Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

I made this image at the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) observatory near Magdalena, New Mexico about 50 miles south of Socorro.

This place was made famous by the movie “Contact” starring Jody Foster. It’s an inspiring place and depending on when you photograph it, both time of day and time of year, combined with light and weather, provides a perfect opportunity to experiment with “mood” in photography.

When making this image, I was in Bosque del Apache one day when I noticed some dark clouds forming to the west. I knew the wind was going the wrong way to get any decent bird shots so I hopped in my truck and made the hour or so drive to the VLA.

When I got there the mood I wanted to express was clearly available. I went with ominous. The natural elements (clouds) along with time of day (late) made it easy for me to shoot this with a dark, foreboding and ominous feeling. I made the image monochromatic and focused on one of the near dishes since it was larger in the frame.

Since the whole concept of “outer space” and communicating with aliens is fanciful, you can take it any direction you want.

Ir’s hard to portray emotion in a photograph that doesn’t include a person. If you have a smiling little girl, then it’s easy to convey a happy mood. But no human at all makes it much harder. That’s when you have to rely on your own mood, your own vision, your own goals and then have the luck/foresight to be in the right place at the right time.

All the typical tools that a photographer might use to make an image impact mood. Everything from lighting to shutter speed to depth-of-field can come into play.

What’s most important to remember here is thinking about the mood you WANT to create in the photo viewer’s mind. If one try doesn’t make that happen go back and try again. It’s a fascinating exercise and one that I use to keep myself sharp. I hope it helps you too.


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