Elements of Coolness


Last week I was preparing materials for my latest photo class, on Photo Composition. I included basics on Subject and Theme, Rule of Thirds, selective focus, leading lines, framing and all the stuff I’d learned over the years, reading “How to…” articles and photo books.
flowers and clouds 4
Then I started thinking about what I actually do, in real life, when I am out taking pictures.

And I realized that while I do utilize all these things, what I really do is to focus my attention on adding what I call Elements of Coolness.

Isolation Lake, Enchantments

Isolation Lake, Enchantments


Looking at pictures taken by other people I am often awestruck at the magnificence they managed to capture. And after a while I began to notice that the images I admired the most had one, or in many cases, more than one really awesome aspect to them.
tractor-and-sky-1m
Generally the more Elements of Coolness in the image, the more remarkable the image is. Photos with several stay imprinted in my brain.
Maple Pass Loop Storm em
What is an element of coolness? Well, a reflection adds a very cool aspect to a photo. Bright colors do it for me (I’m a Color Junkie). A wide view from high on a ridge, wildlife, an awesome sunset, fireworks, people doing crazy stuff, flowers, mountains, stars, hot air balloons, the moon, a stormy sky…all of these are Elements of Coolness.
Sequim Balloon Festival

Sequim Balloon Festival


July 4th Carnival

July 4th Carnival


Sunset on the Port Townsend Ferry

Sunset on the Port Townsend Ferry


North Cascades Mountain Goat

North Cascades Mountain Goat

So, when I am planning to head out to capture images I have (of course) a plan of what I am going to take pictures of, as in flowers, or mountains, or whatever. Mostly I am considering how I can add cool components to the shots. I await sunrise or sunset. I watch the skies and look for crazy clouds or weather. Water and reflections are a magnet for me. I get out there and scan for lines or patterns.

Samish River

Samish River

I plan outings based on the moon cycle, flowers blooming, trees changing, sun setting and stars shining.

Colchuck Lake, Enchantments

Colchuck Lake, Enchantments


My goal is to add as many elements of coolness as I can to the image. Sometimes its luck, like when I visited Palouse Falls this spring and happened to choose a night when some intrepid soul had started a camp fire down in the basin at 1am!
Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

But more often than not I am able to add coolness elements by going back several times. Once you’re at a place once you get a feel for the place. When you return you can even bring things with you, like more people, or a dog…or a photogenic tent.

Sahale Glacier Camp

Sahale Glacier Camp


I went to photograph lookout towers several times and had issues with illuminating the inside. A headlamp just wasn’t cutting it. So, on my latest trip I hauled a special flashlight that opened up and threw out a nice broad, softer light.
Park Butte Lookout and Mount Baker

Park Butte Lookout and Mount Baker


Next time you see an image that you fancy, count up how many elements of coolness there are. Sometimes there is only one, like a picture of the tulips, but when you start adding more elements, wow, the image really takes off.
Tulips at Sunrise

Tulips at Sunrise

Start a list of your own. Think in terms of how you can add cool elements. Work out learning new techniques for image capture (like nighttime shooting) so that your list is bigger. And Voila!, you will soon have cooler images of your own.

15 thoughts on “Elements of Coolness

  1. ALL and (Each) of your Plans, Scheduling and time tables are the qualities from within that allows Time, Failures, Chance, and Nature to “Train YOU” to be in unison with your Surroundings. Your reading and trying…. results in Self-confidence, Waiting (Very Difficult for most People), Analyzing Your own and Others Photographs for (Content, Composure, Balance, Subject, “f”, Color, Angle, Framing and treatment of the Subject.)..All of the things you Teach are the same reasons that Your Gifts are so amazing and Enjoyable for us Viewers. Few will understand your unity with Nature and the elements that we all are involved with every moment of our Lives. May your days be filled with new winds, Changing Clouds, The Suns Life and Death effect, the waves softly rushing up a empty Beach, Hearing the Roar of Storm Driven Waves, the Standing tall Chipmunk before it disappears into and unseen Borrow. May your Path be Smooth, During the Dark moments in the Deepest valley.. May You remember the Beauty of the Sunrise that is sure to arrive. May the elements of Nature gather around you as you Pass fro Here to There. May an Elder wave an Agke Feather and Bless the Smoke that flows over, around and Within YOU.

    On Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 10:28 PM, North Western Images – photos by Andrew

  2. I am with you about the elements of coolness. I cannot count how many times that I sat and waited for the coolness to happen and nothing showed up. It can be like that some days. But you have to be there when it happens. And I find that a lot of the time you cannot plan for everything. Your going to get skunked. I also find that if I go for a walk or bicycle ride with my camera I will eventually see something cool. For me it’s about getting out there as much as I can and hopefully cool stuff happens. Great post!

    • Thanks! Yeah, same here, I try to get out when there is a chance of coolness, but it doesn’t always work out…my new goal is to get out this spring and get a huge picture of a huge rainbow over the tulip fields!

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