Lightning over the San Joaquin Valley from the Sierra Nevada foothills, California, USA

Lightning over the San Joaquin Valley from the Sierra Nevada foothills, California

What elevates a photograph beyond the ordinary? Light, composition, and technical proficiency all play parts, but is there something more?

I think so. The photographs that I respond to most strongly go beyond just showing what a scene looks like, and touch me on an emotional level. They suggest something bigger, more universal than the literal subject matter depicted in the image. They evoke a sense of mystery, or wonder, or awe, or surprise me by showing the world in an unexpected way.

I think this is such an important aspect of photography, so I’m really looking forward to delving into this topic more in my presentation for Nic Stover’s Nature Photography Classes next Monday. The presentation is called A Sense of Mystery, and focuses on those hard-to-define components that make a photograph richer, and give it more universal meaning. I’ll talk about the what, and the how – what elevates a photograph beyond the ordinary, and how you can make images that convey a sense of mystery and wonder.

This talk is part of a series on “Discovering the Mood and Mystery in Our Images,” with other presentations by Franka Gabler on Conveying Mood and Capturing the Essence, and Michele Sons on The Art of Fog. Franka’s talk on February 28th was excellent, and you can watch the recording now. Michele’s talk will be on March 5th, and mine on March 11th (and of course those will be recorded also). You can sign up for each presentation individually, or get the whole series at a discounted rate. Learn more or sign up here:

Winter Speaker Series from Nature Photography Classes

I hope to see you at my presentation!

— Michael Frye

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He lives near Yosemite National Park in California, but travels extensively to photograph natural landscapes in the American West and throughout the world.

Michael uses light, weather, and design to make photographs that capture the mood of the landscape, and convey the beauty, power, and mystery of nature. His work has received numerous awards, and appeared in publications around the world. He’s the author and/or principal photographer of several books, including Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, and The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite.

Michael loves to share his knowledge of photography through articles, books, workshops, online courses, and his blog. He’s taught over 200 workshops focused on landscape photography, night photography, digital image processing, and printing.