Art and Craft of Photography – Using Technique to Enhance Mood

Art is about personal expression. How do you feel about a subject? What is your connection to what you see? Why are you attracted to a particular subject? What do you want to tell the world? Who are you? These are the bigger questions we need to ask when making our art.The desire to paint, to sculpt, to make music, or to create photographs should be motivated from within and be an expression of you. External motivations like making money, getting likes, or pleasing others will only spoil your artistic expression.  Create for yourself.

Once you are creating for yourself and not others AND you are photographing from your feelings and a connection with a subject, then you can think of which camera technique and post processing methods will enhance your message. Whenever I go to the old coal mine in Nordegg (Brazeau Collieries) I immediately feel a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality. Where some people see a hulk of rusty industrial power, I see a romantic dream of the past. It took me a visit or two to honour my inner feelings about the mine but once I let those feelings out, then I could make the images I wanted to make about the mine.

For example, there is a spot in the mine called the bone yard where random pieces of equipment lay scattered about in the grass. I wanted to show a sense of the passage of time and the static nature of the rusting equipment among the living world. To do this I used a solid ND filter on my camera lens to lengthen exposure time so the grasses moved as a ghostly blur around the rusting pieces of metal. This painterly look was enhanced in processing by using the Orton technique. The end result gave me a wistful look.

©Darwin Wiggett - Gears in blowing grass.

©Darwin Wiggett – Gears in blowing grass.

©Darwin Wiggett - Long exposure using an ND filter and enhanced with Orton processing.

©Darwin Wiggett – Long exposure using an ND filter and enhanced with Orton processing.

The selective use of aperture to have parts of the scene rendered sharp and parts of the scene a dreamy blur was also effective for me in translating my dream-like feeling for the mine. I used apertures such as f1.4 or f2.8 to give me a thin slice of sharpness.

©Darwin Wiggett - Mood was enhanced by using a thin slice of focus at f2.8 and then painting then enhancing the blur with the Orton Technique.

©Darwin Wiggett – Mood was enhanced by using a thin slice of focus at f2.8 along with the Orton Technique.

©Darwin Wiggett - An aperture of f1.4 returns an image with a thin slice of focus to give a more dream like image.

©Darwin Wiggett – An aperture of f1.4 returns an image with a thin slice of focus to give a more dream-like image.

©Darwin Wiggett - Peeling paint at f2.0

©Darwin Wiggett – Peeling paint at f2.0.

Another technique I used to enhance the nostalgic mood was to convert the images from colour into sepia-toned black and white. Many of the scenes inside of the buildings at the mine site are contrasty with bright light coming in through the windows and cavernous shadow areas. To capture the entire range of bright to dark in the image I used HDR exposure blends (multiple images blended together at different exposures) to create one image with complete tonal detail. The final exposure blend is then converted to sepia to give a historic looking image.

©Darwin Wiggett - an HDR exposure blend converted to sepia.

©Darwin Wiggett – an HDR exposure blend converted to sepia.

©Darwin Wiggett - A sepia converted HDR image.

©Darwin Wiggett – A sepia converted HDR image.

©Darwin Wiggett - Old cars in sepia HDR.

©Darwin Wiggett – Old cars in sepia HDR.

If you would like an opportunity to see and photograph the Nordegg mine and find out how this location makes YOU feel, come join me and Samantha along with Royce Howland for our Coal Mines, Canyons, and the Canadian Rockies: the HDR Photography Workshop this May. I know I’m excited to return to this unique industrial landmark…maybe my creative vision will be different this time…who knows!

©Darwin Wiggett - What is YOUR vision of the mine?

©Darwin Wiggett – What is YOUR vision of the mine? 

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.

2 Comments

  1. An Interesting Post From Darwin Wigget Today
    March 22, 2014

    […] Thought this post was interesting plus it shows off some great photos from photographer Darwin Wigget: Art and Craft of Photography – Using Technique to Enhance Mood | oopoomoo : create, inspire, educate […]

  2. David Evans
    March 24, 2014

    I enjoyed and learned from this presentation. Thank you.

Top