The ‘Wow-Factor’

‘Dark Sun’, Loch Slapin, Skye
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, 17mm, 1/15 sec @ f/22 ISO 50
LEE 1-stop, 2-stop & 3-stop ND Grad filters.
Manfrotto 441 tripod, Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

“There is a vociferous element among the landscape ‘elite’ that despises the ‘Wow-factor’ in any form.”

The ‘Wow-Factor’

For my image this month, I shot across this sea-loch, directly into the late-morning sun, amplifying the contrast in the sky and throwing the land into shadow. Shooting ‘contre-jour’ is a powerful way of introducing drama. Everything is being illuminated from the rear and because we are viewing the shadow side of everything, scenes become desaturated, more monochrome. This desaturation is a welcome counterbalance to the phenomenal contrast in the scene, the addition of colour might have been too overpowering.

The digital revolution is to be celebrated, it has opened doors, allowing  people of all abilities to enter our wonderful world of photography and create striking imagery with the help of incredible technology. The flood-gates have opened, the playing fields are being re-landscaped and creativity has never been more accessible.

One of the many consequences of the deluge of imagery from all the new photographers entering the arena is that it has become increasingly difficult for us all to create images that stand out from the crowd. It’s hardly surprising then, that our experience of imagery in the photographic domain is increasingly skewed towards the highly dramatic; images with a veneer of saturated colour, high contrast and over-emphasised perspective have become common-place in much of the photographic press and on websites like Flickr.

Understandably perhaps, there is a vociferous element among the landscape ‘elite’ that despises the ‘Wow-factor’ in any form; but it’s too simplistic to just dismiss dramatic images as being too ‘wow’, when so many of them eclipse such high standards. However, as the choices available to us expand exponentially with each new generation of cameras and software, it is becoming ever easier to ‘over-spice’ our images and ever more difficult to creatively respect natural boundaries.

Through the millennia, human evolution has created a visual system that naturally responds to colour and contrast, we find such attributes instantly visually attractive, regardless of the setting. When complemented by the visual balance, exquisite beauty and simplicity of a perfectly composed, exposed and rendered landscape photograph, when all the ingredients work in synergy, then saturated colour or high-contrast images can really sing. What’s more, when we find the perfect balance, they can keep singing for ever.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.