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Assignment #16 – Temperature

Fresh snow and bare tree limbs set a wintry mood.

As living things, we exist in a fairly narrow temperature range, and so we are attuned to scenes that appear within that range (comfortable) and outside that range (uncomfortable or even potentially dangerous). Think about the emotions that are evoked when you look at a breezy tropical beach, or a warm cup of tea. Pleasant, right? Then, think of the emotions when you see a wildfire, or a huddled figure leaning into a blizzard. Less pleasant, perhaps, but certainly eye-catching. Temperature indicators affect how we feel about an image, and can be a strong component of what makes that image effective. What are some ways you can show the temperature in your images?

Start with the obvious. Include subjects that are known through common experience to be hot or cold, or only exist in regions that exhibit extreme temperatures. Think polar bear in the snow, or saguaro cactus in a hot desert environment.

A wisp of steam against a dark background, and warm tones, leave no doubt this cup of coffee would be a satisfyingly hot sip.

Include other clues. Beyond direct experience with a subject, the brain will recognize more subtle indicators of temperature. With animals or people, look for body language clues such as how tightly the arms are wrapped around the body, or how fluffed the fur or feathers are. With an object, look for steaming, or melting, or the condensation that settles on a cool surface on a warm day. You might also include signs of the season. Bare branches of trees, for example, can convey a wintry feel.

A red fox well insulated from the winter chill by a thick coat of warm fur.

Play with color. As an artist, you have creative latitude in how you portray a scene in capture and post-processing. Including more cool colors in your composition will give a cooler feel, and vice versa for warmer colors. You can also use white balance creatively to lend these same tones.

Frozen snow meets the warming first rays of sun.

Look for opportunities this week to go beyond the obvious in showing temperature, then share your images on our Muench University Facebook page. Our pros will be waiting to provide some constructive feedback, and we also encourage you to comment on (not just like) each other’s images!

More like this…

Assignment #2 – Minimalism

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do as a photographer is to learn to compose images that are simple, yet still powerful. Creating a powerful minimalist image is hard because we don’t see minimal scenes with our own eyes.