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How to compose an atmosphere from multiple photos

The culmination of great photography, of course, is a single picture of technical excellence and cultural relevance which evokes in the viewer a deep sentiment beyond what the eye actually sees.

It’s always bothered me, though, that there are photo locations and subjects which, in a single shot no matter how good, are portrayed “incomplete”. Some subjects just have more than one “face”, depending on the angle from which one looks at them. Others vary with the angle of the light which shines on them. Again other subjects aren’t singular but build their unique identity through what surrounds them.

So, instead of a single image, it can be impactful sometimes to “paint” the atmosphere of a subject with several photos, all exhibited together as one entity of display. The subject thus reveals its essence, its “soul”, so to speak, in the combined effect of those individual photos.

After some experimentation I have come to conclude that there are two particular combinations which work well in my photography: groups of 4 (“Quartets”), and groups of 9 (“Enneads” in Greek, but I prefer “Niners”)

I don’t quite know yet why these two combinations seem to lend themselves better to the mission than others. But I’m working on it, and I’ve got a few leads. For example, there is a large body of cultural mysticism around these numbers, such as the 9 virtues of Gautama Buddha. But that’s for another blog post.

From a recent trip to the desert, here is my “Sonoma Quartet”:

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