Atmosphere is a word that means many different things to different people. To some, it means the mood of people when you walk into a room. To others, it’s the incredibly thin layer of air that surrounds our wonderful planet and makes us possible. To a photographer, atmosphere is the ethereal quality of light that “makes” a photograph. This type of atmosphere is usually transient, often lasting only minutes and sometimes even only seconds. We photographers love to brag about our ability to capture short-lived atmospherics that existed for only seconds.
Atmospheric light is oftentimes very soft, glowing, and diffused. Crepuscular rays of sunlight streaming through clouds, often referred to as “god rays” because they evoke the hallelujah chorus, are a great example of atmospherics. For me, photography is all about atmospherics. We seek it, plan for it, run to it, and scream when it happens. Atmosphere is often the one element of a photograph that evokes a “wow!” when someone first views a photograph.
Patagonia is absolutely brimming with atmosphere. Along with the mountains and lakes, atmosphere is what makes Patagonia such a photography Mecca. In reality, the mountains and lakes are largely responsible for Patagonian atmospherics in the first place, so from a logical perspective, it is kind of like a chicken and egg problem. Whatever the case, photographers from all over the world flock to the southern tip of South America for atmosphere.
And for good reason! During my trip, my colleagues and I started a drinking game. We had to drink something every time someone said “atmosphere.” (It’s the kind of thing a group of photographers does when living together for 21 days.) It turned out that we couldn’t keep up with the drinking. There was just too much atmosphere! You know life is good when that happens.
These images are examples of what I mean by atmospherics. These shoots were very exciting to me. In both cases, I was by myself. In the panoramic image with the condor, I stayed behind while everyone else went off for an early morning jaunt. Wait until you see what they got! In the second image, we were spending our last afternoon in a hotel. Everyone for unpacking and repacking. I’m glad I delayed my shower that afternoon! In both cases, the atmospherics were soooo exciting. Imagine yourself watching these scenes play out before your eyes half a world away. Atmosphere is the adrenaline of photography. Enjoy!