How to add emotion to a landscape

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colrehogan

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How do you put emotion & feeling into a landscape (e.g. get the viewer to empathize with the shot)? I asked a somewhat related question on the f32 site and it led me to this question.
 

noseoil

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I like to keep a piece of cholla cactus handy. If there are any statements about a lack of emotion, I place it against the backside of the offending viewer, then refuse them my comb. This seems to work pretty well.

You can't put emotion into a landscape, this is the job of the paper and film. Sorry, but it takes a man (or woman) to make a room silent. tim
 

Donald Miller

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colrehogan said:
How do you put emotion & feeling into a landscape (e.g. get the viewer to empathize with the shot)? I asked a somewhat related question on the f32 site and it led me to this question.

Emotion can be added to a landscape by exposing under certain weather conditions. It can be added under certain lighting conditions. More emotion can be added by filter selection. Still more emotion can be added through the photographers decisions on the manner in which the negative is printed.
 

Claire Senft

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this way

Lighting, atmospheric conditons, camera placement, lens choice, filters used, exposure and development and the way it is printed.
 

roteague

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colrehogan said:
How do you put emotion & feeling into a landscape (e.g. get the viewer to empathize with the shot)? I asked a somewhat related question on the f32 site and it led me to this question.

I think one of the simplest ways is in the choice between horizontal and vertical shots. Horizontal lends itself to sweeping, grand landscapes, where as vertical lends itself to more intimate, landscapes that flow and draw the viewer in.

For example, the work of Jack Dykinga (http://www.dykinga.com/product.html) seems dominated by horizontal shots and his choice of subjects reflects that as well - desert southwest, mountains - all grand subjects. Where the work of Joe Cornish (http://www.joecornish.com/) seem more dominated by vertical shots. Take a look at these two photographers and you will see the point I am trying to make.

For me, I tend to shoot a lot of horizontal shots, but I am actively trying to introduce more vertical shots into my work. This is a subject that I have given some consideration to. I am in the process of writing/developing an article about photographing the shoreline for my website; the primary focus of the article is how to introduce emotion to the subject of shoreline photography. I still have a lot of work to do on the article before it is done.

My .2c worth.
 

matt miller

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add people. I'm trying to add more people to my images at my wife's suggestion. I think it adds interest & emotion depending on how you do it.
 

Ed Sukach

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Uh... Nudes..? Sounds like a good addition to me. :rolleyes:
 

blansky

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I agree.

Add people. Clothed or nude. People like to look at people. It adds scale and interest to the picture. How the people are set up will probably affect the "emotion" but people seem to add interest that a basic scenic does not.

National geographic started doing this in something like the seventies and I think it made thier magazine better.


Michael
 

rbarker

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All of the suggestions so far work well, I think. But, the choice of technique and/or timing also depends on the emotion that you want to evoke. Then, there are the philosophical questions associated with the techniques. :wink:
 

jbj

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"How do you put emotion & feeling into a landscape?"

I would say the first thing is for you to feel emotional about the landscape. It must resonate with you first, and if you can recognize the emotions then I would think that is the first step. Only then can you convey this emotion in your final print.
 

roteague

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blansky said:
People like to look at people. It adds scale and interest to the picture.

Perhaps, but if you look at the "masters" of landscape photography you will rarely see people included in the images. Landscape photography is primarily about the love of the land itself, not the people in the land. The question was about how to portray this love in the image. Admittedly, not including people may not be the best choice, economically. I prefer not to have people.
 

jovo

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Though I primarily shoot landscapes, I don't think there's a lot of emotion in either my own, or very many other peoples work in any obvious sense. I know I certainly feel excitement when I find what works in a landscape, and I then try to capture everything I see that's meaningful to me. But what emotions are evoked seem to be those that the viewer feels because something about the scene, the light, the season or the location resonates with something in their own experience. I'm not sure I can deliberately invoke them. I do agree, though, that introducing people, or at least the evidence of people makes images that viewers linger over a bit longer. I used to think landscapes should be just pristine nature...no human or even animal imprint within the frame. No longer. I am more and more finding such work quite empty....calendar art at best (not that there's anything wrong with calendar photographs...in fact I'd be happy to take some that would be used that way). (Abstractions from nature without human presence are a bit different, though, and I like them because, when well designed, they're fascinating.)
 

SuzanneR

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blansky said:
I agree.

Add people. Clothed or nude. People like to look at people. It adds scale and interest to the picture. How the people are set up will probably affect the "emotion" but people seem to add interest that a basic scenic does not.

National geographic started doing this in something like the seventies and I think it made thier magazine better.


Michael

Back in the 70's, the Geographic always seemed to have the people in the landscape wear red. Every noticed that? It was a little cliche after awhile, but I agree adding people to their landscapes improved the photography at the time. Expecially with those strongly vertical layouts.
 

Juraj Kovacik

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colrehogan said:
How do you put emotion & feeling into a landscape (e.g. get the viewer to empathize with the shot)? I asked a somewhat related question on the f32 site and it led me to this question.

I my opinion, when you are making landscape, you are not taking picture of country, but you are taking the picture of your view of the country. The good landscape is about your relationship with the country. And only way how to put any emotions to landscape photography is to put emotion to your view of that country. Technique is a secondary thing, it can emphasis somethig here and there but the core must be into you.
 

roteague

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Suzanne Revy said:
Back in the 70's, the Geographic always seemed to have the people in the landscape wear red. Every noticed that? It was a little cliche after awhile, but I agree adding people to their landscapes improved the photography at the time. Expecially with those strongly vertical layouts.

National Geographic is hardly a magazine for the landscape lover. Try "Arizona Highways". Landscapes are about the love of the land.
 

Graeme Hird

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In my not-so-humble opinion, good landscape photography can be thought of as making an intimate portrait of the land. The similarities are many:

- you need to feel empathy with the subject, understanding its moods and how it came to be in its current state.

- you need to select the best light to allow its "emotions" to shine through. You want to show the anger, happiness, severity, joyfulness, serenity, etc that the subject may offer.

- you need to be able to choose the features which most define the subject (visually and emotionally). Anticipate when it will be most comfortable, but also when it may show unexpected emotions.

- you want your picture to capture and convey a story about the subject. To do that, you need to know the subject's story before you shoot.

So in the same way as a portrait photographer spends time getting to know his/her subject before getting the camera out, you will need to get to know the landscape, form a relationship with it and choose how and when to capture its mood.

When you have an intimate relationship your subject, the strong emotions that come from that relationship will show in your shots. (Sounds cheesy to me too, but I firmly believe it!)

Cheers,
 

eric

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Suzanne Revy said:
Back in the 70's, the Geographic always seemed to have the people in the landscape wear red.

There was an article in TIME magazine about this (or was it in one of the Nat Geo anniversary issues.

Its NOT as cliche as the guy, back in the 80s, went around 'Merica with a red couch and put it in front of all his photographs.

I do hope that those stupid TV commercials didn't copy it or at least pay that guy for the idea.

Well, I did kinda like the idea and one time, I drove x-country, and evey shot I did, I put a disposable coffee cup in the picture somewhere.
 

chuck94022

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colrehogan said:
How do you put emotion & feeling into a landscape (e.g. get the viewer to empathize with the shot)? I asked a somewhat related question on the f32 site and it led me to this question.

I think first you need to identify the emotion that is present in you from your observation of the landscape. This is an internal evaluation - "what am I feeling?". Then you should determine what about landscape is presenting that emotion to you. Is an abandoned, rusted bicycle conveying a feeling of loss, or tragedy? Is a budding flower filling you with hope and renewal? Is a rock formation filling you with awe?

I believe once you understand the emotion inside you, and the external elements that created that emotion, you can then develop composition, lighting, processing, etc. that can allow those elements to convey the same emotion to a later viewer.

If the emotion you seek in the final image is not the result of elements in the image, but is instead baggage you brought with you before you pulled out your camera, then the image as captured may be a disapointment to you. That is, unless you plan to artificially add emotional elements in later processing. For example, you might dramatically increase contrast beyond what was in the captured image, to convey a harshness that was not reality. Or you might choose to shoot the scene with IR film to create mystery. Or you might print using an alternate process that gives it a historic feel. The possibilities are endless.

I think this is all about previsualization - not just of the composition, but of the finished product.

Perhaps sculpture is a good model. They say the statue is already present in the stone, and the sculptor merely removes the unnecessary rock. Similarly, by composing, focusing (or defocusing), dodging, burning, toning, etc., you are removing the elements of the raw scene that detract from your vision.

Well, just my two cents, anyway...

-chuck
 

SuzanneR

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eric said:
There was an article in TIME magazine about this (or was it in one of the Nat Geo anniversary issues.

Its NOT as cliche as the guy, back in the 80s, went around 'Merica with a red couch and put it in front of all his photographs.

I do hope that those stupid TV commercials didn't copy it or at least pay that guy for the idea.

Well, I did kinda like the idea and one time, I drove x-country, and evey shot I did, I put a disposable coffee cup in the picture somewhere.

I think taking an idea and running with it is fair game. I love your disposable coffee cup idea! Magazine photography is full of cliches. When I was a photo editor at U.S.News, we used to run these 'personal guides' peridically through the year. One year, for our retirement guide, we took a red rocking chair and shipped it all over the country, and made portraits of folks in or near retirement. Talk about cliche :tongue:. And shipping the chair was a nightmare!

I personally find landscapes with the human element more compelling than a portrait of unspoiled land, but that's my taste. I think the Geographic relied on a solution that got tired very quickly, but I still think that you can find excellent landscape work in it, and as a general interest magazine, they really can make use of every facet of photography that exists. Of course, with those budgets...
 

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roteague said:
Perhaps, but if you look at the "masters" of landscape photography you will rarely see people included in the images. Landscape photography is primarily about the love of the land itself, not the people in the land. The question was about how to portray this love in the image. Admittedly, not including people may not be the best choice, economically. I prefer not to have people.

Did the "masters" of landscape that you mention, have "emotion" in their work?

Just asking.

Do you get an emotional feeling from looking at landscape photographs?

I'm not sure that I do.

I have great appreciation for technique, great admiration for the locale etc but I don't really recall it to be an emotional experience.

Michael
 

roteague

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blansky said:
Did the "masters" of landscape that you mention, have "emotion" in their work?

Just asking.

Do you get an emotional feeling from looking at landscape photographs?

I'm not sure that I do.

I have great appreciation for technique, great admiration for the locale etc but I don't really recall it to be an emotional experience.

Michael

I feel that they do, at least for me; I just have a passion for the landscape. Put me in a room full of Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson and I would be bored to death. Put me in a room of Dykinga, Till, Muench, Fielder, Cornish and I would probably never leave.
 

eric

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blansky said:
I have great appreciation for technique, great admiration for the locale etc but I don't really recall it to be an emotional experience.

I got to admit, I feel the same way. I usually look at landscape photography as "man, I'm glad I didn't haul that big ass camera to that point and get my $300 tripod all wet." or "man, I wish I was there" type feeling. That's not emotion is it? Wanting to be there?

Unless of course, there was a red couch in the foreground...then I'll feel really emotional :smile:
 

Ed Sukach

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eric said:
I got to admit, I feel the same way. I usually look at landscape photography as "man, I'm glad I didn't haul that big ass camera to that point and get my $300 tripod all wet." or "man, I wish I was there" type feeling. That's not emotion is it? Wanting to be there?
Unless of course, there was a red couch in the foreground...then I'll feel really emotional :smile:

Yes. It is. Serenity, a feeling of peace, of being at ease... all are emotions.

I've been taught that there are three BASIC emotions; Love, Fear, and Anger ... and everything we can experience is a combination of varying amounts of these.

Look at it this way: "wanting to be there" = + (plus) Love; - (minus) anger; - (minus) fear. The addition of the Red Couch" might keep the same level of "love"; increase anger, in the form of aggression, to "lust" ....
 

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I'm with the Blansky on this one, at least as far as "straight" landscape is concerned. Pretty dead stuff most of the time.

There have been demographic studies done trying to sort-out what is attractive about a landscape image -- what sorts of images do people find appealing? The result was that landscapes that appealed to primitive homonids -- trees for foor and hiding, water, safe areas with open air -- were dominant.

Now to look at Ansel, or later acolytes like Rowell, we see a desire to express the transcendant -- might ring a little hollow these days, but it's there. There are other options: consider Polidori's ZONES OF EXCLUSION. Is it landscape? Yeah, built landscape. With a story. If it does not contain people, at least it contains their skidmarks -- and those are what give it a clear emotional tone, far more successfully than another sunset.

One could say the same of, oh, Chris Jordan or Michael Wolf or Robert Adams. The landscape and the Evans-like architectural documentary begin to fold back on to one another.

Emotion is not something you can just insert, like overexposure or ragged edges. It's not a sticker. It has to come from an understanding of the effect of an image on the mind of the (specific) viewer (I don't think YOU need to have that emotion -- the viewer does. How else could, say, a war photographer make it through the day?).
 

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I'm not sure, but what may be happening here is that people who are more into people photography are "emotionally" involved in that and like pictures of people, and the photographers that get an "emotional" charge out of landscapes are into photographing that.

Perhaps that is why we photograph what we photograph. One group does landscapes and the other does people.

We are trying to get each other to "experience" what we are feeling when we feel different things than each other.

Not a problem for me. You say potato and I say patato.

As a friend of mine used to say, "that's what makes a horse race".

Michael
 
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