• Andy’s E-BOOK — Photography Travel Guides


    All Images and writing on this blog are copyrighted by Andy Richards. All rights are reserved. You may not, without my express, written permission, download, right click, or otherwise copy my images for any reason. Copying an image and putting it on your blog, website, or even as a screensaver on your computer is a breach of copyright, EVEN IF YOU ATTRIBUTE THE SOURCE! Please do not do so.
  • On This Blog:

  • Categories

  • Andy’s Photography Galleries

    Click Here To See My Gallery of Photographic Images

    LightCentric Photography

  • Andy's Flickr Photos

  • Prior Posts

  • Posts By Date

    April 2019
    M T W T F S S
    « Jan    
  • Advertisements

Do Your Photographs Evoke Emotion?

The colorful rocks, colorful reflections and the water and the graphic elements in this image created a visceral or emotional reaction to me - enough to compose it and click the shutter! Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

It’s just emotion that’s taking me over.” This short lyrical riff from the 70’s era Samantha Sang song, Emotion,” (written and performed by the Gibbs brothers – the Bee Gees) might just be a good photographic theme (just to assure those of you might be worried, no, I was not/am not a Disco fan – but you have to admit, some of the music had rhythm and melody that was just – well, catchy πŸ™‚ ).

A recent photo contest statement illustrates the sentiment. The art director for the sponsor noted that what he was looking for was images that would evoke an emotional response. That got me thinking about whether my images evoke any emotional response, and if so, could I articulate it? Looking through some of my images, I asked myself, do they evoke an emotion? And if I thought the answer was yes, how could I articulate the emotion? Did they make me sad, happy, angry, excited, euphoric or depressed? Almost universally, I could not label any of my images with those traditional emotional responses. So what, exactly does it mean to have an “emotional response” to an image?

That got me thinking about whether my images evoke any emotional response, and if so, could I articulate it?

My conclusions are equivocal. On a purely empirical level, I suppose it can be said that every photograph evokes some emotion. We often see and hear comments like, “nice,” “beautiful,” “awesome,” “great composition,” “well – seen,” and the like. Less often, it may be “ho-hum,” or “yuck, that’s awful,”(though I suspect these latter comments are more often thought than heard or seen πŸ™‚ ).

Photography is all about light. I have always been drawn to moving water and those slow-exposures that create a silky effect to it. But here, the "angel hair" texture to the water with the sunlight and shadow dappling it created an emotional reaction as I looked through the viewfinder: "I like it."
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Recently, I read a statement by a photographer who said we as photographers often put too much emphasis on our work being liked or accepted by other photographers. It was a statement that resonated with me. While I welcome constructive critique, it is not the “camera club” photo contests and observance of “rules of photography” that is a motivating factor for my images. I want my images have impact generally to viewers who aren’t looking at it as photographers and artists, but just looking at it as an observer.

An image with impact should create an emotional, even perhaps visceral reaction

As I stood on a roadside above, with the October wind buffeting me, all I could think of was the vastness of this rugged, wild countryside. While "vast" is not an emotion, my reaction to it was certainly visceral.
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Emotion” is perhaps not the precisely correct word for this phenomenon. An image with impact should create an emotional, even perhaps visceral reaction in the viewer. It needs to strike a chord that makes them keep coming back to it and keep looking at it (and in the economic sense, it has to create a feeling with that viewer that they want to have it hanging on their wall, day after day).

And if not, is the image worth making?

This kaleidoscope of color, sky, reflection and fog/steam in the very cold October dawn in Vermont created a number of emotional and visceral feelings in me (not the least of which was cold!)
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

As I thought about this, I wondered how reach that emotional “chord” in people? And as I thought more, a plausible answer came to me. Does the image cause a visceral or emotional response in me? If so, there is a pretty good chance it will create that response in the viewer. And if not, is the image worth making?

Thanks for reading



Reflections; Cascade River, Minnesota

Water is one of my favorite photographic subjects. Water is essential to the world we inhabit, and the one we photograph. Water covers nearly 80 percent of the Earth’s surface. So it is not surprising that water is often an obvious part of the images we capture. But there are also some very subtle ways in which water occurs photographically.

There is almost always a connection with photographic images and water

There is almost always an indirect connection with photographic images and water. Water is used in many industrial applications for heating and cooling, as a solvent and cleaning agent. Indeed, water has been referred to as “the universal solvent.” Water is also an essential nutrient for humans and most other animals, as well as the majority of plant life. Thus, whenever we photograph wildlife, people or flora, it is likely that water has played a part. Water is often the basis for recreational activity, including swimming, boating, canoeing and kayaking. And what about skiing and snowshoeing? Even when water is not a primary element, there is still an indirect connection. For example, photographs of desert sands and other arid environments signal to us the lack of water.

The water droplets on this daylily add photographic interest and suggest the healthy growth of plant life following a fresh spring rain.

Photographically (and scientifically) water takes on 3 forms, each of which present unique and inviting photographic opportunities. Water in its liquid form is perhaps what first comes to mind. As such it is probably the most often found reflective surface for reflection images. I routinely look for ponds, rivers, pools, fountains and even puddles for reflections, either as an image in and of itself, or as a foreground object of interest.

Fountain in front of Texas State Capitol, Austin, Texas

Water in motion is equally captivating, in my view. One of my favorite subjects is waterfalls. Whether a steep, powerful cascade, or swirling rapids, moving water can present some intriguing compositions. We use shutter speed to control the “look” of the water. There is something beguiling about silky, dreamy, flowing water blurred by slow shutter speeds of 1/15 second or longer. Use of neutral density filters in front of the lens can achieve even slower shutter speeds, further blurring the movement of water, or controlling light conditions to produce the slow effect. Moving water can also contain swirling reflections; a double benefit in my view.

Mad River, the namesake for "Mad River Canoe," is really just a small stream, not navigable by canoe. However, this part of the river contains several series of dramatic drops and riffels, making is a wonderland for photographic images

Other times, the photographer may wish to do exactly the opposite, using very fast shutter speeds to “freeze” the powerful or whimsical motion of moving water. Thundering waterfalls or high, splashing waves are sometimes exciting subjects. I used a fast shutter speed and a burst of exposures to capture this crashing wave on the rocky shoreline of Acadia National Park.

Atlantic Ocean surf, Bar Harbor, Maine

Light is clearly the secret to compelling images. Nothing reflects and shows light at its best like water, especially if it is moving.

Bartlett Falls, Bristol, Vermont: Getting a "just right" shutter speed in difficult, but dramatic lighting conditions makes this image unique

Water takes another fascinating form as a gas. Clouds, ground fog, and steam rising off water surfaces are all mesmeric elements in photographic art. These conditions come with a combination of elements. Generally, a rapid change in temperature, preceded by extremely moist circumstances, creates fog or steam. I look for a cool, clear morning following a particularly rainy period, for example, to create these conditions. Also, a precipitous change in temperature will create fog. When in Vermont in October, 2010, I followed the remnants of a tropical Hurricane which dumped several inches of rain on the state. Cool morning temperatures created wonderful ground fog conditions every morning.

Cool early morning temperatures following a heavy rainfall created magical atmospheric conditions for this image

Foggy conditions and clouds filter sunlight and often create vivid coloration in skies. Changes in weather conditions will often yield some of the most dramatic skies one can imagine.

Cool (32 degree) temperatures following a very wet period created wonderful steam and colorful morning cloud conditions on this pond near Barton, Vermont

In its frozen form, water has great photographic possibilities. The obvious is snow. However, ice, icebergs, flow ice and icicles all can be entrancing. And frozen water can even make dirt look interesting!

Margerie Glacier, Glacier National Park, Alaska

Thanks for reading………