on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Compare and Contrast

Finn Hopson’s Moodscapes

Thomas Peck

The real pleasure of photography is that it forces me to slow down and really look. That’s never easy in our rushed world, so a chance to stop, look and see is truly valuable.


Many years ago as a university student studying humanities I had to get used to writing ‘Compare and Contrast…’ essays. The format was quite strict: take two authors, ostensibly writing about a similar theme, and then discuss in what ways the novelists were similar, and how they were different. The same subject, different techniques, leading to a different outcome. I guess this analytical approach stuck because as I look at these two photographs by Finn Hopson, I can’t help but react in exactly the same way. They both have the same subject – woodland scenes with mist and fog. They are structured very similarly – strong verticals bisected by flowing horizontals. But their mood is completely different. The first is aloof, serene, receding. The second is warm, enthusiastic and inviting. How is it, when so much is similar, that we can have such a visceral variation in reaction to an image?

Let’s deal with the comparative elements first. Whilst there is obviously a difference in format (square vs rectangle), both compositions are built around the same basic framework. The trunks of the trees create a structure that feels ordered – not an easy thing in itself to achieve in woodland usually so chaotic! They anchor the images, forming an authoritative background arrangement. True, in the square image, there are horizontal branches coming off the trunks, but to my eye, these seem to disappear – there are two trunks that dominate, creating a grid-like pattern. In both images, my mind notices the verticality of the trees.

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