Mood in creating an image is an aspect of photography often overlooked. There are many variables to this process but ultimately, the goal is to bring an emotional element to viewing an image. Many times I go out with a vision in my head of what I am looking to capture. Others times I go out not looking for a particular image but for a particular mood. I touched on this briefly from my last post but will briefly touch on this some more.
During this winter, I want to fully convey this time of year. Not just through a 2d image, but by attempting to tie emotions to that image, or rather, a mood. Black and white film is exceptional for this but color can equally capture this. With color, the thought process is somewhat different. Thought to color palette in choosing a film is one area of consideration. But ultimately, for me, it is the entire process.
What I will highlight today is a few B&W images and a few color images taken recently. I chose to use a very old camera, a 1952 Leica IIIF with an equally old or older leica 35/3.5 summaron. The summaron delivers a delightfully low contrast image, flaring easily to bright points of light. I could have easily chosen a modern lens however I wanted character, mood if you will, of time forgotten, past, etc. In the color department, I chose a cheap consumer film. I had my professional films, my ektar and portra, but I wanted a film to impart imperfection. Visible grain was to be desired. Sometimes, the perfection is through the imperfection. Other times, it is the imperfection that is a part of the sum total that will aid imparting mood.
Here are a few examples, snapshots if you will, of just getting out and about with nothing planned other than to capture the dreary mood of winter. Or, mood in creating an image.
We spent a week out in Texas at the beginning of this month and made a return trip to Big Bend National Park. The park is so vast that there is little hope for us to view it all and we are planning to return again next year for our 3rd trip (my 4th). This year, we decided to attempt the River Road, a dirt road only suitable for high ground clearance vehicles. This is a 56 mile road that will take all day to travel (7+ hours). We came across an old abandoned mercury mine in the far reaches of the park. It is accessible but in a remote location of Big Bend. The park itself is very remote so needless to say, we were a long way from civilization.
I was shooting a lot of film, B&W and color and was striving for a certain look. I wanted an authentic portrayal of this mine and film was my obvious choice. Vintage and grainy for the B&W and color using a 65+ year old lens on a 45 year old Leica to portray the feeling of time gone by. The isolation, the remoteness of the area led me to choose Tri X as opposed to TMax100 for B&W. TriX is an old emulsion giving that “classic” black and white look. Color was Kodak Ektar, my go to film for daylight landscapes. Though usually a contrasty and punchy film, on the ancient serenar 50/1.8, I knew colors would come out with a pastel look with low contrast giving the appropriate vintage look.
The mine is Mariscal Mine which was abandoned in 1942. From 1901-1942 it produced approx. 25% of all the mercury in this country. Amazing considering in the early years the ore was packed out by mule around 60+ miles to the nearest town of Terlingua on a rutted out dirt road. The workers were all from Mexico (the Rio Grande is a short, couple miles away) and all suffered severe health problems as a result of the mining. Apparently the brick still contain quicksilver and there was a warning to not touch the bricks. Mine shafts were still visible, dotted through the hills but thankfully secured by steel grates.
The feeling of isolation in BBNP is intoxicating. To be out all day and not see another person, to look out over the vast desert and mountains and feel completely alone, in a timeless state is very appealing. This abandoned mine are like the skeletons of a by gone era. I hope I convey the feeling I am attempting too through these images. Enjoy!