heather

    Forgotten in an abandoned house. The challenge is telling the story with only a portion of the whole, that gets the creative juices going! 🙂 Nikon D5200 ISO 100, f9, 220mm, 1/250

  • Barbara F Smith

    This image was taken with a Canon T5i camera, EF24-105 f/4 lens, focal length 24mm, f/16, 1/80 sec, ISO 400. I love intimate landscapes and usually use telephoto. I was surprised to discover I could make a minimalist image at 24mm, an angle of view I almost never use. It was the early morning sun that made this scene. When I returned to this spot at a later time, there was nothing to see – the magic was all gone.

  • Cynthia A. Taylor

    A young violinist practicing his craft in NYC’s Central Park. My Simplify image was shot with Canon 70D, Pancake Lens 40mm, f/4 1/125 sec ISO 400

  • Steph Pullen

    Took this photo during a cycle tour in Croatia this spring ’16. Took it with my Nikon D90. I am not great using it, but I fumble along and occasionally end up with a photo or two that I really love. While cycling I kept coming across masses of wild poppies. I stopped to try to get a unique poppy picture and as I climbed over the fence into the field noticed the snails. What a wonderful surprise – so I put the poppies in the background.
    24mm ISO1000 F16 1/800

    • Good job noticing the snails, they are certainly unique. If you have trouble with settings take a look at the ones you used and think about why you choose each? Why ISO 1000? Why f/16? Why 1/800th? Or did the camera pick those for you?

      ISO 1000 is pretty high for shooting in the bright sunlight, on a non-moving object. f/16 makes sense if you wanted the poppies more in focus in the background – was that your intention? 1/800th while that’s not a bad thing it’s faster than you need here and could be causing the ISO to go up. If you shot at 1/200th it would still be sharp (snails don’t move fast and you should be able to hand hold a 24mm lens at 1/200th) and ISO 250 instead. Do you see how they work? One goes up, the other goes down.

  • Solange Paquette
    I have always loved the hayfield behind our house: the textures, the movement the colors.. So simple but fascinating. My dog is not the real subject here, just an excuse to shoot that field again. I always tend to put too much in a picture in order to share the emotion of the subject. Thank you for reminding me that often, less tells more!
    Canon EOS T2i F/5 , 1/250sec, iso 100

    • SandraB

      I agree with you about the textures and movement, but feel the dog adds to the photo. I especially like that it’s just the dogs head in the shot. Beautiful photo, I like the simplicity of it!

      • Solange Paquette

        Thank you Sandra. You’re right of course. The black head looking towards the sun and breaking the sea of grass is an important if not essentail element . I am so glad you like this picture!

  • Terry Titmarsh

    Raining at last so a good time to catch the rain drops on the clothes line. The light was quite nice with the cloudy sky. Simplify? Well I did not want the whole clothes line, rather only a portion that hints at what it was but also show the hanging rain drops. Photographing in the rain made me appreciate even more that light can be right even when the sun is not shining. I used an 85mm prime lens, aperture f 8, shutter speed 1/100 second, ISO 200.

  • phil

    I was watching the sun set and really wanted to capture the vastness of the eastern Washington desert. I was looking at all the wind turbines thinking how I can I make them work in the photo? I decided to just focus on one of the turbines and follow the last rays of sun. This is the version that I like best.

    • Love the trails in the sky. The wind turbine is almost lost though, if I hadn’t read about it I may not have seen it. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a good example of simplify – it is. But the turbine isn’t the subject – the color is. Does that make sense?

  • phil

    Watching the garden and more specifically the the pole beans grow. I took a couple shots of the garden but none stood out. Then I decided to get closer. This is one of the images. I like how the photo speaks to growth.
    1/125 sec
    iso 1000

  • Lynne

    I was up at 4am to take pics of a mountain fire. After just packing up my tripod and walking to the car I turned and saw these hopeful looking flowers in the midst of devastation and they struck a cord in me. Taken on Canon 600d, 18-135mm lens. My settings were ISO800, 18mm, f3.5, 1/30sec – hand held with a deep breath – not the best option I know!

    • Carina Widdifield Le

      Love the message of hope.

      • Lynne

        Thanks Carina 🙂

    • So Lynne, 1/30th with an 18mm lens you can probably get away with. If you do that again zoom in on the image on your camera screen to full size (find the + button or magnifying glass button) if it looks blurry you can go to ISO 1600 and 1/60th. Still blurry? Go to ISO 3200 and 1/125th.

      • Lynne

        Thanks for the advice Darlene, I have to get over worrying about high ISO!

  • carol

    This was taken looking down from a mountain in Greece. I cropped adjusted the sat slightly, I loved the flowing lines of the of the land through the fog.

  • waynewerner

    I meant to shoot a bunch over the last few days, but I didn’t. So here are several to make up for that.

    These were all taken with my Canon T5 with 40mm f/2.8 STM. The trike shadow was taken at f/10 1/250s and ISO 100. The bike hub was f/5 and 1/250s. The golf ball and crushed megablock was 1/500s and f/5 and the basketball net/rim was f/5 and 1/320s.

    I learned a couple of things from this round:

    – Shooting things on a driveway with late afternoon sun will give them a very consistent quality. The trike, golf ball, and megablock are all very similar. The backdrop and lighting were held pretty constant, so really the only difference was the actual subject.

    I also thought that the slight color present in the golf ball pic detracted from the image so I desaturated it in post. And I bumped the contrast up to give it a more severe feel.

    I also re-discovered the fact that if you just look up you can capture some cool shots.

    When I was reviewing the images, I (re?)realized that even a simple picture can tell a larger story. Looking at the bike hub, you can see the dirt and grease that tells you this bike is not a showpiece. It’s *used*. The bolt has a little rust on it, which can tell you that it was left outside a few times, or at least it got a little wet. But you can also see that the spokes, frame, and paint are in good condition, so it does get *some* care. That also reminded me that you can sometimes tell a better story if you leave details out.

    • Great notices. Is it just me or does the shadow look like an upside down reindeer?

      • waynewerner

        I had to turn my computer upside down to see it, but yes, it does!

  • Dennis Geller

    One of a series on artist brushes (motivated at a great distance by the work of Abe Morell). ISO 100, Canon T6s with EF100 f/2.8 Macro lens, 1/30 second, f/5.6

  • Karen Boggs

    There are three following shots. This morning one of my coworkers said that deer had been spotted back behind our building. We rushed out to see, of course I had to grab my camera. I knew that there was a water lily I had seen, I was waiting for it to open up. It was after 8 am and too hot for the deer. I did capture these.
    The first one is the water lily. I didn’t do any post processing, not even cropping. I like it the way it was. All three are shot with a Pentax K3, all are ISO100.
    Water Lily exp 1/400s, f/5/8, focal length 300mm
    Dragon Fly 1 exp 1/320s, f5.8, focal length 300mm
    My favorite, Dragon Fly 2 1/500s, f/5.8, focal length 300mm. Some post processing (up’d the exposure and of course cropping). I KNOW that you need to move around and take shots from different angles. This shot really brought that home for me, as the previous shots are just more bland and this one has that artistic symmetry.

    • Sorry which is dragonfly 1 and which is 2? I’m assuming the one on the water with the reflection is #2?

      • Karen Boggs

        Yes you’re correct. It’s the one in the middle. I didn’t do a very good job of identifying. I later processed that one in B&W and I like that better.

  • carol

    Optumus Prime or Opie for short, a cat belonging to a friend of mine. Quite the face.

  • Lynne

    Looking up I loved the simple lines and the scene was reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”
    Canon 700d, ISO100, f16,1/160 sec

  • phil

    Another walk through the garden produced this image. The simple colors attracted me to this photo.

    Olympus Om d em 10 II
    12-40mm taken @40mm
    iso 1600

  • P James

    Sign in the rural area of Northern Alberta. The weathered sign and the small spiral of wire just caught my eye. Shot wide open at f2.8 to separate the background and draw you to the simplicity of the message. ISO 200, 1/800th, with a 200 mm lens on my Canon 6D.

  • Solange Paquette

    I have simplified the picture of that poppy by croping it, focussing on the nice details of the heart. I think the second image is much more interesting, thanks to that ”simplification”.
    I used the prime 50mm lens of my Canon T2i. F/2.5 1/4000 sec iso100

  • Nitish

    At tea shop, I saw this tungsten bulb hanging on the dry bamboo pole. I think this will be the best simplified composition with nice clean blue sky in background.
    Shooting data : Camera – canon 700D, Focal length – 55mm, Shutter speed – 1/200 sec, Aperture – f/9.0, ISO – 100.

  • Solange Paquette

    As it seems we can upload many pictures, here is this other one I took for the challenge : just the essential to show the bond between a man and his loving dog.
    canon EOS T2i , f/1.8, 1/2000sec, ISO100

    • SandraB

      You have absolutely captured the bond…love this photo!!

      • Solange Paquette

        Thank you so much Sandra.

  • Sidney Clark

    A foggy day at the beach with little to see… until these two men came along paddle boarding. I like the fact that they stand out against the faint outlines of several boats moored in the bay… the only visible signs of life in this picture, taken with my Sony A77/F8/ISO100/50mm at 1/750sec.

    • tjeerd

      Like this one a lot…. maybe would have framed the 2 men a bit more to the left…

  • Hedi Kunz-Kueper

    At the Half Moon Bay Beach I saw a lot of this very tiny Jelly fish like Velella Velella . I went down on my

    knees to get closer.
    I used the Sony A6000 16mm with f/8 1/640 sec ISO 100

  • Karl Boddenberg

    Cropped from one of the ‘Six Devas’ Buddhistic Statues praising and making offerings to the ‘Tian Tan Budda’ more commonly known as ‘The Big Budda’ Hong Kong.
    Sony SLT A77 f7 – 1/125sec – 18mm – Centre Weighted – enhanced

  • Dennis Geller

    We were sitting around just before dusk watching West Wing when I noticed the jewel-like light coming through the shade. I just had time to grab a camera and tripod before the light faded, 1/30, f/5.0 ISO 800, 39mm lens

  • Nina Cudjoe

    Cannon EOS 600D, f/6.3, 1/400 sec, ISO 320, 250 mm
    This time of the year the garden is a mass of blooms, it’s like they must make the best of the short time remaining before the heat and sun dries everything up. The early morning sun shon through this lilly, and I felt I must try to capture the scene.

  • Karen Boggs

    I decided to add one more photo. I took this Saturday morning, trying to work on lighting. When I first looked at what I had taken that day I didn’t care for most of them. It seems that happens often with me. Then when I look at them a couple of days later I really like at least a few. Taken with my Pentax K-3, 120mm, f11 at 1/25s ISO 800. I did some post processing in Elements 14. I didn’t crop this one and that is something I usually do. I did some tweaking in the camera raw mode. What I have learned is to take a second look.

  • Dana

    This beautiful moth was in the butterfly exhibit at Brookgreen Gardens Murrells Inlet, SC. It was so captivating! The interpreter told us these exquisite creatures only live 5 days and have no mouths. This gave me time to reflect on the important things in life, family and loved ones. Don’t take anything for granted because we aren’t promised tomorrow. And, of course, always live life to the fullest.
    I captured this photo on my iPhone 6s+.

  • Lynne

    While walking in a forest I took this pic of an unfurling silver fern frond – in NZ it’s called a Koru, a symbol of new life. Canon 700d, 18-135, ISO400,135mm, F5.6, 1/200sec

    • NICE! I’m familiar with the Koru, I have a few necklaces with that design bought at the Victoria market in downtown Auckland!

      • Lynne

        Thanks Darlene! How about an NZ photo trip one day soon 🙂

        • Would love to but unfortunately it’s pricey to travel there. Most people pick tours to places they wouldn’t travel to on their own, places with foreign languages, exotic. While there are a lot of Kiwi-isms, for the most part it’s still English 😉 and it’s not that hard to travel there. I do have a connection though if I want to build one.

  • SandraB

    I took both of these photos at “The Wharf.” This is one of my favorite places to take photos. It’s a park on the water in my hometown. I liked the original photo I took of the seagull but felt it could be better. There was a light pole that the gull was about to land on. I tweaked the photo, removing the light pole, changed it from a color to a black and white and added a slight vignette. Camera: Nikon D750, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600s, 300mm.
    The second photo is a water snake slithering across the algae bloom. It was a bright sunny day. I played with the lighting a bit. The photo is still a slightly bright with the reflection of the sun on the algae.
    Camera: Nikon D750, ISO 100, f/11.0, 1/100s, 300mm.

    • Sandra your bird show is amazing!!! Birds are really hard, you nailed that one!!

      • SandraB

        Thanks Darlene, I appreciate your kind words and feedback. I enjoy taking photos of birds…it is definitely a practice in patience!

  • SandraB

    The first photo was taken at Foxwell’s Point, it was a still day as seen in the water. I was taking photos of a heron on it’s nest when it stood and started to fly. I took several photos but liked this one the best. I like the simplicity, the reflection and the implied movement. I have not shared this photo elsewhere.
    Camera: Nikon D750, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/2000s, 300mm
    The second photo, a sunflower, was taken in my garden. It was a bright sunny day. The original photo was ok, but wasn’t focusing on the sunflower as I had hoped to capture. I decided to use a dark vignette’ing to draw the eye directly to the flower. I have not shared the photo elsewhere.
    Camera: Nikon D750, ISO 100, f/11.0, 1/125s, 300mm
    The third photo was taken at “The Wharf” this past winter. It was very cold as you can see by the ice on the buoy. I used ‘auto’ as my camera setting. I was pleased with the photo because of the simplicity of it and I captured the coldness of the day and got a great reflection. I have not shared this photo elsewhere.
    Camera: Nikon D750, ISO 200, f/8.0, 1/1000s, 300mm

    • P James

      I really like the Heron taking flight. Nice image.

      • SandraB

        Thanks James, I appreciate your comment! It is one of my favorites photos. It was a beautiful day and the water was like a sheet of glass, it was so still.

      • I agree, I really think birds is your forte!

    • tjeerd

      Yes, the heron is a fav!

      • SandraB

        Thanks tjeerd!

  • Tracey Giddens Glenn

    I have a few of thes maybe some pointers

    • The rocks and water is great. I’m not sure the little girl’s (?) story. She looks unhappy and seems to have waterwings on her arm like she was swimming.

      • Tracey Giddens Glenn

        yeah she had to get out of the pool because she was getting cold

  • Helen Pocock

    I’m fairly new to photography (as opposed to taking a few family snaps!) and I have a Panasonic Lumix TZ70, which is a mid range compact. I took this picture at a local show for Classic cars here in UK and thought this would qualify for this competition. Apparently it’s an Armstrong Siddeley car – but I was only there for the photo opportunity, not the cars!! I learned that getting in close makes for a much better picture so I only had to crop this slightly. Details are f5.2 1/250 19mm ISO 100

  • SandraB

    This is a lupine I took in my garden after it had rained. The original was taken in color, but I felt it wasn’t quite there, so I decided to convert it to a black and white. I have not shared this photo elsewhere.
    Camera: Nikon D750, ISO 100, f/11.0, 1/25s, 105mm

    • Solange Paquette

      Nice! The b&w works perfectly for me. Great composition!

      • SandraB

        Thanks Solange, I appreciate the feedback! The b&w added drama to the photo that wasn’t there with the color.

    • Is that the leaf of a lupine? Ours don’t look like that LOL. Great shot though.

      • SandraB

        I had to look at the photo I posted to make sure I had identified it correctly. It was a lupine…was being the key word. It was stunning when I purchased it. My sister informed me after I planted it they do not do well in this area and she was correct!! )-: Oh well, I got some great photos of it before it decided to “kick the bucket!”

        • They do great in our area. Where do you live?

          • SandraB

            Southern Maryland. I was disappointed that it “kicked the bucket” it is a beautiful plant. The leaves are as lovely as the flower!

  • Folake Abass

    Hello Darlene,

    Visiting a shrine in Japan recently, I noticed people washing their hands at a water fountain near the entrance. I watched as they picked up the ladles to wash their hands and I took a few pictures which were okay but didn’t really “speak” to me. The friend I was with was getting ready to wash her hands and just as she tilted the ladle, I got this shot. I’m very happy with this image and I love the fact that you can see the dripping water.
    This challenge was a great one as it gave me an opportunity to look closer and more critically at what I choose to photograph. By this I mean to focus more on what I see and in so doing, look at different ways to capture it. I’m sometimes too “trigger happy” and just want to take the shot without really looking at how else the scene can be captured. A great lesson learned.
    This image was taken with a Canon 50D, 100mm, ISO 3200, 1/125, f14

    Many thanks for all your great tutorials and challenges. I feel that I’m becoming a better photographer each time I pick up my camera.


  • Jon Andrew

    Good evening all.
    I usually shoot film, so this photograph is unusual for me. Chance had me bring my Canon 40D into Brisbane city. I wanted a simple photo of a lion water feature, shallow depth of field, uniform background. However as I was setting up my tripod, this Ibis arrived. The settings are, ISO 400, Aperture 5.6, shutter speed 1/250, focal length 100mm.
    Regards, John Andrew.

  • Rebecca Cullimore

    We were up in your neck of the woods Darlene and I went to shoot Waterton lakes at sunset with my brother, but we didn’t have the amazing colors we were hoping and I was disappointed until I remembered this challenge and decided to focus on “simplify”. The view was amazing and almost overwhelming of mountains and lakes so I got some decent shots of the whole view, but the ones I really like are the ones where I focused on one element. This picture got the most likes of all of them that I posted on Facebook. I was surprised, because there were some pretty mountain/water shots, but I think people have seen hundreds of pictures like that. This was a different take on the whole scene. This was shot at 70 mm, 250 ISO, 250 shutter, f/6.3, spot metering, Manual. Thanks for the challenge!

  • Helen Pocock

    In a harbour full of sailing boats and fishing boats in UK I found this lone rowing boat catching the early evening sun.
    Shot with Panasonic TZ70 ISO 125 length 191mm, f5.6 1/400

    • Lovely! I would have liked to see just a bit more of the reflection of the boat and a bit of space but otherwise really well done.

  • tony hoad

    taken at dawn in the Orange Free state, South Africa through a dirty window of a car being driven by my daughter and travelling at around 75 mph. Faster shutter and higher ISO would have been better, but the shot was only available for a few seconds, and I still fumble with my newish Olympus OM-D M1. I was taken by the splendid isolation and solitary windmill, which only seemed to accentuate the vast empty horizon and brilliant sunrise. M1 with Olympus 14 – 42 f/2.8 pro lens, f/8, 1/250, 14mm, ISO200

  • Jeff Holdgate

    I like this shot because it defines the area in which I live – mountainous with lots of cattle.

  • thatangela

    This is the first time I went out to intentionally shoot golden hour. I hit the same sunflower field at morning GH and evening GH to see the different effects. Now this may have worked better for last month’s macro challenge but I do love the simplicity of just the flower, the bee, the (amazing) light and the shadows. It reminded me that I don’t need to see all of the thousands of sunflowers, the sky and the barn to make an impactful photo (although I do have a couple of those that I like, too.

    Camera: Nikon D200
    Lens focal length: 70mm
    ISO: 100
    Aperture: 3.5
    Shutter speed: 1/400s

  • Jorge Myslinski Filho

    The purpose of this photograph was to obtain a minimalist image, highlighting a subject often neglected. I used a Nikon D5100 camera with micro-NIKKOR lens 55mm 1: 2.8 @ f: 2.8 35mm Eq:. 83mm.

  • crystal bloom

    This is my simple but elegant photo, it was taken in a butterfly house. The photo is of my grandson who is 9 months old and his first time of seeing butterflies. I took several photos of Alexander but this one tells a story, I have learned through these courses and reading articles that a good photo not only tells a story but shows emotion, and by slowing down , watching and waiting you can capture photos that do both. “Xander and the Butterfly” settings are ISO 400, f 7.1 ss 500 center metering 30mm (Nikon 3100). I have posted this on FB and a private group that I belong to and the comments were overwhelming.

  • Rob

    During a walk through a music store, I was looking for unusual photographs. Photographing in a music store attic was interesting as there was not much light and only from one window. I saw this bass scroll and thought the metal and wood made an interesting subject. I walked around the subject scroll for a while deciding on the best lighting. Shooting in a music store and finding new and different subjects can be a challenge. This particular store had an attic so full of old and dusty instruments that I hardly had walking around room. What I learned from this shoot was that even in crowded spaces, interesting subjects are possible to photograph – Just look around and use some imagination. I shot this image with a Sony NEX-7, using a Sony 50mm F:/1.9 lens. ISO set at 800. Exposure – 1/800 @ F:/2.0.

  • Rob

    I was on a walk in the forest and looking for subjects. A rain storm had just cleared the area. Then I spotted this leaf on the grass and I found the water drops very interesting. I learned that even in a forest full of trees, plants and vines, one can still find subjects for photographs, but one has to see as opposed to just looking. I took this photograph using a Pentax K20D, with a Tamron 70-300mm zoom lens set at 160mm. The ISO was 200 and the exposure was 1/350th @ f:/5.6 aperture priority.

  • Rob Keane

    Nikon D40
    35MM (DX) 1.8 lens
    ISO 400

    What I learned about this one is that you need to keep shooting! I was so close, and shooting at 1.8, there was virtually no depth of field. Out of about 30 shots, I think two had the drop in focus!

    • Yes that’s why macro shooters are usually using like f/16 or focus stacking

  • tony hoad

    try this one more time – last post image not displayed

    taken at dawn in the Orange Free state, South Africa through a dirty window of a car being driven by my daughter and travelling at around 75 mph. Faster shutter and higher ISO would have been better, but the shot was only available for a few seconds, and I still fumble with my newish Olympus OM-D M1. I was taken by the splendid isolation and solitary windmill, which only seemed to accentuate the vast empty horizon and brilliant sunrise. M1 with Olympus 14 – 42 f/2.8 pro lens, f/8, 1/250, 14mm, ISO200

  • tony hoad

    taken just after sunset in Kip Cambodia – it was hot! I found the simple pleasure of a woman and her child in the water very moving and helped get things into perspective. Taken with an Olympus M1, hand held, 14 – 150mm Olympus lens at full stretch (300mm equivalent 35mm) f/9, 1/800, ISO 200 – straight from the camera, no PP except to resize below 2MB

  • Jeff Barrons

    Taken at Baker Lake, Washington. ISO 200, 31 mm, f/7.1, 1/250 with an Olympus EPL-5

    I have to admit I am more in the composing of the photo than the fine tuning, but I would like to learn more and then find the patience to do the subtle tweaks that will improve my photos.

  • thatangela

    This is the first time I went out to intentionally shoot golden hour. I hit the same sunflower field at morning GH and evening GH to see the different effects. Now this may have worked better for last month’s macro challenge but I do love the simplicity of just the flower, the bee, the (amazing) light and the shadows. It reminded me that I don’t need to see all of the thousands of sunflowers, the sky and the barn to make an impactful photo (although I do have a couple of those that I like, too.

    Camera: Nikon D200
    Lens focal length: 70mm
    ISO: 100
    Aperture: 3.5
    Shutter speed: 1/400s

    • What did you learn about the light at those times of day? Another thing to consider is subject placement and composition. Get that little guy off-center a bit to add interest.

      • thatangela

        AUUUGHHH! RULE OF THIRDS … I feel like a huge failure. 😉

        Golden hour? I couldn’t believe the richness of the color. There’s yellow and then there’s golden hour yellow. It has such a rich, warm glow to it.

    • In my opinion, this cropping makes it WAY stronger! Do you agree?

  • Judy Williams Ward

    I believe this is Teasel, and is considered a weed here in northern Utah. But despite it’s lowly status, I think it has a certain graceful beauty and simplicity. I really liked the way the color and spines of the plant were accented in the morning light. [Pentax K-50, 300 mm, ISO 640, f/9.0, 1/400. TAv, auto ISO]

  • Debabrata Mahapatra This image of my puppy “Elsa” was taken by iPhone 6 f/2.2/1/15sec, focal length 4.15 in my living room close to a window for natural light. For simplicity, I focussed on her face trying to bring out the innocence and curiosity in her eyes. She was about 10 wks old at the time this image was taken, still adapting to her new home. She had been with us for less than a week. I own a SLR but didn’t have it handy at the time so decided to try my cell phone. Not the best but I could at-least capture the moment. I haven’t shared it elsewhere.

  • Mary F

    Hi! Here is an image I took at my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration last month. It’s a photo of one of the favors that was on the table. This was a really small favor box with candy inside. I shot a little differently than normal as I got closer to the box (my subject) to really try to isolate it from the other clutter on the table. What I learned was that this really gave the box attention and showed more of the detail on the box. I believe it also made the small little favor seem more impressive, if you will. I used my Canon 5D Mark 3 to shoot this. I zoomed in more with my feet rather than the lens. Settings were: 55mm, 1/80 sec at f/5.0, ISO 500. I have not shared on line, but I know my parents will appreciate it! My mom loved these boxes!

  • Carina Widdifield Le Shot this on a magical vacation with my little point-and-shoot 14mm F4.5

    • SandraB

      I love the composition….very nice!!

      • Carina Widdifield Le

        Thanks, Sandra!

  • Rob

    Posted two photos to this site on 14 July and do not see them – so here they are again..

  • Rob I was walking thru a forest right after a rain storm and thinking there was not much to inspire me – then I looked down at my feet – simple enuff – shot with a Pentax K20d using a Tamron 50-200mm zoom lens – focal length 160mm – Exposure was 1/350 @ f:/5.6 – ISO set at 200. I learned that sometimes great subjects are right at my feet. I just have to look around to see them.

  • Rob

    This is the second photo that I attempted to post..
    While looking for photographic subject matter, I was walking through the attic of a local music store. This was a very crowded and dusty affair. There was much to shoot, but most had very busy backgrounds. So, I kept moving around the attic and as I neared the window, I spied a table and here was this great bass scroll. Shot with a Sony NEX-7 – an 1/80 @ f:/2.0 ISO 800 – focal length of lens 50mm. I learned that even in tight situations, photos can be found with a little patience and moving around.

  • Rob
    • They are posting every time. I think maybe it just take a little while before you see them. But I see all 3 of your posts, with both images.

  • The contest is now closed. I’ll leave the thread open for comments but the winner is being chosen and will be posted next week in the next challenge.

  • JoyBoots
  • Russell Rusty Smith
  • Russell Rusty Smith
  • Russell Rusty Smith

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