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Old 12-28-2007, 04:37 PM
rgarrigus rgarrigus is offline
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Default Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

Fellow TE members,

It seems that all great landscape photographs share three characteristics:

1) good light
2) compelling composition
3) emotional content

I find the first two fairly clear but the third is probably the hardest and least accomplished. It seems to me that conveying emotion is more straight-forward in portraiture and becomes much more challenging when you aim the aperture at rocks, sand, clouds and water. Atmospheric conditions like mist, fog, motion-blur and contre-jour lighting can lend emotion to an image as can color but I'm wondering how I might do better to pursue emotion rather than capture it as an incidental to the scene I find before me. I really want my images to express more emotion vice simply documenting a beautiful scene.

How do you seek out and capture emotional content in your landscape images?

Bob G.
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Old 12-28-2007, 06:08 PM
stevesieren stevesieren is offline
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Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

Hey Bob,

That's a good question that I've also wondered myself. I don't have an answer but here are a few thoughts. As a landscape photographer you can spend much of your time and effort just getting to a place that can be less rewarding than something you shot earlier at the road's edge. After you put that effort and time spent aside the beautiful scene at its peak moment has the chance to capture you and your heart full of emotion instead of you capturing it. Natural beauty has a power of its own to stop you in your tracks.

I wish I could go into better detail but I'm short on time and I'm a bad writer.

-Steve Sieren
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Old 12-28-2007, 06:43 PM
Dpbours Dpbours is offline
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Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

Oeh, that is a difficult one.

I guess it has to do with a lot of factors. I'll just sum some up that come to mind;

- The layout you choose, vertical or horizontal impacts the emotion. To me, horizontal gives often overwhelming wide landscapes where vertical is more intimate;

- People, animals, something alive or the idea/evidence that there was something alive. Not really always necessary, but it adds something we as humans related to easier than to a tree. And it's a bit more dynamic than a tree;

- And following the idea of people, or the idea they were there; Manufactured landscapes - menscapes work for me as well. Burtynsky is a very pleasant example of emotion landscape photography of this type;

- Contrasting points. Soft sky, contrasty rocky landscape. Heavy clouds, softly ripple lake. Or contrast in colours. Blue sky, red rocks. Yellow fields in evening red. Etc;

- Light evokes emotions. The mist you already pointed out, heavy clouds, deep shadows. Bit of the gloomy end of the world feel you find in Adams or Rowell B/W;

- Low points of view sometimes work. A sharp little detail in the foreground does the trick as well. Though it starts to become a bit easy to just take that rock with moss into the photograph. Though it works;

And most important; If you don't feel an emotion when absorbing a landscape, there won't be that much emotion in your capture. Since you don't feel it, you won't know how to transfer it to others.
I sometimes have it that I can look at a place and feel nothing. What helps is to talk to people. People who live there, people who pass by, people who have a story to tall about the landscape or an emotion to share.

Well, just some things that popped to mind. But again, the most important is that you feel emotion to transfer it to others through your photography.

Greetz, Dennis
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Old 12-28-2007, 09:56 PM
mossphoto mossphoto is offline
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Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography


Dennis has the best point, and one I was going to make the same point, he just beat me to it.

He states, "And most important; If you don't feel an emotion when absorbing a landscape, there won't be that much emotion in your capture. Since you don't feel it, you won't know how to transfer it to others."

I would like to take that statement one step further. All you can do it capture the emotion you feel. You can't impose that same emotion on others. Maybe convey would be a better word than impose, but you get my idea.

For my landscape stuff, I love to use B&W Infrared film. I feel this film gives incredible emotion to the subjects I photograph for this series I work on. However, it isn't the film for everyone. A lot of people don't like the effect. I prefer to work in nothing else, but not many galleries will show it.

Don't take anything personal if you feel someone doesn't "get" you photograph that takes your breath away when you show it.

Just my two cents worth...

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Old 12-29-2007, 06:52 PM
oochappan oochappan is offline
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Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

If you don't feel an emotion

I think this goes for every photo, if you don't feel it, you won't be able to frame it in a creative way neither.

another thought:
think back at a landscape that still comes to your mind for the unique experience you had ... you edited the photo before ? Try to edit again now that your emotions of that moment has grown in to your mind, you will edit it totally different , maybe also a way to include more emotions in a scene.
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Old 12-29-2007, 07:19 PM
alainh alainh is offline
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Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

hello Bob

i try to answer with my poor eglish

No paticular secret. for me, the sky is the principal parameter. i like the hungry cloudy sky, and the extreme lights. for me light is emotion. 10 minutes soon and 10 minutes in the evening make 60% of my shots. and i like copose with small human elements in my mountains pictures.

nothing difficult but i like.
nice end of year Bob
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Old 12-30-2007, 12:43 AM
rushfan2112 rushfan2112 is offline
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Posts: 460
Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

Bob, that's a very interesting and (as far as I'm concerned) topical question. I've been asking myself this same question over and over again of late.

I can see where you're going with your comments but can I perhaps slightly re-position some of the issues you've raised from my standpoint?

I believe 'appropriate' lighting is perhaps nearer the mark. There have been times (and today's visit to Hampshire and Dorset is a good example) where I had loads of unexpected sunshine but desperately wanted a bit of shade to take some of the 'sting' out of the contrast - to allow some detail into the shadows and to not burn out the highlights.

Compelling composition is absolutely essential, I agree. We could debate ad-nauseum the merits and de-merits of the 'rule of thirds' and other such conventions but if it looks right, hit the shutter release! Are there really 'rules' or just good 'guidelines'?

Emotional content is about connection with where you are. I love the drama of a stormy day and the power of the wind and the sea. But I really struggle with land that man has manipulated; battered into submission; taken the life out of.

I much prefer wild, open spaces and wilderness that conveys a 'hands off' message to visitors and that tells us we can't control it. Perhaps this is why I get so frustrated taking photos in the county where I live and need to go miles away to find something that hasn't got mans thumbprint stamped all over it.

I suppose what I'm saying is that if we don't have a connection at some level with the subject matter, the best we can do is take a good, competent 'record shot'. For TE's purposes, that is generally sufficient. Like you and countless members, however, I strive to take the best shot I can in the circumstances.

Few of us are blessed with endless time and unlimited finances to allow us to spend as much time doing what we want to do. So, for me, it's about making the best use of the time and resources available. Have a plan.

Know roughly what you're going to do and follow it throungh. The shots of mine I've enjoyed taking and spend time re-visiting are, generally speaking, the ones where I executed a plan and got the results I was expecting. None of them are masterpieces. They don't have to be. I just connect with them more than I do with others I've taken.

Sorry to ramble on.

Best wishes to everyone for 2008.

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Old 12-31-2007, 01:49 AM
euryan euryan is offline
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Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

That's a good question Bob. I have been struggling with this same issue for months. For me itís the desire to have more meaning in my photographs, not just a pretty picture. Like you mention, good light, and a compelling composition will give you a nice postcard, but will it convey emotion?

Looking back at my landscapes I see very few that go beyond good light, and compelling composition. Capturing that third characteristic is hard. At least for me it is. It requires time, determination, and some luck. I have found that the more time I spend photographing a subject the more I am able to go beyond the normal "postcard" photos and find something unique that perhaps conveys more emotion.

I have to really stop and think about what I find unique or interesting about a scene, then figure out how to capture it. This is where Dennis's list comes into play I guess. He does a good job listing some ways of capturing the uniqueness of scene, and perhaps conveying emotion. But truly meaningful landscapes, not just beautiful images, are very rare. I used to feel like Paul. I didn't want the hand of man to show in any of my landscapes, but I've found that showing the hand of man can usually lead to far more emotional photos. One extreme example: I was photographing a famous landscape location once when I noticed someone had thrown their beer can on the ground. I decided to use it as an element in my foreground. That photograph will certainly never be hung on someoneís wall, or used as postcard, but the emotional content was strong, and for me it was a more meaningful photograph.

I don't think I have really answered your question. It is a hard one. I've been frustrated with my own ability to capture meaningful landscapes, which is why I've been experimenting with other forms of photography lately. If you find an answer to your question though, let me know ;-)
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Old 12-31-2007, 10:07 AM
rushfan2112 rushfan2112 is offline
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Posts: 460
Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

Hi Ryan.

You make a good point. One's motivation is a huge factor. My desire is, largely, to show a landscape with as little clutter and debris in it as possible. You can't imagine how much I hate electricity pylons, aircraft vapour trails and walkers who can't be bothered to take their cr*p home with them. I've been known to spend half an hour removing discarded cans and bottles from a scene before taking a photo (I'd rather do that than mess around with Photoshop after the event!).

However, does it matter? Am I 'telling lies' by doing this or should I just make the social statement that we have less and less respect for our planet and each others' enjoyment of it.

Is the rage and frustration people might feel seeing a littered beauty spot a stronger or more valid emotion than the appreciation of it in pristine condition. I suppose I must be a perfectionist / control freak at heart....!

Oh well, on with the grind.

Take care everyone and hope we all hae a great New Year's celebration! Paul.
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Old 12-31-2007, 05:16 PM
LamCam LamCam is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 364
Default Re: Conveying Emotion in Landscape Photography

This is a subject close to my heart! As an 'artist' my sketches, drawn rapidly but with great concentration and intensity, bring back the feel of places far more effectively to me than any of my finished paintings. I am often similarly disappointed in my landscape photographs.
What I need is the photographic equivalent of those sketches - a response that is more direct, without the camera getting 'in the way'. Perhaps taking a few shots whilst very new to the scene is a good idea - not carelessly, but before the brain starts to get too 'clever' Use the view finder to really examine the landscape - and not only the viewfinder, take time just to look around and then look some more. As in sketching, it is the looking which is important and, ultimately, produces the most interesting and personal image.
A mood induced by extreme weather conditions certainly helps, as does emphasising one aspect of the scene which initially attracted you to it. Good use of light is crucial - almost impossible to imagine emotion conveyed without light and shadow in a landscape.
That is my, totally inconclusive and unsatisfactory contribution!!
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