Updated: Jul 23, 2019
This article is a continuation of a series on conveying mood and feeling with photography. If you've missed the earlier posts, you can find the introduction here and a more detailed discussion of communicating different moods in a comparison here.
Today I'm going to talk you through the thought process behind the first of the comparison images, Stillness. I'll start with some general tips, and then discuss the specifics of the photo.
Woodland photography is one of the most challenging forms of landscape photography you can undertake. Trying to find a subject that stands out in an environment that is so visually dense is difficult.
You can't see the wood for the trees, in photography often becomes, You can't see the tree for the woods.
This difficulty means you have to be very purposeful in looking for a subject. You need to find something that breaks the pattern of vertical lines to draw the eye. That subject then needs a complementary scene to create context in a visually effective way.
With this image, the composition is about as complex as it's possible to be without becoming confused. This kind of photo requires very precise framing to be effective. There needs to be some visual clarity within the chaos.
Before settling on a composition, though, you need to first determine the premise of the photograph. Here I wanted to communicate the peaceful nature of the scene as it presented itself. In this case the air was still and the sky was uniformly cloudy. Both these elements work for the desired mood of the photo. The still air meant nothing was moving in the shot, so no feeling of turbulence. The cloudy sky meant that there was little contrast between shadow and highlights.
With the general atmosphere taken care of, I could then turn back to composition. The curved form of the smaller tree gives the visual difference to stimulate the eye when compared to the vertical forms. I then created the feeling of seclusion by giving the tree some foreground space and framing the right edge with a strong vertical.
The composition is then softened using the curve of the water line, the warm Autumn colours, and the green fern bottom-left.
As I discussed in my previous post, the photo is deliberately ambiguous. You may well feel a sense of serenity from the secluded scene and warm tones. However you may just as easily feel more attuned to the dying back of nature as Winter nears.
For those of you considering how to consciously think of mood when creating your images, consider how this image would change on a bright Summer day. How about during a storm, or in the hours just before sunset?
Next time in this series: A closer look at Disturbance.