What makes this image expressive?

For me this image perfectly encapsulates the landscape photographer experience. Going out to the same location time and again because you feel like there is a shot to be had somewhere. Bracing the elements and almost giving up just to witness a few moments of good light. Finally coming home with an image of a scene that most people wouldn’t even have noticed.

To the first time viewer this image probably depicts a little moment of biss in an otherwise cold and harsh environment. To me it represents an ongoing shift in my photography from big vistas, to composition that feel more personal.

Specific Feedback Requested

Any feedback is welcome, really.


Thanks Martin for posting, and I really admire your passion. At the end of the day, I think that is one of the purest sensations we can feel, and it is deeply personal, as this image is to you.

The conditions indeed look entirely transient and fleeting. I can imagine being there and just taking it all in; grateful for just being able to be there and witness it. That’s a win right there.

On the Expressive Photography Forum I run we rarely voice personal opinion as a critique. It is a skill to divorce our own preferences from feedback.

So, what follows is not criticism, it is just my emotional consequences of the image.

I have written at length this week about the 5 triggers of engagement:

Luminosity | Contrast | Geometry | Colour | Atmosphere

Each of them has attributes and consequences.

I love the luminosity and contrast in this scene. It is also quite monochromatic and there is some lovely atmosphere. The one that is affecting me the most is geometry.

If you were to draw a line through every shadow, you will see how strongly the image pulls you down to the bottom left. Even the leftward lean of the far left set of trees just drifts us left. I feel that quite disturbing, and quite discomfiting.

To illustrate my point, the version above now pushes us gently to the right and almost for the first time, I get the sense of the background mountains in the distance. I can appreciate the depth of the scene more, because I naturally want to explore up and right, not down and left.

This is just a simple consequence of geometry, we have changed nothing else in the scene. I could look at the flipped version all day, but could not do so with the original. Weird huh?

Glorious scene, curious geometric consequences.


Thank you very much @Alister_Benn :pray: Your point about geometry becomes so obvious once you see the flipped version of the image. It really changes how the viewer approaches the image and makes it much more balanced.


Thanks Martin, yeah, this is a really good example of just how powerfully we read images intuitively and subconsciously. This one is so strikingly different flipped.

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I do think the left to right flip looks and works much better.

My left eye is the dominant eye and I know my parents forced me to write right handed, even though it felt more natural to use my left hand (it was back when they didn’t really know…). As a result, I tend to feel more comfortable with a right to left flow and I have found my compositions reflect that. Knowing that most people are right handed, I have begun flipping my comps so that they have more of a left to right movement. I forget sometimes, but I do find that the left to right movement is more acceptable to viewers.

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This is a beautiful scene Martin! Very well seen and captured, and I can see why this has a strong emotional appeal to you. I’m also amazed at how that appeal is affected by simply flipping it left to right. To me the flipped version is significantly stronger, but it makes me wonder about the affect to people in cultures that read and write right to left. Very interesting! Either way, right to left or left to right, this is a fantastic image. Well done!

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Thank you @David_Bostock @Steve_Kennedy :+1: I also have been thinking about how our cultural upbringing might impact on how we “read” images. Very interesting indeed!

Honestly could not have said it any better than @Alister_Benn had. The simple flip of the image makes all the difference. Nicely done.

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