Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise
Prairie Sunrise

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dynamic Mood

What makes the photographs produced by the pro’s different…what sets them apart from everyone else?  Over the years as I have attempted to elevate my photography to new levels, those are questions I have continually asked myself.  What is it about their photograph’s that makes them better than mine?  At first thought the answer to that question might seem obvious…well, maybe not so much.  There has to be a reason(s). 

Overall, you can discount things like subject matter or equipment…although those are important elements they are more objective in nature and tend to be dictated by the photographer’s interest and pocketbook. What I’m looking for are the things that separate amazing from ordinary…one that elicits a second and third look from an image you normally would pass by.  What is it that catches you the viewer’s eye when a photograph catches your imagination?

Volumes could be written about that concept, but when all the rhetoric has cleared, the one thing that remains, and consistently separates the amazing from the ordinary, is how the photographer uses light.  Think about some of those amazing images you’ve seen in magazines or on websites and ask yourself…what was it that caught my attention?  I’d bet most of the time it was what I like to call ‘Dynamic Mood’

Dynamic Mood is difficult to define…what it is not, most of the time… is big and bright…bold and powerful…although not always just limited to those.  Certainly a bold and bright image will catch your attention and can provide Dynamic Mood, the trick is to create one in an unusual way that doesn’t resemble the thousands of other big and bold images you’ve already seen…in other words…avoid the cliché.

Dynamic Mood means to present the familiar in unfamiliar ways…something that subtly looks like what you’ve seen before, but doesn’t mimic or copy what has already been done.  This offers wide variations of interpretation and is open to the photographer’s intuition.  The key ingredient in an image that demonstrates Dynamic Mood is how light is used to emphasize what is important.  Secondarily, composition also comes into play…both light and composition work together to introduce the viewer to a dynamic portrayal of what the photographer saw.  In some cases it can be quite realistic…in other cases it may have a very abstract nature about it.  Both are equally effective.

So how do we accomplish this?  Sometimes luck plays a roll…most of the time it is the photographer’s ability to recognize the potential of any given lighting condition and then arrange the composition by effective placement of the camera and lens selection.  Exposure is critical, as is effective post processing, to bring out the potential of what the photographer saw.  Being able to see photographically extends the photographer’s mind past the realm of seeing the obvious and into the realm of seeing and recognizing the extraordinary.  It is a learning process that has no ultimate end…you never fully arrive at a graduation day where you can say…I’ve got it…it’s more of a curve that continues upward but with each degree of climb, the more comfortable you become in understanding how to recognize then capture the content.

It’s looking beyond the obvious, and effectively using the qualities of the equipment you possess.  It is understanding that all lighting conditions are subject to Dynamic Mood. It’s just that certain types of light more readily define the concept.  Dark moody light, soft subtle light, direct warm light, hard cool light, light that flows thru and not on, light that blends shadows, light that defines direction, light that pushes the senses, light that stirs the emotions…these are all effective Dynamic Mood generators.

So , next time you are thumbing through a nature magazine and come across an image that causes you to pause for a second look…instead of simply looking at it…try to define in your mind what the photographer saw and how he captured the image.  Ask yourself, why was this moment important enough for the photographer to capture its flavor?

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