Thursday, January 5, 2012

Photographing Spooky Places: Mood/Contrasts

This abandoned jail was creepy, but coming up the stairs into the women's section, the light coming in the window at sunset, I thought about how crazy it must have felt to be there imprisoned. That one word "crazy" made me think of a funhouse and I tilted the camera to capture this as I walked up the stairs. Now, it looks like how it actually felt standing there--just kind of wrong and weird.

Ask yourself - What is the mood of this place? Accentuate it! If it feels dark and mysterious - accentuate that. If it feels intrusive and overpowering - accentuate that.

The same jail. I stopped to read some neo-nazi ridiculousness on a cell wall and got distracted by the shadow of a bar that made a cross atop of it. Now, it wasn't just the rambling writings, but the cross which obliterated parts of the dialogue.

Ask yourself - are there more ways to look at this? Walk around it and look at it from many angles and perspectives, below, above, the side, angled, paralleled, through an opening, from the point of view of someone in a chair, on a bed... Too many people just shoot a place from standing eye level. But, the shot from the bed, looking toward the door tells a story more than someone standing in the doorway shooting the bed.

The only thing worse than being buried in a vast desert? To be part of an anonymous bunch of burials with nothing more than wood stakes, anonymous, expansive, bleak. This shot captured how I feel about being buried in hell on earth.

Ask yourself - how do I feel personally about this subject? Accentuate it! If you find it charming and idyllic - accentuate that. If you find it disgusting and dismal - accentuate that.

Most people would consider this shot a mistake--into the setting sun! But, look at the effect it creates. By over or underexposing something, you make us able to see enough details to know the subject but a huge amount of mystery as to the details.

Ask yourself - how can I take advantage of the lighting? Over-indulge or under-indulge in the existing light and leave a lot of mystery.

The graveyard was creepy because it was beautifully green and maintained and picturesque, but a lady came at twilight to feed the tons of stray cats. Soon, the graveyard filled with cats and taking advantage of the twilight, I was able to photograph them and get eye shine. It really showed the scary mood of the prowling cats taking over the headstones and lawns.

Ask yourself - how can I create contrasts? Find that one thing that is ugly in the beauty, one thing that is beauty in the ugly.

Hope you learned a few things about looking at the world as potentially spooky. Even the most mundane things looks scarier if you do them in black and white, get below them looking up to show proportions that look enormous, capturing deep shadows, and letting the scene be obscured by tree limbs, or even letting a human shadow cast over a scene. Just like in a haunted house, it isn't what you can see that scares you, it's what you can't see that might be lurking... keep that in mind.