Wednesday, July 20, 2011

P9: colour themes

At times this course feels a little like a repeat of TAOP, although perhaps expecting better thought out answers to the problems set.  This is one of those times, the colour themes requested closely parallel TAOP and at the same time continue to reinforce the pastoral nature of the course material.  However, as has been much debated recently in the OCA forums, the course is not a prescription it is an outline.  Subsequently I have added my own spin to this project, changing it a little from what was originally requested, but staying within the overall brief.

Colour is one of my challenges in photography, I gravitate towards strongly saturated blues and greens, subtlety seems to have escaped my education, too many comics as a kid I guess, sometimes my images look to have the same palette as an Asterix book.  At some stage I need to get a grip on this, however, not yet, summer is a time of bold colours, I can work on my colour sensitivity later in the year.

So, go look for lots of green, well off to the park then!  The difficulty in this quest is not to find green, but to find a wide range within a single view.  I started walking through a densely wooded area of the Englischer Garten, at around midday, maybe not the best time, but certainly a time when contrast was going to be present.  The first shot I have selected is of light filtering through the branches:

This photograph has a reasonable range of Hues of Green, but most of all has a wide Luminance range.  This immediately raises the question, how is a wide range of greens defined, Hue, Saturation, or Luminance; or some combination, and what is a wide range.  This is not spelled out, so I presume that is for me to figure out.  Changing from a scenic setting to a close up of the foliage under the tree cover, I opened the 35mm lens I was using to f/1.8 and then to f/1.4.

My reason for doing this was to induce a blurred background in which the colour of the leaves and grass rather than their structure would dominate the frame.  This worked, however, the best two results above show that it also acted to blur the distinction between the different hues.  This led to another approach, getting the camera close to the ground and trying to build in some background, the next has a slightly smaller aperture of f/2.  I have tried to contrast the moss with the darker leaves of the background, the range of greens is ON, but the photograph is not particularly interesting.

My final photograph and the one that captured the best range of greens is not technically very good, but has a good range of hue and saturation, with the shadows supplying a range of luminance.  Once again I have gone for a very shallow Dof with f/1.4, which means only the middle ground of dandelions is sharp, hence my comment that this is technically weak.  However, I like the image and for the purpose of the exercise it delivers.  By getting down low I am close to the grass and can image the variance in colour of the brighter yellow green, this then contrasts with looking up at the darker greens of the trees.  I have both reflective and transmittive light.

Moving from the search for Green (seem to recall a Blackadder episode that did the same) to looking for contrast I captured the following two frames in pretty much the same location.  The grass was full of flowers with colours ranging from Yellow to Magenta, with the occasional splash of red.  Again I have placed my camera into the grass to shoot and used a fairly large aperture to keep the emphasis on colour rather than structure.  I think the Blue Yellow contrast is the strongest, however, the Magenta - Green - Blue contrast in the second image is visually more striking to me.

This far I have carefully followed the rubric, attempting to use natural colours, whatever those are.  I return once more to my contention that there is nothing natural about the colours in a carefully managed city centre park.  The text continually refers to natural, what is natural?  I have interpreted that to mean "Organic" in the above images, although the sky is hardly organic.  My real interest in following this course is to use it as a vehicle for a visual exploration of my home town of Munich, which means that even Organic is going to be a tough call for colour contrasts.  The parks are a key element of the city and a crucial breathing space within the urban sprawl, within them contrasts abound, such as the one below.  I was out at around 7am with the place to myself, except for a few joggers.  This man ran past me as I was trying to compose something out of the copse of trees in the middle ground.  I took a few frames, this is the one I like, he has dwindled to a point, but is still clearly visible due to his bright red jumper, it acts as a lead in to the photograph.  Perhaps his jumper is organic?

Stepping away from the park into the glass and concrete jungle that makes up the Olympic Park,I caught this last weekend, again a point of red, but this time the contrast is with the grey/blue of the buildings and sky.

Whilst pulling this together, I noticed that my photographs (including several I did not include here) used red as the point source of colour.  Red is such a powerful colour, immediately drawing our attention, fire fire!

Compare the following almost identical photographs taken at the same time.  In the first there is a red car, in the second I have removed any red cars.  The red car completely changes the balance of the first image, pulling the eye straight into the road.  The photograph is constructed to lead the eye to the BMW HQ in the top right, the red car effectively arrests this visual movement and keeps pulling the eye back to it.  This location is under consideration for my first assignment, I need to return and better frame the image, however, I will wait carefully to ensure that no bright red car is traveling in the foreground.

Another example of the powerful impact of a small patch of saturated red in a photograph is the following

Simply desaturating the red completely changes the effect it has on the image.

A useful project, even if simply reinforcing learning from previous activities.  Use of colour, especially small points of high luminance/saturation, has to be carefully managed and its impact upon a photograph not underestimated.  Used carefully such a point adds depth and possibly interest to the final photograph.

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