WARM SUN COOL RIVER - How to convey feeling in landscape photography

I've been absent from the online world lately - spending my precious warm summer days in, on and near the water.  Waterfalls, rivers, creeks and lakes beckon loudly to me when the mercury climbs.  

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to join several very talented Google+ photographer friends on a hike to Tew's Falls in Dundas, Ontario.  It was a hot and humid day but we kept cool in the dappled light along the forrest path and sloshing around in the water of Spencer Creek.  

The hike to the main falls is moderately difficult. There is a path - but it weaves up and down the embankment, can be hard to find at times and is muddy and slippery in parts. With so many small falls along the way to photograph though, even if you didn't make it to the mighty ribbon falls at the end it would still be a rewarding outing.

The image here is from the lower falls.  A fair bit of post processing went into this one.  Mostly balancing out the dappled light and getting rid of hot spots.  I also warmed the light ever so slightly on the rocks in the foreground.  The contrast between the cool water on my feet and the warm sun on my shoulders was a strong sensation and I wanted that feeling to come across in the final image.

Conveying "feeling" in an image is often sited as one thing that can make the difference between a good and a great image. I heard Varina and Jay Patel speak about this once, and they called it the "emotional appeal" of an image.  When it comes to making images that have impact, sometimes if the emotional appeal is strong it can even compensate for poor technical and creative merit of an image.  

HOW does one convey feeling in a landscape image with no people?  I focus on making the viewer believe they are in or want to be in the image.  Sometimes, as in the case with the waterfall image above, it's a matter of enhancing the light and the mood.  Warm light, cool water, lush green, earthy forrest tones, silky water and strong textured rocks all of these contrasting elements enhance each other and help to transport us to the waterfall in the forrest on a summer day.  Getting right down in the water and placing rocks in the foreground helps to draw the viewer in and invites them to dangle their feet to cool off.

Can you feel it? Can you imagine sitting on those rocks?  I hope the answer is yes.  If you have other suggestions on how to convey "feeling" in landscapes then do be sure to share them with the rest of us in the comments below.



  • Jay and Varina Patel have lots of great information on their website, including some tips on photographing waterfalls.  Which you can check out here.
  • Fellow Ontario Photographer Wesley Liikane of Cowboy with a Camera was also out photographing a waterfall this week.  You can see his image on Google+ here.
  • I LOVE this article on how to connect with your subject from John Davenport at Digital Photography School.  He says "to truly capture powerful images we have to learn how to translate our emotions from the scene we’re photographing through the camera and into a still image."  Exactly!!  Best part is he offers more ideas on how to do that.

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reality is green

Normally when you go on holiday you hope for good weather I suppose.  But the interesting thing I have come to realize as a landscape photographer is that nearly all weather is good - as each brings with it something interesting to photograph.

As we packed for our family trip to Scotland, we warned the kids that we that were not joking about their need to pack full rain gear.  We even suggested that they may find they “live” in said rain gear.  And to be sure, it did rain (we were in Scotland after all) but to our delight we never needed to pull out the rain pants.

Of course the fantastic thing about a place that gets a regular amount of rain is that you get every shade of green in the flora.  Oh - and waterfalls!  



The lovely little spot pictured above is in Glen Brittle on the isle of Skye.  You may have seen other images from this place (as I had).  One image in particular caught my eye when I was planning our trip.  It’s often labelled “Scotland - Fairy Pools” and shows an unbelievably turquoise river, lined with purple trees (if you haven’t already, you can see it here:  Elle Bruce Pinterest Board.)  Now - if you know Scotland - you know that there is a good variety of landscapes and depending on the season you can find many colours other that just green.  But turquoise water?  Purple trees?  My interest was piqued and I decided we would have to check out the “fairy pools” for ourselves.

As we made our start on the hike from the car park to the pools, my husband commented that folks coming back down the foot path looked distinctly disappointed.  We looked at the rather steep incline ahead and wondered if we would soon be joining their ranks with grim faces.  

Sadly we didn’t find pools of turquoise nor purple trees - and not for a lack effort looking I might add.  I later discovered this website that debunked the photo I’d pinned, but in the field, I had rationalized that such colours were perhaps possible given the right conditions.  I surmised that we were likely too early in the season for the purple heather to be in bloom and that the overcast sky meant that the pools filled with crystal clear water and lined with curiously light stones remained a normal dull colour instead of that lovely turquoise that comes from reflecting a bright blue sky.

Luckily as we hiked back to the car I noticed this little waterfall - and so we were saved from becoming another four “frowny” faces on the trail back to reality.

Do you love the colour green?  Waterfalls?  Wild and rugged landscapes that look like the perfect place to house magical creatures? Then let me suggest you might love bonnie Scotland! 

Check back here again soon for more images from our adventures in this lovely land.

And please don’t be a stranger.  As always feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.


  • Nikon D700, 14-24 mm, f/2.8
  • Bracketed set of 7 shots,  some processing in Lightroom
  • later blended in Photoshop
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