Seventh inning stretch, Coors Field, Denver, Colorado, 2014
Ever since terrorists brought down the World Trade Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, it has become a tradition for baseball fans to recall the tragedy by honoring its armed forces at baseball games when the seventh inning rolls around. I attended a game in Denver during the Fourth of July weekend, and made this image of the stadium scoreboard during such a “seventh inning stretch.” The scene is dominated by its red, white, blue, and orange colors. All of the lights on the scoreboard have been extinguished except for the huge TV screen showing a military trumpeter playing “God Bless America,” a patriotic song originally written by composer Irving Berlin during World War I, and then revived during World War II. Its ending lyrics are displayed on another screen. Segments of the American flag momentarily replace the advertisements on other surrounding screens, enriching the color palette. Ultimately, it is the cloudscape itself that sets the mood and creates the atmosphere for this scene. It is the final light of day, and it comes to us as if it was a giant flag created by nature itself upon the sky.
Nostalgia, Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Santa Barbara, California, 2014
I visited this museum in the hopes of making expressive photographs of its exhibits to help tell the story of this historic city. However, I was denied permission to make photographs inside the museum, so I departed and made this image of its exterior. While it can not offer visual insights into the local history that may dwell within, this photograph at least symbolizes an era that must have been one of Santa Barbara’s most colorful. A huge portrait of a woman wearing a 1920’s costume dominates the outside wall. It strikingly contrasts to the bed of desert plantings in the foreground and overhanging leaves of the tree that embraces the wall at the top. The golden colors of the painting and the rich greens of the foliage combine to project the nostalgic mood that dominates the image.
Watering Central Park, New York City, New York, 2013
This image expresses a mood of silent natural beauty. The early autumn morning scene contrasts the sweeping horizontal and diagonal thrusts of rock, water, and foliage to the surrounding vertical trees. I liked the way the huge rock outcropping glistens in the morning light, framed by the changing leaves of the season. The diagonal jet of water ties the entire image together, soaking the rocks, foliage, and trees in turn.
Bedroom, Koresham Utopian Community, Estero, Florida, 2013
The graceful Victorian era vase, long stemmed blossoms, and abstracted pillows reflected within a clouded glass mirror set the mood and create an atmospheric of a time long past. I made this image in an 1890’s home, part of a self-contained community that is amazingly preserved within this Florida State Historic Park.
Great White Heron, Big Cypress National Preserve, Tamiami Trail, Florida, 2013
I carefully positioned the beak of this heron at a spot where the softly focused swamp plants seem to join their reflections. The image seems to explode out of that spot. I tried to blend both plant and bird into an atmospheric image symbolic of the great swamp gives Florida’s Everglades region its identity. The environment becomes more abstract because the line where reality meets reflection here is deliberately blurred. I avoid adding the reflection of the heron, which would have made the overall image more descriptive than expressive.
Exit, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Palm Springs, California, 2013.
After the final credits rolled on one of the eight films I screened at this festival, and the crowd had mostly departed, I noticed one person hanging back, torn between going outside into the bright sunlight or returning to his seat for the next showing, which was to follow with the hour. I made this image of him poised at the point of exit, but going no further. The rows of empty seats in the darkened theatre glow faintly, while the lights on the wall overhead convey a colorful theatrical atmosphere at the left edge of the frame. The image is also rich in mood: darkly mysterious, yet with a touch of implied peril looming just ahead. It looks as if that burned out doorway, full of flare, is waiting to swallow him forever if he takes one more step.
I never bring my cameras with me to the movies. However, my cell phone was strapped to my belt, and I was able to make this image with its camera. Although many cell phone cameras are still optically challenged, this one was capable enough to make this kind of image.
Fogbound bridge at Rocky Creek, California, 2012
Fog along the northern California coast is a frequent visitor. It comes and goes, and in this case, it casts a light veil over the creek, just enough to allow me to see the entire bridge and the valley it spans. The mood of this image is eternal – it seems to carry us back into the past. The art deco design of this huge concrete, open-spandrel arch intensifies the theme. Built in 1932, and located south of Monterey Bay in the Big Sur area, it wears its years well. The gentle colors and soft light add atmospheric content.
Celebrating history at the Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, 2011
The fall of 2011 was a tumultuous period in modern Egyptian history. The country had just put aside a dictator to achieve freedom for the first time in centuries, only to confront new limitations posed by the commanders of its own army, as well trying to successfully navigate the messy democratic process of electing an actual legislature for the first time. During the day we spent in Cairo, we not only toured the Egyptian Museum on Tenihir Square (they barred all photography there), but visited the Sphinx and Pyramids as well. Our visit coincided with a national holiday, and thousands of locals were celebrating their own political accomplishments by visiting the tombs of Pharaohs dead for more than 3,000 years as well as the mystical Sphinx, which was typically once again under repair. (It seems to always need some fixing – Cleopatra took Julius Caesar to see the Sphinx more than 2,000 years ago, proudly showing him the most “recent” renovation that had been finished more than 1,000 years earlier.) As the sun went down that afternoon, thousands of boisterous Egyptians were still clamoring over the reconstruction site, with more arriving every minute. I made this image as a salute to their spirit, as well as in appreciation of what they must have endured as a people over the centuries. The golden shadows around them are laden with atmosphere, and the mood seems rich in promise.
Layers of dawn, Kusadasi, Turkey, 2011
From high on the deck of a docked cruise ship, I made this image of the downtown area of Kusadasi only moments after sunrise. I layer the image with six different planes, starting with the Turkish flag in the left foreground, then moving back through a neighborhood of low buildings sparkling with illuminated skylights. At the mid point of the image, a minaret appears as a flaming red torch – no doubt it was intentionally designed to call attention to itself in this way. Beyond the minaret, a range of buildings crown a low hill, backed by a wall of mist and then another hill, with an even higher hill looming behind it. These layers express the atmosphere of this prosperous commercial town catering to tourists and upscale cruise passengers. Kusadasi is bathed in gold – and in more ways than one.
Morning, Limassol, Cyprus, 2011
I made this atmospheric image through the front window of a tourist bus moving slowly through downtown Limassol, Cyprus’s port city. I liked the way the sun defines the planes of the modest buildings, and most of all how the warm light illuminates the sleepy pace of the place – the mood seems calm, almost silent. Only one person appears in the frame, an abstracted silhouetted figure caught suspended in time between a tree and a traffic sign.
Evening, Jerusalem, Israel, 2011
Most “overlook” pictures are scenic descriptions that simply visually map a location, rather than define it through its atmosphere and mood. I was oddly fortunate to visit this historic city on a windswept, rainy day. Overcast skies are somber, reflecting the strife that has defined this place over the centuries. However as evening fell, the sun struggled to make a brief appearance, softly illuminating the mass of pinkish gray clouds hovering over Jerusalem’s limestone buildings. I happened to be high on the Mount of Olives at this moment, and made this atmospheric image of the Old City, still divided by walls that have existed for more than 2,000 years.
Diners, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, Massachusetts, 2011
The evening light isolates a pair of diners seated at the edge of the festival’s huge tent just prior to a dance performance. They seem to be alone, although hundreds of others dine in the shadows just beyond them. The play of light and shadow here creates a mood of relaxation and utter privacy.
Volcano, French West Indies, 2011
Dark, moisture-laden clouds contrast with the orange fire of a reflected Caribbean sunset here, expressing a eruptive mood. The volcanic island seems to be belching fire, even though all was actually quite calm as our cruise ship sailed by.
Awestruck, Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
The setting sun has turned the incoming tide to gold, an atmospheric liquid carpet that obviously engages the imagination of this child who gingerly tests the water with her toes. I abstract as a silhouette to engage the imagination of the viewer as well. The mood is all about wonder and awe.
Pacific evening, off Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
The setting sun is often expressive when screened with a layer of heavy clouds. In this case, the mood is magical as its rays begin to filter through the clouds, illuminating the sea at the horizon. A single gull moves through the scene at right, lending a touch of scale to this image.
Walking the tide, Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
The tide flows out at sunset, offering this barefoot couple an atmospheric stroll on a wet sandy path strewn with seaweed and feeding waterfowl. My long 415mm telephoto lens compresses the gradual curve of the beach, making it seem as if the distant hills overlooking the sea are nearby. Actually they are miles away.
Sunset watch, Mission Beach, San Diego, CA 2010
Every sunset expresses its own special character. This one is laced and crowned with layers of clouds, spaced enough to reveal the full disc of the sun as it hangs over the Pacific Ocean. A string of spectators watch from the edge of the water, spaced far enough from each other along the beach to allow silence and contemplation. The moment is rich in atmosphere and mood – nature even brings a golden reflection to the edge of the beach itself, linking it to the setting sun.
Within the shadows, Phoenix, Arizona, 2010
As the morning sun painted this glass brick wall with light, I noticed how it falls short of illuminating a primitive doll seated in the corner.The doll, a figure holding small children, comes to us within the shadow as an atmospheric surprise, a metaphor for a spirit that seeks the light but yet cannot reach it. Using the spot metering mode, I exposed for the light, letting the rest of the image fall into shadow.
Fireplace screen, El Rancho, Gallup, New Mexico, 2010
Gallup is cowboy country. In the early and mid 20th century, many western films were made here. The El Rancho hotel is a relic of that era. All the visiting movie stars stayed here in the 30s. The old fireplace screen remains, a reminder of a nostalgic time. I force its wrought iron cowboy to fade into the golden glow of the brickwork behind it, an atmospheric tribute to the mythic films of the Old West.
Ghosts, The Westward Ho, Phoenix, Arizona, 2010
A year earlier, while shooting along with one of my tutorial students in the Westward Ho, built in 1929 as a luxury hotel, and now converted to senior housing, I had photographed some of these same plants outside the building. (See http://www.pbase.com/pnd1/image/119884048)
I returned again one year later with another tutorial student, and decided to shoot these cacti as seen through the windows of a seldom used space that once served as old hotel’s nightclub. The dark interior of the erstwhile Concho Room implies abandonment, while the blinds on its windows add a haunted texture to the scene. Two different worlds are expressed here -- the mysterious past, as well as the ghostly cacti that appear to be crawling towards the windows, hoping to gain admittance.
The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
This mosque, one of the most famous religious buildings in the world, can be photographed expressively in many ways. I choose to abstract it here, showing only two of its minarets juxtaposed against strands of coppery clouds at sunset. My purpose was not to describe the appearance of the mosque itself, but rather express the exotic nature of the atmosphere surrounding this 400 year-old structure.
St. Michael’s Monastery, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
This monastery is a striking complex of massive churches with golden domes, which would be very atmospheric in the right light. But our visit came late in the morning, with the sun high in the sky, rendering the scene harshly. I limit the scope of my image, including only two ornate columns surrounding an entrance, a silhouetted visitor, and some of the blue painted wall. The atmosphere itself is created by the interplay of the harsh light and deep shadow on these subjects. Although greatly abstracted, the monastery expresses a mood here of both awe and power.
Street scene, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
The ancient side streets of Istanbul often lack sidewalk space. It never existed. Pedestrians must share narrow side streets with vehicles. I use this simple fact to create an atmospheric image that conveys a sense of place. I used a very long focal length – 400mm – to compress space. The 15 or so people in this photograph, while widely spaced, seem here to be walking close behind each other, adding a sense of crowding that is appropriate to Istanbul. I shot back down the street from the top of a hill, which arranges the people in clumps stacked from the bottom up into the middle of the frame. They seem oblivious to the sole car that rumbles past them. The scene is abstracted by a flow of shadows, creating silhouettes and obscure figures full of mystery, and providing an atmosphere that offers a taste of a very old and exotic city.
Fountain, Cismigiu Garden, Bucharest, Romania, 2009
I used back lighting to abstract this graceful fountain, creating arching patterns of plunging droplets with a fast shutter speed of more than a thousandth of a second. I made numerous images of the fountain itself, but a mood was not expressed until two people stopped to take each other’s pictures in front of the fountain. While they studied the results, I noticed the man’s posture repeated the bend of the fountain’s spray. The abstracted couple becomes one with the fountain, and perfectly express the mood of the park as a place of wonderful memories.
Observation car, Aboard The Canadian, Ontario, Canada, 2009
I found this passenger sitting alone with his thoughts in a vintage observation car on “The Canadian” running between Toronto and Vancouver. This car entered service in the mid-1950s, and has changed very little since. The curving glass windows look out on forests of pine and a track that seems to follow the train forever.
The chairs that circle the interior of the car have been cradling passengers for more than a half-century, encasing this traveler in nostalgic atmosphere. His mood is reflective – perhaps he may be thinking of past journeys in similar railroad cars over the years?
At the mouth of the Annisquam, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2009
Dusk falls on the Annisquam River as a single oarsman works his way through the yachts riding at anchor. The bands of color in the sky and the filmy clouds drifting overhead create a peaceful mood. I made this image from the deck of a tour boat just after sunset.
Schooner, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2009
The Schooner Thomas E. Lannon offers tourists a glimpse of Gloucester’s seafaring history by taking them for short sails, even in the morning fog. It was the fog that made this shot so atmospheric – it seems like a ghost out of the past, even though it was built and launched in 1997. The colors of its American flag intensify its historical presence.
Battery Point Lighthouse, Crescent City, California, 2009
Fog is mood, as well as weather. It is mysterious, lonely, melancholy. And depending on its severity, it can be a medium of abstraction in itself. This historic lighthouse, built in Cape Cod style in 1856, is now a museum and listed as private aid to navigation. I was fortunate to be able to see it and its lone cypress tree on a foggy morning. I caught the blink of its light through the morning fog, as well as a tiny figure that lends scale to the image.
Fiery sunset, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona, 2009
Instead of shooting the sunset itself, I shot its effect on the clouds that were exploding in the sky behind me. I use abstracted Saguaro cacti pointing skyward to frame the massive golden flow of evening clouds, to create a majestic and emotionally dynamic mood.
Silence, Oatman, Arizona, 2009
The tourists have departed, leaving only a handful of photographers behind to catch the effect of the sunset on the town’s vintage main street. Oatman is a remote gold mining town not far from the spot where Arizona, California, and Nevada come together. All three states knew mining booms and busts over the last 150 years, and Oatman witnessed all of it and more. I evoke the mood of Oatman’s gilded age by photographing its single street in golden light, illuminating the remnants of its now-shuttered 1902 hotel. (It became nationally famous as the honeymoon stop of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard after their wedding in Kingman in 1939.) The clothing shop next door is known as “The Classy Ass,” named, no doubt, in honor of the herd of semi-wild mining burros that still prowl Oatman’s streets. The dark rain cloud hovering over the scene adds powerful color contrast to the vivid primary colors of the buildings.
Mountain rain, Phoenix Mountains Preserve, Phoenix, Arizona, 2008
The effect of rain and fog on mountain scenery can be strikingly atmospheric.
In this scene, a mysterious mist drifts across the valleys that lie between the hills flanking the base of Piestewa Peak, the highest mountain in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. The sun can’t cut through the clouds that envelope the peak, but its presence does lend a touch of warm color, as do the patches of green vegetation that line the rocky slopes. Sharp eyes might even notice the presence of several saguaros that stand like sentinels on the diagonal crest that slices though the center of the image. I made this image from my own back yard, using new technology – a Panasonic G1, the world’s smallest interchangeable lens camera. This lens offers a focal length equivalent to 90-400mm, and is equipped with a UV/Haze filter. I zoomed it all the way out to cut through the mist and reveal atmospheric detail in the scene, which is more than a mile away.
Travertine formation, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2008
Yellowstone has two thirds of the world’s geysers, and more than ten thousand thermal features that send steam drifting over ancient rocks that glow with colors gifted by nature. This travertine formation, shrouded in steam, grows quickly – up to two feet a year. I build this image around the white, claw-like mineral deposit that moves diagonally through the frame. It echoes the flow of the rust colored deposit on the limestone in the background. The misty scene creates a timeless mood as it speaks of mysterious thermal forces at work below.
Early Morning in Manhattan, New York City, New York, 2008
I am always looking for “Hopper Light” – the play of morning light and shadow upon old buildings, street scenes filled with the color and geometry that enrich so many of the wonderful oil paintings created by Edward Hopper. I found it here on a Manhattan side street. I stand across the street from this scene, and use a 28mm lens, which allows me to get close enough for detail, yet still retain the scope and scale of the street scene itself. I anchor the scene around a single man who stands alone under an orange awning of his place of work, waiting for admittance. The silent, nostalgic mood that I try to express here is also incongruous – just out of camera range, thousands of people are scurrying to work along Third Avenue. But this man stands here alone, in “Hopper Light.” Only the contemporary design of the awning places him in the 21st century. Everything else – the rhythmic window placement, the green and red colors, the flow of shadows upon the street, could look just as it might have appeared to Edward Hopper himself when he painted “Early Sunday Morning” in 1930 ( http://www.alledwardhopper.com/58/early-sunday-morning-by-edward-hopper
Lexington Avenue, New York City, New York, 2008
One of New York City’s busiest streets acquires a quiet mood in the gathering shadows of day’s end. I amplify that mood through my vantage point and my use of the reflected light that plays on the iconic Chrysler Building, a structure that gives Lexington Avenue much of its identity. I build the image around the striking column of white clouds that seem to stream from the famed art deco spire itself. I use spot metering mode to expose for those clouds, and enriching the golden light of the reflected sunset on the skyscraper. The resulting under-exposure also deepens the blue gray sky, and creates a shadowy tunnel of foreground buildings streaked with artificial light to anchor the shot.
Haunted ground, Chinese Camp, California, 2008
In the 1850’s, a group of Cantonese miners prospected for gold here. Today, no trace of them is left. Only the name of the place speaks of those who once lived and died here. On a hill high over the tiny community, a Catholic graveyard now stands. I photographed it from a distance, juxtaposing towering living trees over the graves of the dead that lie below them. A deep blue sky rising over a bank of white clouds on the horizon gave great beauty to the image, but it was not the mood I wanted. When I converted the image to black and white, the mood changed – the image becomes stark and haunting. The blue sky changes to a gray curtain, descending on the tombs outlined against the distant cloudbank. It was exactly the mood for this image of life and death in juxtaposition.
The Angel Road, Columbia, California, 2008
By backing away from this statue of an angel, which stands over a grave in Columbia’s cemetery, I change its context. I place it over the crest of a road instead of over a gravesite. The setting sun partially illuminates the angel, while the dark street and background isolates it and brings a dream like mood to the image. We ride on the road of an angel, and just over the hill, eternity awaits us.
Cascade Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, 2008
We often must confront a waterfall head-on, but every now and then we get the chance to photograph a waterfall in profile. Such is the case with Cascade Falls – my side vantage point allows me to define its clouds of vapor and spray against the dark canyon wall. I layer both the plunging fall, its leading edge looking very much like reaching fingers, and the curling plumes of vapor, by filling the foreground with a frame of dark green trees. The result is a blend of beauty and mystery – a mood of nature at its most atmospheric.
Under the fishing nets, Cochin, India, 2008
Soaring birds and a forest of ancient Chinese fishing nets greet the inbound ferryboats in Cochin’s natural harbor, which was created by a flood in 1341. By shooting this scene at sunset, I am able to turn the Arabian Sea into a textured golden sheet, with a sky to match. It recalls Cochin’s storied past as a port, nearly thousand years of reaping benefit from the trade winds. Coloration and abstraction help me produce an atmospheric image rich in mood and unique in character.
Moonset at Ranthambore, India, 2008
As we prepared to leave our hotel for our early morning game drive in search of the Royal Bengal Tiger, a full moon in all of its detail was very much in evidence. I spot-metered on the moon itself. It was so bright that it allowed me to shoot this image hand-held at 1/40th of a second. There was just enough early morning light to barely make out the cupola of our hotel just below the moon. The dark cupola is a good example of abstraction – it is there but not there, at the same time. It leaves much room for the imagination of the viewer to work. Together, the moon and the dimly seen cupola make a picture that richly expresses the mood we felt here.
The Nahargarh Hotel, Ranthambore, India, 2008
Our hotel just outside Ranthambore National Park, one of India's great tiger sanctuaries, resembled a palace -- seen here at dusk. By abstracting the hotel as a silhouette, framing it within an arch, and juxtaposing the gold tinged diagonal cloud against the deep blue sky, I produce a mood that evokes storybook India.
Houseboating, Kerala Backwaters, India, 2008
More than 400 houseboats ply the backwaters of Kerala. They are 100 feet long, and feature thatched roofs over wooden hulls. We spent three nights on one of them as we cruised the backwaters. Here a crew member helps dock our houseboat at sunset. By juxtaposing the silhouetted man with the sunset, I create a two-layer image producing a three-dimensional effect. The viewer becomes part of the picture, virtually looking over the shoulder of the crewmember as he works. The evening sky is beautiful, but acquires more meaning because of the dynamic gesture that is superimposed upon it. Seen together, the dual layers present both a mood and an atmosphere that provoke emotional response.
Dinner on the Perfume River, Hue, Vietnam, 2007
The Perfume River is lined with small houseboats in downtown Hue. I made this photograph from a bridge around dinnertime. This is more than a description of a woman cooking dinner. It is a distillation of life in Southeast Asia. By choosing to abstract the cook by shooting through a cloud of cooking smoke, I try to distill the nature of life on the river, difficult, yet somehow manageable. The image is full of mood and atmosphere – it’s the struggle in the chocking smoke that conveys the most to us.
Dusk, Hoi An, Vietnam, 2007
As the sun goes down, Hoi An's Thu Bon river is the place to be. This woman has come in her own small boat. If you look at this image in its full-size, you will see the head of a small child in that boat. The copper coloration extends a powerful sense of both atmosphere and mood over this scene. The arm of the woman echoes the shape of the bows of the ships in the background. The image gives us a sense of place through its mysterious copper color, a color that defines the charm and timeless beauty of this place.
Lost in a cloud of dust, Tan Chau, Vietnam, 2008
They came at us out of the golden haze of rising dust -- a steady flow of roaring bikes. The helmeted and masked riders could see as little as we could. It was a wonder that when the dust finally settled, no accident marred the scene. If ever there was an image that conveys the mood and atmosphere of rural Vietnam it is this one – an abstraction boiling life down to a puddle and band of shadowy figures lost in the dust. Existence in such places as this can be primitive at times and the atmosphere conveyed in this image brings it down to exactly that.
Huangpu morning, Shanghai, China, 2007
The 1,500-foot high Oriental Pearl TV tower soars over the Pudong skyline on the Huangpu River, just across from Shanghai's famed Bund. Pudong was built on the rubble of peasant houses that once fringed the river. The cloud effect here is particularly striking -- I had visited Shanghai twice before, and always viewed this scene in hazy, flat light. The third time was the charm! The play of light and color on the buildings, water, and clouds offer us the symbolic mood of the dawn of a new day. A very appropriate mood for this booming city that is spearheading China’s enormous economic growth.
Sunset, Pingyao, China, 2007
A sun wreathed in clouds, and rooftop dragons hosting a pair of birds are featured in this sunset image. I expose on the sun itself to make the image much darker than it looked in life. This darkness offers considerable abstraction to the scene, reducing the Chinese context for the sunset to a minimum. The birds perching on the dragon’s head roof ornament add a whimsical touch to an otherwise dramatic cloudscape.
Chimney, Ji Ming Temple, Nanjing, China, 2007
The long column of smoke, spreading out into the surrounding forest, brings a timeless, spiritual mood to the grounds of this ancient temple. I made this image from the temple’s pagoda, giving me a vantage point that allowed me to juxtapose the smoke and the forest.
Nightfall, Williams, Arizona, 2007
Williams was once a featured stop along the old US Route 66 highway. Bypassed by Interstate 40, Williams survives by hosting visitors bound for the Grand Canyon just sixty miles to the north. I photographed this evening street scene using one of its many tourist stores as my subject. Its large window is festooned with lights that reflect on the rear window of a parked car, while its photos nostalgically recall the Old West. I waited until an abstracted figure entered my frame and made him the focal point as he passed through it. The lights, colors, and abstraction combine to intensify the nostalgic mood conveyed by this image.
Barbershop, Williams, Arizona, 2007
I could almost smell the aroma of this vintage barbershop as I gently pressed my lens hood up against its plate glass window. The 1/10th of a second shutter speed required both a steady hand and the use of image stabilization control. Much of this barbershop’s mood is due to the fact that it is empty. Those fifty year-old barber chairs will have to wait a few more hours for their next customers. The raw light cast by the florescent bulbs adds a hint of loneliness to the scene. If you look at this image carefully, you will spot a wall-mounted head of a deer or elk hidden in the shadows at the back of the shop. It adds a rustic exclamation point to the mood of this picture.
Train depot, Williams, Arizona, 2007
A century ago, most visitors arrived at the Grand Canyon by rail. Today, the historic railroad still makes the 65 mile, two hour journey from Williams to the canyon, using steam locomotives and vintage railroad cars. I photographed the train while parked in Williams overnight, using a fence post to support my camera for this one-second exposure. The image is rich in the atmosphere of twilight, with the light glinting off the old tracks and the fading hint of daylight still visible in the cloud streaked sky. The silver train seems as quiet as its surroundings. In the distance, the colonnades of the original Williams depot can be seen. I rode this very train to the canyon the next morning. (For another image featuring this unique railroad, click on the thumbnail below.)
Dining Hall, Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco Bay, California, 2007
Bleak, grim, and severe, this prison dining hall once served the likes of Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and Robert Stroud -- the Birdman of Alcatraz. The exhausted tourist sitting on the floor in this photograph expresses the mood of this place, along with the sickly governmental green walls and the barred window.
Sunrise, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007
For me, the most beautiful sunrise shots at Zabriskie Point are made just before the eroded, vibrantly colored badlands that surround it are fully illuminated. In this image, two golden ridges embrace a single red mudsill. It is this half revealed scene that sets the mood and creates the atmosphere of this image. It is a surreal landscape photograph – made so by the textures and colors created by the first rays of dawn.
In the old city, Fez, Morocco, 2006
The historic medina of Fez, known as Fez el-Bali, is a warren of 16th century streets, too narrow for cars. Walking them is like going back into time. The swarms of cats underfoot seem to have always been here. I use my spot meter to expose on the sun-splashed wall, allowing the shadows and the human figure to go black. The cats are backlighted. The reflected light on the dark wall at left echoes the rhythmic flow of the windows moving across the main wall from left to right. The mellow light and ancient setting for the abstracted figure reinforce the mood of this place – mysteriously enchanting, with a hint of danger.
Smoky souk, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
There is often something cooking in the stalls and shops of this ancient city. The air is filled with smoke and the smells are enticing. When we appeal to the senses, we must also create a mood to activate them. The delicate rays of sunlight that filter though the bluish smoke do just that here.
Under the ramparts, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
The ramparts that completely encircle the old cit of Marrakesh are almost a thousand years old and stretch for 12 miles in an unbroken circle. I found this group of men resting and reading at the base of this wall as dusk approached. By underexposing the image, I highlight the man in the brown cloak, and place everything but the golden wall in shadow. The resulting abstraction and the contrast between light and shadow create a restful atmosphere.
Sweeping shopkeeper, Essaouira, Morocco, 2006
It is just past dawn in this ancient port city, and the shops are beginning their day.
I saw the flow of light on the street, an illuminated path of cobblestones running between the morning shadows. I waited until a shopkeeper stepped into that path with his broom and then made this photograph. All attention is placed on the man with the broom. An atmosphere of quiet privacy greets him. The shadowy passersby do not even see him, just as we do not see them.
Roman sculpture, National Archaeological Museum, Rabat, Morocco, 2006
My goal here is not to describe the appearance of this piece of ancient sculpture. I am trying to convey the atmosphere of the museum that surrounds it. It is a quiet and often lonely place – we were its only visitors. I notice the window light on the marble head and used my spot meter to expose for that highlight. The rest of the image goes into shadow, suggesting the silence of time and presence of history.
Walls of Rabat, Morocco, 2006
These walls, tinged with the pink of a rising sun, went up in the 12th century, and they are still there to remind visitors of Rabat's colorful history. Morocco's second largest city, Rabat is the country's political and financial capital. I photographed this scene just after dawn, in very low light and with a very long lens (748mm). I used ISO400, which produced a bit of electronic noise which works to my advantage. It gives a texture and a painterly quality to the image, intensifying the mood and atmosphere of the shot.
Diner, Moab, Utah, 2006
While eating dinner in this dinner, I noticed the red and blue neon lights over the counter reflecting on the ceiling and combining with the white lights to give the place its red, white, and blue identity. After the dishes had been cleared I got up, walked to the back of the room, and waited for backlit people to enter my frame. A number did, but it was finally the man in the iconic wide brim hat that gave the image a human touch and a rough and ready mood. The mood is one of timelessness. This image could well have been made in the 1920s or 30s, the golden age of neon.
Foggy Sunrise, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2006
The mood of a foggy sunrise is silence. Except for sporadic cries of the ravens and the shrill birdlike bugling of distant male elk, the fog clings to the ground in utter quiet.
I used the road in this image to carry the eye deep into the abstracting fog. Both forest and road vanish in the center of the image. Your own imagination must pick up the journey from there.
Sounding the bugle, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2006
It is the rutting season for Yellowstone’s elk herds. This male sending his rutting call. It is called bugling. It is a sharp, distinctive sound that begins deep and resonant, and then becomes a high-pitched bird like squeal. He is proclaiming his dominance, challenging distant bulls and hopefully attracting females to his harem. The fog-shrouded forest greatly enhances the mood of this image. It hides both challengers and prospective mates alike.
Departing storm, Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, 2006
Stormy weather offers a turbulent atmosphere all of its own. The surging cloudscape in this image seems right out of a 19th Century Hudson River School oil painting. The craggy butte that characterizes this vast national park seems small in comparison to the towering storm cloud engulfing it. I expose for the cloud, letting the foreground strike a dark, foreboding mood.
Nature’s paintbrush, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2006
A low hanging fog obscures both the sun and the stand of pine trees just off the road between Old Faithful and Madison Junction. Some of the trees are barren trunks, a reminder of the wildfires that scorched one third of Yellowstone in 1988. The rising sun turns the fog a burnt orange, reminding us of both smoke and fire. The mood is somber yet beautiful. Nature has its own paintbrush, and this image emphasizes that fact.
Dusty road, Bodie State Historic Park, California, 2006
The mood of a dead town is best expressed by its loneliness. Bodie, a ghost town that died when gold mining ended in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, has almost vanished. Only ten per cent of its buildings are still standing. I isolated this one within a frame of sage and then waited for a car to pass by along the town’s dusty road. The thin white cloud of dust adds a melancholy touch, a sense of desolation that clings to this place like a pall.
Pre-dawn, Mono Lake, California, 2006
Over a million years old, Mono Lake sprawls across 60 square miles. It is lined with ancient calcium carbonate towers that formed on the lake’s bottom and now stand exposed as craggy sentinels, caught in transition from night to day. The soft colors of glowing sky and golden sage add a lush atmosphere, a mood unique to this strange place. I used a long telephoto lens – nearly 400mm – to collapse foreground, middleground, and background layers into a single plane.
Walking the dog, Houston Street, New York City, 2006
The long abused streets of New York are under constant repair. Pedestrians and dog walkers must thread their way through and obstacle course of traffic cones and metal plates just to cross the street. Yet when we photograph such a scene as on an early summer’s eve, the chaos and construction take a golden, nostalgic mood. The shadows mask the ugly construction scars, while the sun paints the oily, dirty street and filthy metal plates a mellow gold. The atmosphere is magically charged – walking your dog becomes an act of friendship instead of a perilous journey.
Abandoned general store, Remote, Oregon, 2006
This building, which once housed a general store and post office serving the aptly named community of Remote, has been shut down since the death of its owner in1993. Of the many photographs I made in its cluttered and crumbling rooms, this one best characterizes the mood of the place. Time is slowly eating away at the work of man here – spiders spin their webs, dust and mold and decay cover the walls, floors, and furnishings. In this image, we can see nature slowly taking over. In a final touch of irony, the pattern on the drape mirrors the leaves pressing on the window.
Sunset landing, Portland, Oregon, 2006
Tiny planes in a great sky always seem to be lonely and vulnerable, even when the sky is aflame with the warm colors of a sunset. I made this image to express just such a mood. It reminds me of when I was very young, and my father used to take me down to the railroad tracks to watch the passenger trains roar past in the evening light. I remember the headlight of the train approaching, then a blur, and finally nothing. Those trains are now part of history, but in a sense, it happening again in this image. The fragile plane hangs here in a golden sky, but only for a moment. In an instant it will merge with the black clouds and become only a pair of distant landing lights.
Echoes of the past, Shanghai, China, 2006
Ceramic figurines of long dead Chinese heroes and heroines vie for attention in an Old Shanghai antique shop. I focused on an old decorative container, which to me symbolized the flamboyant and often shady history of this colorful city. I would like to think of it as something that was once in an opium or gambling den. Behind it marches Chinese history itself. I think I see many Maos, Chou En-lai, maybe even Madame Chiang. They are softly focused and semi obscured – but we certainly feel their presence. Together these items, photographed in soft and warm natural light, create the very nostalgic atmosphere that drives a Shanghai antique shop. This is a mood shot, pure and simple.
Incense, Longshan Temple, Taipei, Taiwan, 2006
This temple is the most colorful in Taipei. Hundreds of worshippers ignite their incense sticks in the huge brass fire pit at right. The air is thick with sacred smoke. A woman grasps her lighted sticks, points them skyward, looks up and begins to pray. Those around her are about to do the same. I photographed here for almost an hour. The beating of drums, chimes, and gongs and the repetitive changes of prayer amidst the clouds of sweet smelling smoke, never stopped. This image characterizes the atmosphere here. It is one of passion, fervid reverence, pungent smells, and hypnotic sounds. The memory of its smell is still with me.
Moonrise, Amboy, California, 2006
Amboy is a ghost town, a reminder of what Route 66 used to be. Roy's Motel and Cafe stands alone along the highway under a rising moon. Its lights are no longer visible from miles away. There is not much else in Amboy -- a gas station, airstrip, garage, school, church and post office. Only the post office is still in business. The owner of a California restaurant chain recently purchased the town. He hopes to someday restore the site to its '50s ambience. Meanwhile, Amboy waits in the gathering darkness, with only a full moon for light, a vintage gas stop frozen in time. I made this image with mood and mood alone in mind. Lonely. Forgotten. Empty. Desolate. It’s all here in Amboy at dusk.
Early Morning, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 2005
This is one of the most atmospheric images I’ve made. It is highly abstract. I suggest and imply through the interplay of light and shadow rather than describe. It is incongruous in terms of the contrasting activity level: one of these persons is not going anywhere. The other is up and moving through this rough and worn neighborhood of San Miguel. It is rich in human values as well. The image speaks of an energetic vs. static approach to life. Our emotional response to this photograph is rooted in its atmosphere and mood. The sharply defined highlights contrasting to the deep shadows give the image a rough and primitive tone. There is a sense of foreboding, which makes us realize how vulnerable the resting man may be. Yet the person coming through the darkness seems destined to be there for him if he needs help. This man may sleep on that step, yet others will continue to come and go along the time worn cobblestones of Old San Miguel.
Restless spirit, Achillion Palace, Corfu, Greece, 2005
Elizabeth, Empress of Austria in the late 19th century, lived on the edge of madness. Known by the nickname of Sisi, she took refuge in isolation and illness and eventually fled the royal court in Vienna to live in seclusion, mostly in the Achillion Palace she built on the Greek island of Corfu. In 1898, an anarchist stabbed her to death. In this photograph, I attempt to depict the restless spirit of Sisi by photographing a statue of her that stands by the palace entrance. I change the image from real to unreal, and completely alter the mood of the photograph by converting it from color to black and white. The menacing shadows on the wall intensify accordingly. With her back to us, a ghostly pale Sisi quietly slips out of the frame.
Galisteo Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2005
The line between description on one hand and expression on the other often comes down to a matter of mood and atmosphere. If this same image was made two hours later, it would not carry the same nostalgic mood, and would be only a description of a Santa Fe street, with cars, people, less abstraction and more detail. However, I made this image with a 24mm wideangle lens very early in the morning. There was no street or foot traffic whatsoever. Santa Fe light is very special – the city rests at an altitude of 7,000 feet above sea level, and it is relatively free of industrial pollution. Its skies are clear and its morning and afternoon light is warm and brilliant. The inner city is architecturally consistent as well – everything that is built must reflect the style and values of Santa Fe’s past. Galisteo Street is a typical Santa Fe street, now filled with shops of all kinds. A single antiques shop anchors this image – the horses incongruously placed in its window draw the eye and capture the imagination. But the qualities that fuel this image’s emotional content are the nostalgic colors of the warm morning light in the sky and on the buildings, the wideangle emphasis on the abstracted, empty street, and its pervasive sense of silence. All of these qualities provide mood and atmosphere, adding a context and an emotional tone to this street scene, and making an otherwise descriptive scene become an expressive one.
Sunset, Dendermonde, Belgium, 2005
The small town of Dendermonde, 12 miles outside of Ghent, has borne the weight of frequent invasions over the centuries. All was quiet, however, on the evening we visited its ancient buildings. The golden color of the sky and the repeating slender silhouettes in this image define this charming town’s style and cheerfully defy its bloody history. The color and shapes bring an optimistic and nostalgic mood to this image. It almost looks as if this is a whimsical set for a children’s movie. A closer look brings a bonus – a pigeon is resting (or nesting) on one of the five chimneys in this image.
Bartender, Scottsdale, Arizona, 2005
I abstracted this hotel bartender down to a silhouette and isolated him against a glowing alcove holding translucent ranks of bottles. A curving ceiling decoration twists overhead, repeating the pulse of the pattern in the bottles in the alcove. Evening revelry is hours away -- the only sound is silence. The somber colors and abstracted design of this image evoke a mood that I hope will produce an emotional response within the viewer. This photograph reminds me of the paintings of Edward Hopper (1882-1967). He often depicted isolated figures in bleak scenes from ordinary urban life. This is an image of a place dedicated to pleasure, yet it speaks here only of void.
Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand, 2005
We had only one day in Bangkok before flying north to the Golden Triangle and then on into Laos and Burma. Our brief glimpse of Bangkok’s most famous attraction, its Grand Palace, came at night, from a moving tea barge floating up the Chao Phraya River. Because the engines of the barge created tremendous vibration, there was no way to make a sharp image of anything at night. My only alternative was to deliberately create an unsharp image to express some aspect of this glorious 200-year-old palace. Using a hand held telephoto lens at a quarter of a second from a vibrating platform guaranteed plenty of camera shake. In this image, the grand palace appears to explode skyward before our very eyes.
The camera’s movement, along with the diagonal composition, creates an energetic mood that suggests excitement and heavenly aspirations. The great spire, throbbing with energy and aimed at the corner of the frame, appears to be moving skyward; an appropriate symbol for what is essentially a vast complex of spiritually oriented structures.
Sunset on the Mekong, Luang Prabang, Laos, 2005
We arrived by riverboat at Luang Prabang -- the jewel of Indochina -- at sunset. Surrounded by mountains at the junction of the Mekong and Kahn rivers, this city of temples, monks, and palaces is remarkably preserved in a time warp. As a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995, new buildings are limited and its old ones are cherished. The city draws much of its atmosphere from its rivers and mountain setting, and this image conveys a mood that defines the emotional state of mind that pervades the place. It expresses a feeling of tranquility and a sense of timeless beauty. Man and nature are juxtaposed to add scale to this image. The larger of the two, the man bending over the water in the foreground, draws us the floating piers that welcome us to this splendid city. (An instant later, he vanished into the river. He is about to enjoy an evening swim.) The smaller figure, a boatman holding a pole in his hand, stands against the blazing reflection of the sun, symbolizing a way of life. The Mekong River is at the heart of Luang Prabang, and Luang Prabang stands at the heart of the Mekong. Sunsets usually can create a mood or atmosphere that express an emotional state of mind. They can imply a sense of closure and peace, part of nature’s timeless cycle of beginnings and endings. We stand in awe of what see – an emotional state of mind created here by both mood and atmosphere.
Lunchtime at the Monastery, Amarapura, Myanmar, 2005
When Burmese boys turn nine, they often start a period of monkhood as white-robed novices. Some will remain in the monkhood for just a few months. Most leave before they turn 20. Carrying their rice bowls, these novices are lining up along with monks for their daily meal at Amaraura's Mahagandhayon Monastery.
Over a thousand monks and novices participate in this lunchtime ritual. I create mood and atmosphere here based on contrast and repetition. I chose to anchor the image with the novices who become larger in scale and more detailed because of where I choose to stand. They become the subject and the monks become the context. I also contrast white to red, and innocence to maturity. The young monks are a bit more restless, and look in various directions, while most of the monks seem to be more patient. The light flows through the trees, casting highlights on some of the faces, and subduing others in shadow. The atmosphere is calm; the mood is one of acceptance.
How I structure this image has created much of its mood and atmosphere. The scene is essentially a portrayal of repetition and conformity, as both red and white robed people flow diagonally through my frame. The fact that so many people are simultaneously behaving in essentially the same way also speaks of discipline and order, both of which are emotional states of mind associated with monkhood.
Rice Barge, Bangkok, Thailand, 2005
Copper is a rich color, conveying a mood of permanence. When I saw how the evening sun was reflecting off the copper plates on the hull of this old rice barge, I felt as if I was looking at a scene that has been shimmering there in the river for a long time, and will continue to do so. I intensified the reflection on both the hull and in the water by metering on the reflection itself, exposing for the highlights and letting everything else fall into the deep and mysterious shadows. Shadows also crate mood and atmosphere – by suggesting mystery and the unknown, they imply possible dangers as well. It is logical to get a sense of protection from this image. The copper clad hull helps keep this boat floating on a river full of unknown dangers, and for a long time to come. All of this is implied in the atmosphere I’ve created here through the interplay of color, light and shadow.
Shop Clerk, Yangon, Myanmar, 2005
This young woman, her face painted with circles of Thanaka, Burma’s traditional makeup, was more than willing to sit for this portrait without mugging or self-consciousness. I was struck by her serious mood, which is reinforced by the darkness behind her. More than half of her form is in shadow, which conveys an atmosphere of emergence, a coming of age. She was sitting on a ledge next with a window on one side of her and a large red rug on the other side of her. The rug is barely perceived – it brings just a trace of color to the darkness, complementing the color of her red sarong. The portrait is profound in its serious mood and emotional tone because of the flow of light and deep shadow, and her serious expression, which never varied. To me, this is face of Burma’s next generation, about to come of age. It is mood and atmosphere that help it express this idea.
In the Shadow of Buddha, Bagan, Myanmar, 2005
Bagan, a city of thousand ruined temples, is perhaps the most mystical place in Burma. And never does it seem more mysterious than at sunset, as the angle and color of the setting sun creates a shadow of a man, and blending it into the deep orange brick adorned with an icon of divinity. To bring out the mood in this image, I use the color of sunset, the shadows cast by it, and juxtapose within them the symbols of both man and divinity. The mood and atmosphere is shadowed and mysterious, yet also warm and hopeful. These emotional tones are expressed by the mood and atmosphere I’ve structured within this image.
Foggy Dawn, Phonsavan, Laos, 2005
Phonsavan is in the remote province of Xieng Jhoung -- not far from the "Plain of Jars" -- a mysterious and little known historical site deep in rural Laos. I made this image from the deck of our small rustic hotel high on a hill overlooking a valley studded with tombs known as stupas. The textures and colors created by the morning fog caught in the crevices of the valley below convey a mood and atmosphere that is profoundly mystical. There is also a deeply spiritual mood to this photograph, created in part by the presence of all those tiny tombs. Indeed, this scene becomes even more poignant when you learn that this area was one of the most heavily bombed sites on earth during the Vietnam War. (There were still huge bomb craters just outside of our hotel.) The United States Air Force, supporting Laotian Hmong forces in their losing battle against North Vietnam’s army and Pathet Lao forces, pounded the entire area. The tremendous fighting and bombing decimated the population here. The ghosts of 30,000 war casualties are never far away here. With this context in mind, look still once again at this image. Another word comes to mind for both its mood and meaning: haunting.
Walk of Joy, near Pak Beng, Laos, 2005
I saw the flowering bushes first, then the trees arching over the road, creating a gate of lush greenery framing the forest beyond. Next came the people, a steady flow of villagers passing below the flowers and into the forest glade beyond. And then this: two young children and a chicken walked past me. The joyful girl had both hands pressed to her shoulders as if she was miming a song. The smaller child held one hand on top of his head as well. At that very moment, a man suddenly appeared in the opening at the end of the road, holding an infant in a sling. I don’t know if these people were related or not – it would be nice if these children were walking towards their own father. It doesn’t really matter, however. In a village this small, everyone knows and cares about each other, related or not. I will always remember this moment in time and light and space before me, and the magical atmosphere of vitality it created. It was a moment filled with love, joy, and above all, life.
Buddhist Nuns at Study, Sagaing, Myanmar, 2005
One of the highlights of our weeklong adventure in Burma was a private visit to this nunnery. These women are cloistered – few ever leave the gates of their compound. They spend their days in learning, meditation, and prayer. I was allowed to photograph their activities at will. In this image, nine nuns gather round their teacher, sharing knowledge, intensely pouring their minds, hearts and souls into religious study. The atmosphere is indeed intense. This is not something done for pleasure. It is the purpose of their life. There can be more than one mood expressed in an image. Not only is the mood here intense, it is also communal. They may be individuals, but individuality is not at issue here. They are a committed community. Their robed bodies, huddled close to the ground and pressed together, form a bond that is anything but casual. They share everything they know and believe with each other.
Colonial Memories, Vientiane, Laos, 2005
Vientiane, capital city of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, still preserves echoes of the French rule in Indochina. This old house was built during the colonial era. The formality and beauty of the gardens contrast to the peeling walls. The dark, saturated colors, and ghostly shadow cast on the wall by the open shutter door imply an atmosphere of decay and neglect. What once was elegant is now forlorn. The gaping black hole in the middle of the image suggests abandonment. Places that are decaying, neglected, forlorn and abandoned create atmospheres that affect both the emotions and the intellect. The French empire here is long gone, but it left a few ghosts in Vientiane.
Threesome, Phonsavan, Laos, 2005
Can a picture as simple as three geese walking through a forest convey a mood that triggers an emotional response? Absolutely. I shot this trio moving through a forest just outside our cabin in one of the most remote sections of Laos. An early morning sun filters through the trees as the geese move toward the light from the shadows. The mood is one of hope and optimism. Even geese enjoy a good day, and from this shot, one gets the feeling they may be headed for one. A glow of light in the distance is usually associated with hope, and when that light spreads its golden threads upon the earth, the mood swings towards optimism. The atmosphere here is idyllic, charming, and serene. All of which establish emotional tone and convey meaning.
Two years after I posted this image, pbase photographer Jeremy made an expressive image of a woman sweeping a road in Burma. (You can see it by clicking on the thumbnail at the bottom. ) He says that it was inspired by this image of three geese walking through a forest. While his image is based on entirely different subject matter, it uses the principles of atmosphere and mood in the same way that my image does. He says he based his caption on my caption as well. In doing so, he demonstrates the validity of mood and atmosphere as expressive principles, and also shows us how to effectively make use of this cyberbook. He does not copy what he sees in it. Rather, he absorbs and remembers the principles it teaches, and puts them to work on his own behalf.
Dawn on the Sexet River, Laos, 2005
Sometimes we can establish mood or create atmosphere in an expressive image by reducing detail and implying meaning. That’s what I’ve done with this image of a Laotian guesthouse on the banks of a very low river, shortly after dawn. A cloud hides the sun, and helps me abstract the scene. I expose for the color in the sky and in the reflection, and let everything else go dark. The shape of the guesthouse is there but very little detail is seen. Presumably the guests are still asleep (except for the lone fellow walking the grounds at the right), and the mood is very quiet and peaceful. There are no ripples on the water, either, only rocks and golden clouds. The atmosphere is calm and silent. The curtain has yet to rise on a glorious day.
Graves, Salavan Province, Laos, 2005
Early morning light. An ancient tree surrounded by old graves in a rural village. The stupas marking the graves are sharp in the foreground, soft in the background. The tree that stands between them is softly focused as well, but is so massive in scale, and complex in form and texture, that it dominates the image. In the ornamental designs of the Buddhist gravestones, the Lotus motif is repeated constantly, another nod to nature, and another link to the flourishing old tree that fills most of the frame. The mood is one of continuity. Generations come and generations go, but the tree seems to link all of them as children of nature. I used a telephoto lens from a distance to create the zones of selective focusing here. The golden light warms the scene, creates a positive atmosphere, establishing death as part of life.
On the Mekong Ferry, Champasak Province, Laos, 2005
Evening light brings out the geometry of the traditional hats worn by Laotian field workers and farmers. These young women were aboard one of the ferry rafts that bridge the Mekong in this area -- known as the 4,000 Islands. I chose to shoot them from a position that abstracts detail and stresses shape and form, creating more of a symbolic image than a descriptive one. As such, this image expresses a mood that can only be described as timeless. These women are maintaining a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. They work the land and they sell its bounty. They stand as still as cultural icons in the warm evening light, wearing hats that not only shelter them from the merciless sun but also symbolize Southeast Asia’s agricultural tradition. They may not know it, but they honor time. For that is what tradition means.
Detail, Temple Entrance, Bagan, Myanmar, 2005
This doorway adorns a thousand year old temple in Bagan, a Burmese city that once ruled a civilization and today is a place of memories and ghosts. The details of this ornate entry symbolized the entire structure to me, with its Indian motifs and patchwork repairs and even the encroaching foliage quite evident. I photographed it at sunset to create a mood of historical grandeur, stressing its color, form, texture, and the sharp relief carved out by the long, deep shadows. Somehow a ruin at sunset acquires an atmosphere of timelessness that it does not have at other times of the day. Yet all historical glories are fleeting. Even the most wealthy and powerful empires eventually crumble and vanish. Bagan is such a place, where mood and history combine to create an emotional experience.
Perseverance, Bagan, Myanmar, 2005
This was one of the last pictures I made in Bagan, and one of my favorites. The effect of sunset and dust makes these cattle almost seem to be walking home through a field of fire, passing a thousand year old temple ruin in the background. The mood and atmosphere created by this image is astonishing. Fiery dust evokes the ultimate in heat and effort, an ordeal that repeats itself every day for centuries. Archaeology and agriculture exist side by side in this ancient city of ruins. Its residents know what it means to go to extremes in their daily lives. Yet somehow, the rural Burmese of Old Bagan persevere. If ever I’ve expressed a mood of perseverance in an image, this is it!
Peace, Luang Prabang, Laos, 2005
Some say that Luang Prabang is the most peaceful city in Asia. I found my own symbol for this peace in the upright hands of two Buddha images stored in a darkened corner of an ancient Luang Prabang temple. Three different factors work in tandem here to bring mood, atmosphere and meaning to this photograph. The contrast in color is astonishing – a blackened upright hand enters the frame from the left and stops just short of a brilliantly colored hand, its gold leaf and red paint eroded but still flamboyantly visible. The abstracting interplay of light and shadow is all embracive, creating a flow of black negative space between the hands that fairly crackles with energy. And finally, that energy is intensified because of a very slight blur due to camera shake. I had to make this image at one quarter of a second, hand held, in a very dark room. The very slight blur makes the hands seem to move almost imperceptibly, but they are moving. All of these factors give this image its sublime mood, which goes on to express a powerful emotional tone: peacefulness