Convey a Mood

Storm clouds over Mono Lake, CA, USA. 50mm, 20 seconds at f/8, ISO 100, ten-stop ND filter.

Claudia and I spent many days in Lee Vining over the last month-and-a-half. We’ve done three night photography workshops there, and the iPhone workshop Robert Eckhardt taught for us at Bodie.

Before one of our night workshops Charlotte Gibb and I headed to a favorite Mono Lake viewpoint, hoping for a photogenic sunset. When we first arrived we found some dramatic storm clouds and virga over the lake (virga is rain that doesn’t reach the ground). Later the sun broke through, soft of, off in the distance, and we even saw a faint rainbow. I photographed it all, but my favorite images were the early ones of those dramatic clouds. That wasn’t what I was expecting or hoping for, but it’s what I got, and I really liked the mood that sky created.

I’m always looking for ways to convey a mood or feeling in my photographs. I’d like to go beyond just showing what a place looked like, and capture a little bit of what it actually felt like to be there. That’s a difficult thing to do, and I don’t succeed very often. But I’m most successful when I let go of preconceived ideas about what I want to photograph, or what kind of mood I want to capture, and just go with the flow. If it’s bright and sunny, then I try to capture that. If it’s dark and stormy, then I try to convey that feeling. I’m not picky; I love all of nature’s moods, and they can all work, photographically, if I’m willing to open up my mind and heart to the moment. That evening at Mono Lake was just another reminder of that.

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Capturing a Mood; Moody Weather at Mono Lake

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.