Do you ever look at someone else’s photograph that really stirs something in you and wonder how they did that? Do those images make you feel that you are missing out on some talent or secret information? Do you want to explore and show a little piece of yourself to the world through your art? Is your goal to create images that look like a scene straight from a fairy tale – mysterious, as if seen through a veil of fog, dreamy, unreal?
The key to all is to look at the world in a painterly way, and you can achieve it by painting with light.
The sun’s light illuminates and embellishes the shapes, textures and forms of the world around us in myriad different ways, some so subtle we barely notice them, others so bold that the results are too harsh to even look at. Once you start to study an object or your surroundings with an artistic eye, you notice many subtleties you were unaware of.
In addition to revealing a subject or setting in an exciting light, a magical photograph captures the emotional climate or mood of the moment. To achieve this, the impressionist photographer only suggests rather than fully describes the subject, causing the viewer to engage in thought, memory and interpretation of the subject and mood.
Mood is a funny thing. You can’t reach out and touch it like a texture or see it like colour. And it isn’t something that you can easily describe, like depth of field. Mood is a state of mind, an emotional response to what you see, hear or experience.
If you want to capture the mood, let your own emotions guide you, so the images you take reflect how you were feeling at the time. Being able to capture what you feel about the subject matter is very important. Conveying the right mood and impact in a photograph depends greatly on knowledge of light and colour.
I always spend some time just looking at the subject and assessing how I want to interpret it and how light and various colours will help in this respect. Different light effects create different atmospheres and moods. The quality of light has immense emotional power simply because it dictates the physical appearance of everything we photograph.
Capturing the many moods of natural light requires that you are able to anticipate when the most beautiful and dramatic moments will occur and that you will be prepared both technically and emotionally. The light never illuminates the world the same way twice, and it constantly repaints the world with an ever-changing and unpredictable palette of colour, moods and emotions. Many factors can enhance a scene’s emotional charge, and exposure isn’t always a dominating factor. Still, it can play a significant role in intensifying the mood with certain subjects. Knowing how and when to tweak the exposure to help convey mood is very important.
Creating atmosphere and mood isn’t just attempting to capture a sense of drama. It can be a sense of peace and tranquillity. It is what stirs our emotions and provides us with a sense of excitement, contentment, fascination or awe.
Your role as an artist is to capture that particular moment in time using the technique and tools at your disposal.