On Old Fashioned Cameras There Was An Automatic Shutter Setting Creating Mood in Photography

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Creating Mood in Photography

I look through the screen, and a feeling comes over me. I know the setting is right, and the image flows with emotion. There is something about what I see that has an effect that I know will be well received when others and I look at the resulting image. Every time I press the shutter button this magic doesn’t happen.

The meaning of capturing the feeling of what is in front of you can be subjective, changing from one photographer to another. For me it’s all about the feeling of being there, to draw the viewer into the picture to feel like I was there when I took the picture. When you experience these feelings while taking a photo, you know that the viewer will be looking at the photo as well.

Just as a person can have different emotions, so can a picture. Or it can experience a feeling of intense activity, loneliness, calmness, or danger. In my opinion, the feeling in a photograph leads to relaxation and such feelings that the viewer wants to walk right into the picture and sit there for a while.

What is mood and what elements are needed to create it so that whoever looks at your photo can go into the scene and feel it? Different elements can be used to create a sense of emotion in a space. One of the most common things to include in a photo is fog. A thick fog can add so much to a photo that when people look at the photo, they know exactly what the experience was like when the photo was taken. Drama enhanced by fog can be achieved in a number of ways:

Climbing over the fog on a ridge or mountaintop allows a clear view of the area with fog hidden in a mountain range or along a river. Even if the river is not visible, the mist that fills the area draws the viewer’s eye – perhaps even more than the river itself.

Wildlife in the mist can add an air of mystery to anything the animal does, even if it’s just walking across a field or sitting on a nest. A lone animal in the fog can appear lonelier than it actually is due to a sense of isolation.

Other subjects that work very well in fog are bridges and old trees. When the fog is nice around a group of trees, seeing an isolated tree that stands out from the others in the area creates a very strong image. One of the top prints by Ansel Adams is an oak tree shrouded in fog with a low sun shining from behind. For this type of shot, the thicker the fog, the better, as it helps blur everything else in the scene and puts all the emphasis on the main subject.

Measuring fog can increase or decrease the effectiveness of the shot. If you’re above the fog and it’s white, treat it as snow and open it up to a stop to balance the color. If you’re shooting in fog, you can shoot as low as -2/3rds of a stop to darken the overall image and bring out the fog even more or go +1/3rd to lighten it up a bit. Take several shots of each look to achieve the exact feel you want in your shot. However, don’t rely on your digital LCD screen to review the image, as it tends to make things slightly brighter.

Oftentimes, you hear advice to overexpose a fog shot, as fog tends to be lighter than a clear day. While this is true, sometimes you may want to show a different effect. This is where bracketing comes in. Do a lot of shots on the positive side, but don’t think that underexposure is out of the question, because here it can deepen the feeling a bit. While the LCD may not provide the best view of your image, the histogram can be useful for showing if your lights are blowing.

Fog helps separate your subject from any interesting elements that may be in the area – such as a cluttered background. There’s really only one option when you wake up to a foggy morning, and that’s not to roll over and not get a little extra sleep. Grab your gear and run to find something to shoot before the fog clears.

Another natural element that can be great for putting an audience on your side is storm clouds. The darker, more ominous and dangerous the sky, the more drama and mood you’ll see in the resulting scenes. An average dark day won’t work here; there must be a big storm. Like fog, using exposure compensation on the minus side will make the clouds look darker than they actually were when you were there. To reduce the effect, go to the plus side, bracket again to get the exact feeling you want to convey.

When storm clouds form, the effect is magnified if the storm is on the opposite horizon of the sun. You may not get the greatest shots when the sun is hidden, but if the sun shines through the overhead storm clouds to illuminate your foreground subject, then a very dramatic image results. A strong foreground is almost a must for photos with storm clouds. While the cloud can be the main theme, without anything else in the frame, there is no counter theme.

If the sun is at the right angle, about 45 degrees above the horizon, you might even be treated to the added bonus of rain. While you never want to be too far from your vehicle when a storm approaches—especially if it’s accompanied by lightning, it may be worth taking the risk when everything comes together.

While fog can create a warm and calming effect, snow can do the opposite. Different snow settings can create different moods in a photo, depending on how the overall scene is portrayed. A tree covered in snow can freeze the viewer. A wide field of snow and frost on the trees can present a different situation.

Finding the right setting for a snow scene can be difficult if you want to bring the viewer into the moment you hit the shutter button. On the contrary, it helps. The combination of a good blue sky and white snow can pull anything together. Mixing a snow scene with mist or fog can help. While fog is more common in spring and fall when the temperature of the ground and air are different, you can also encounter fog in winter. Along with fog and snow, you have two elements that work together to create the mood.

Aside from using air plants, shooting any single subject standing in a large area will create an instant feeling of isolation in almost anyone. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, but the smaller it is in the scene, the more isolated and lonely it feels.

Another topic that has an automatic effect is running water. A few years ago, small artificial fountains that were placed in your house or yard were very popular, because they were supposed to have a calming effect. The sounds of a waterfall or waterfall can attract people to sit and listen for long periods of time. Likewise, images of crashing waves, a peaceful river, or a peaceful waterfall recall the sounds of water and have similar effects.

When you run water, a long projection is usually used to create a smooth and gentle flow of water. While this effect is cool, the fast sweep speed can create a sense of power as waves crash into rocks or send a cascade of spray debris onto the rocks below. Don’t feel limited because your water jets are mostly one-sided. If you try a slow shutter speed for the waves crashing on the rocks, your photo may look more interesting than one that captures the effect of the waves.

What makes a bone sensation in one person may not work the same way in another. The same can be said when you ask many people what they feel when looking at a given image. You may get as many different answers as the number of people you ask. Whatever it is, do what you can to try to entice the audience to feel like they are there and can feel what the photo shoot was like.

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