IMAGE TALK with Noella Ballenger: What makes that photo work…

There are many conditions under which photographers work to make stunning images. Sometimes it means staying out late and other times it means getting up early. Occasionally it means freezing in the snow or cold rain or roasting in the desert heat. But regardless of the challenge, there are magical opportunities that offer great rewards in breathtaking moments.

This month’s Image Talk photographer, Pamela Brumbley, caught the first light through the haze on an early cold morning, when that golden light was glowing. Let’s take a look.

Sky Meadows by Pamela Brumbley

Image of fence, road, trees, and mist during the golden light of sunrise by Pamela Brumbley.

Subject: Quiet country road at dawn

Conditions: It was 38 degrees and cloudy early in the morning. It had rained the evening before and there was a light mist in the distance.


1. Leading lines and triangular shapes
2. Golden light of sunrise
3. Mist adds mystery and excitement
4. Silhouettes and small details add strength

Noella’s Comments:

Composition is an arrangement of design elements, such as lines, shapes, color, and light that form a background skeleton that conjoin within the image frame. The purpose of these design elements is to simplify the details into a workable and interesting structure. This image is a great example of simplicity in its compositional configuration.

The lines of the hill, fence, road, and trees are all simple and obvious paths that lead one into the distant lower center of the image – the end of the road. Add individual triangular shapes that are created between these paths and it makes a “flat” 2-dimensional photo suddenly flare into life by inviting the viewer to “walk” into the image. This creates interest as well as curiosity. Where does the road lead? What is over the hill or around the bend in the road? These might be some of the questions that come to mind. If you can capture a viewer’s eye and keep their attention, then they will continue to focus on the photograph.

The strong early light dominates the distance and cannot be understated. Photographers learn to use light to their advantage. In this image, the shafts of light that break across the road, the field and the fence pull the composition together. That light is also emphasized by spilling through the silhouettes of the trees. There are many ways light and color work together. Here, the golden mist creates an aura of mystery as well as a sense of anticipation and excitement as the world awakens. Playing on the emotions of the viewer is also important to draw them into the photograph.

There are also a number of small details that add strength to the image. Notice how the line of the trees and their branches, as well as the single tree on the left, act as stops for your eye and keep you from wandering out of the image. It’s the little details like these, as well as the golden sparkle on the wires of the fence, that add to the strength of the composition.

This is truly a wonderful image and we are delighted that Pamela allowed us to share it with you. Great work!

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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