Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Feelings are not easy to translate onto a two-dimensional object called a picture, photo, image. The reason is that when we are in the field, we see and  feel the experience. Most of of us only photograph what we see. This month I will take us into the feeling side of the brain--the right brain.

Feelings, according to psychologists, reside in the brain's right hemisphere. What that means is that if we are strongly right-brained, we are more likely to pick up on feelings elicited from an image. When I show my images, I know my images have touched someone when I hear exclamations like "Oh my" or "Oooh." Now let's look at the other side of that spectrum. If we are strongly left-brained, we are more likely to analyze and critique.

Has this happened to you? You feel great when you're out there shooting, but you go home and say, "Hmm? It looked much better when I was there." More than likely, you felt something when you were there, but now it's just a picture; a picture without emotion on your monitor.

With that introduction, let's get started. I will show how I try to best translate my feelings onto a two-dimensional object called an image. I do that at the time, in the field, in-camera.
If I don't, that feeling is gone. No photo software or app can bring it back. Why? Because they depend on me, and I no longer "have it."

Can you feel the peace and serenity in this image? My right brain always tells my left brain what to do. That day, I changed my White Balance to Florescent instead of Daylight in order to translate my feelings. I felt so tranquil seeing the sun rise above the cool valley below.
                                                              This is how I felt

                                                               This is what I saw 

I was at Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park in mid-summer. It was really gushing down that day! I saw the waterfall, but it wasn't the sight of the waterfall that got my inner attention. After I photographed it, I knew I hadn't captured the feeling the falls stirred inside me. The water was so powerful I could feel the earth vibrate under me. I could hear the calming roar of the water. I could feel the mist on my face. Even with the loud rushing water,   I felt peaceful; meditative.

So, how do I translate that feeling? I continued looking for other options. Then I found it! Photographing just the bottom of the waterfall, where its powerful waters violently hit the boulders below, was the composition I needed for my translation. My right brain told my left brain what to do and how to translate my feelings that day: get underneath the falls and use a slow shutter speed (1/6).     

                                                                 This is what I saw

                                                              But this is how I felt

Now that you know what I go through to translate my feelings, let me show you a few more end results. What do you feel? What resonates? I'd appreciate your feedback. Please feel free to e-mail me

This was part of a Christmas "Living Windows" event downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. . These were real people replicating a biblical scene. I was on an assignment for a local hotel, so I got some good "straight" shots. However, I also wanted to give them some options for their website. For this shot, I used spot metering, metering off of Jesus' robe, in order to give it a more pastoral feel. It has a more inherent feel to the scene, rather than seeing every single part of the scene equally exposed. As I tell HDR addicted photographers, it's okay to have some shadows. Van Gogh and Rembrandt did. It gave depth to their paintings.      

If you care to see the "straight" shot, feel free to e-mail me

There is a 700 ton formation in Garden of The Gods city park in Colorado Springs. It's called Balanced Rock. You can find photos of it on this link

It is an extremely mysterious piece of geology. However, seeing it during midday just doesn't illicit that mystery, that charm, that feel of intrigue. So, one day I decided to photograph it at night, right after sunset so I could record some of the left-over cobalt blue in the sky. Additionally, I painted it with my special flashlight. That combination gave me that sense of mystique Balanced Rock deserves. 

A lot of photographers squirm when I tell them I often underexpose my images, anywhere from a -2/3 to a -3!! The result I am after is just the opposite of HDR, which tries to give the entire scene a 1-exposure look--every inch to be evenly exposed. A lot of those images look "flat" to me. By underexposing a scene, it makes bright subjects and bright colors pop--they really stand out, as backgrounds go dark as a result.

This is image is at Mud Lake in Colorado, near Nederland. I loved the white bark on the aspens and the yellows, but at midday, they just didn't show off their true colors. By underexposing the scene by a -1 1/3 I kept that exciting "autumn" feel. Technically, I gave the scene 133% less light than the built-in light meter thought I needed for a "correct" exposure.  

Sometimes what I sense in my environment, as I take an emotional pulse reading, brings out the creativity in me. When I sense something I let my imagination see for me. 

I was in the middle of a huge field of wild flowers in a high country meadow. The incredible vibrant colors seemed to swirl all around me.

So, I just had to make them swirl. This is a double exposure. The first image was a straight shot of the field of wildflowers. For the second image I applied my now-famous "swirl" technique where I literally swirl my camera (sans tripod) to create this effect.

That same day I also felt like they were coming at me from all directions. I just started applying long-proven in-camera techniques, like zooming in and zooming out of a scene.

You need a slow shutter speed to allow you time to zoom. I used 1/25.

This last example is one of my personal favorites. I have created many fishing themes before, but this one really gave me that feeling of sheer solitude and freedom--the freedom to do what you enjoy, when you want, how you want, where you want, and as long as you want to do it.

I set out that early cool September morning in Holiday Island, Arkansas. I didn't know what I would find, but I had to find out that cool and foggy morning.

It didn't take long to find this seemingly relaxed woman fishing at Table Rock Lake. She wasn't in a yacht, but she didn't need one to enjoy her freedom for relaxation. She seemed so content. 

There are no strangers in my life. I said hello and introduced myself. She told me her name was Mobey. We talked for awhile as she told me about how much she liked that spot. I asked her if she'd mind me taking some pictures as she fished. She didn't mind at all. In fact, I think she was flattered. The feelings that came over me were instantaneous--an immediate connection with the calming enjoyment of just sitting there, on a plastic bucket, fishing. I felt relaxed and care-free just watching her and photographing her, as the fog maintained its density and coolness, transforming the background into a movie set backdrop. The scene and image beg the question, "What's important in life?"

 So, whether you are predominantly left or right-brained, surely you have feelings. Get in touch with them next time you're out with your camera and try to retain those feelings, thoughts, or sensations and translate them onto an indelible image. Have fun with it.