The brief for this assignment was to take 4 photographs each (16 in total) that illustrate the following colour relationships:-
- colour harmony through complementary colours
- colour harmony through similar colours
- colour contast through contrasting colours
- colour accent using any of the above
And so it was that I set off for my trip to Texas with the aim of not only enjoying my holiday but also finding enough images of a variety of subjects that would fulfill the criteria of this assignment.
Equipment and technique
Canon 60D body with a 100-400mm lens. Two 32GB SD cards. Manfrotto tripod.
I generally had the camera set on manual mode as I was mainly taking bird photos – for this I set the aperture at f/8.0 the shutter speed as fast as I can (never below 1/250 second). ISO was set on auto. Most of the time the light conditions were excellent.
The images were downloaded into Lightroom 5 and a minimal amount of post-production was carried out – mainly cropping, straightening, adjusting the exposure slightly when a little over or under exposed. The final chosen images were then exported to Photoshop CC and a high res version of each was saved for submitting to my tutor (also for printing out if I need to at some stage). A low res version of each image was also created for this learning log.
Colour harmony through complementary colours
These are the colour combinations that are opposite each other on the colour wheel and I managed to find most combinations in nature, apart from violet and yellow.
Image 1: Bottlebrush Tree
The red of the flowers on the “bottlebrush tree” complements the green background. I tried to aim for a 50:50 mix of red and green although I don’t think I have quite achieved that. I blurred out the green background by using a medium depth of field – to create a more uniform green area.
In this photo I think that the vibrant red tends to catch the eye more than the complementary greens so I find my eye looking at all the drooping flowers before I begin to investigate the background.
Image 2: Galveston Sunset
I liked the orange and blue in this scene but sadly was not careful enough with my composition and I feel that the object in the foreground (bottom left corner) is a little distracting. I was unable to park up and get out of the vehicle.
I find my eye travelling along the pier stopping briefly at the tall tower and then continuing to the big wheel. After that my eye is drawn to the shoreline and the birds on the beach.
Image 3: Summer Tanager
A bird unlike any we get in the UK – bright red! The Summer Tanager was skulking in the bushes and only came out for a brief moment, the red of it’s feathers nicely complementing the surrounding green vegetation.
The birds eye is the first thing that you look at in this image. The bird is placed in the image using the rule of thirds and it is looking into the more empty space on the left-hand side of the frame.
Image 4: Freeport, TX
Another sunset, with more blue than orange this time. I thought that the orange of the refinery lights added a little extra contrast to the scene as well.
This image is balanced by the light and dark tones. My eye follows the horizontal lines of the telegraph pole first then returns and follows the roughly horizontal line of the ducks in the water.
Colour harmony through similar colours
These are colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel, warm colours, cool colours. I had absolutely no problem choosing photographs for this part – I’ve never noticed before but I seem to be particularly attracted to scenes where the colours are similar and had at least ten that I could have submitted!
Image 5: Highway
I liked the muted, similar colours in this scene. The yellow of the dotted line up the centre of the road, the yellow house on the right-hand side and the cool green and light blue of the sky.
The eye is led into the picture by both the implied and actual lines of the road markings and telegraph poles. The image is not quite symmetrical but i feel that it is symmetrical enough to be just about balanced.
Image 6: Common Paraque
We’d been told where to look for the Common Paraque – a nocturnal bird that roosts in the undergrowth during the day, relying on it’s camoflague to stay safe from predators. It took a bit of finding until a beam of sunlight suddenly illuminated it, framing it perfectly.
The patch of sunlight surrounded by a darker area serves to draw the viewers eye directly to the paraque’s face. I feel that the light and dark tones are what balance this image.
Image 7: Blue-winged Warbler
This Blue-winged Warbler was very fast moving and I probably took 50 photographs trying to capture it in a reasonable pose! I really liked the greens and yellows.
I find that the eye is drawn diagonally along the plant stems until you reach the bird. The bird is balanced by the vegetation on the bottom left corner, both the stems and the flowers.
Image 8: Dunlin
Dunlin feeding in a shallow tidal pool. This is probably my very favourite picture from the whole trip. I really liked the almost monochromatic look of it. Sadly the bird furthest away is not as sharp as I would have liked. Since returning from Texas I have done some post-processing on this image and printed it out for sale – it’s been pretty popular. (The altered version is viewable here).
This image is balanced by the symmetry found within it. The sense of movement comes from both birds having being caught at that moment when their heads were down and their bills are in the water.
Colour contrast through contrasting colour
Contrasting colours could be looked up as “clashing colours” and on the colour wheel are spaced around a third of the way around the circle from each other. The examples that I managed to find and photograph are green/orange and blue/red. To my eye I don’t find the blue/red combination particularly clashing, it may have something to do with the prescence of white in the image as well.
Image 9: Flags
These red, white and blue flags against the blue sky caught my eye.
Another symmetrical image. Movement-wise the eye tends to follow the flowing movement of the flags from left to right. The slight blurring of the flags also give a sense of movement in the photo.
Image 10: Altimira Oriole
This bright orange Altimira Oriole contrasts with the green of the foliage.
There are two main curves in this image of the oriole – the main one is caused by the stance of the bird which your eye follows from the middle of the bird, up and to the right. The second one is the curve of the bough of the tree. I feel that these curves, one vertical and one horizontal balance each other nicely.
Image 11: Queen Butterfly
Darker shades of green foliage contrasting with a darker shade of orange in the butterfly.
The eye first follows the curve of the butterfly wing to it’s body and then starts to investigate the flowers. Balance-wise I would say that the detailed area that takes up around a third of the frame balances the out of focus background.
Image 12: Number Plate
I have a thing for North American number plates, each state has it’s own design and so i’m always on the lookout for a new state. As well as New York being a “number plate tick” for me, the yellowish orange was a contrasting colour to the red of the vehicle.
The viewer’s eye is instantly drawn to the implied traingle made by the manufacturer’s badge and the number plate. This larger central area is balanced by the small silver badge on the far left-hand side.
Colour accent using any of the previous harmonies or contrasts
For this section I looked for scenes that contained a small area of colour that had either a large area of complimentary colour, similar colour or contrasting colour.
Image 13: Green Jay
This fabulous Green Jay in amongst the green of the foliage had just a small amount of blue (on it’s head and to a lesser extent on it’s tail) as an accent. Blue and green are similar colours, next to each other on the colour wheel.
Another slight curve, leading from the tail up to the head/eye of the bird. The larger area of blue on the jay’s head is balanced out by the smaller area of blue near the edge of the frame.
Image 14: Aerial Advert
A tiny splash of red on the banner and on the aeroplane’s wings and tail contrast with the mass of blue sky.
With such a lot of plain blue in this image the eye is instantly drawn to the strongly contrasting red on the banner. Once the banner has been investigated the eye travels along the tow rope to the small plane.
Image 15: Vermillion Flycatcher
A small area of red on this stunning male Vermillion Flycatcher is the complementary colour to the green of the leaves. I quite liked the out of focus, fairly neutral coloured background.
The eye is instantly drawn to the bright red of the flycatcher, I feel that this is not only because of the red but because the bird is partly backlit. The light and dark tones in this image are what make it balanced.
Image 16: Ring-billed Gull
I really liked the small amounts of yellow in this Ring-billed Gull’s legs, bill and eye against the mass of blue sky. As well as the yellow being a contrasting colour to the blue there is also a tiny bit of red around the gull’s eye which is also a contrasting colour to the blue.
The focal point is the yellow eye and bill of the gull which holds the attention for a while, the rest of the bird is then explored visually.
Here are my reflections and evaluations with regard to how I have done against the criteria for this assignment.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)
I could have made things easy for myself and set up a number of still life subjects but I was keen to find as many colour relationships as I could within the natural world. This has made for a lack of yellow/violet which I could have contrived by buying flowers with that colour combination or setting up a still life. I decided against this for the main reason that I thought it would look odd in amongst the other images.
The majority of the images were taken in uncontrolled situations, the bird ones especially I sometimes only had seconds to get the shot. That is not to say that I took the shots without thinking. Very often I would sit for some time and observe the birds behaviour, for example was it returning to the same perch continuously?
Throughout the trip I took around 1500 photographs and once home whittled them down to 225 that I was happy with. From these I selected 36 images for this asssignment and from those chose the final 16 that I felt best illustrated colour relationships.
Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)
Following the tutor feedback from Assignment 2 I was very aware that I wanted to produce a set of images that were of uniform size, shape and quality so that they sit well with each other as a whole. During the trip I was conscious much of the time about framing the shot so that as little post-production/cropping would be necessary. I feel that I have achieved this.
I was also very conscious that I needed to keep in mind what i’d learnt from parts 1 and 2 of the course too.
Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)
With regard to personal voice, taking photographs of birds is what I do most of and what I feel most comfortable doing. I have developed my field skills over many years and like to think that I can spot a situation which will make a pleasing image.
Context (reflection, research, critical thinking, learning log)
I have to say that I have really enjoyed this section on colour and feel that I have learnt a lot. The section on ratios was particularly interesting as it was something that I had not encountered before. I tried to keep it in mind when taking the images for the assignment but didn’t always stick strictly to the ratios – fine i’m sure if you are setting up and taking images of a still life but when taking images in the “real world” not so easy.
I spent a fair amount of time studying the work of Ernst Haas during my preparations for Assignment 3. I have written about that research in a previous post.
I am continuing to read books on the subject of colour theory as I have found it really fascinating. I am sure that this knowledge will continue to help me in further OCA modules that I study.
Freeman (2005) gave a lot more detail and information about using colour, the book expanded on the course materials and on the information in Freeman’s other book The Photographer’s Eye.
Goldberg (1997) although the author is an artist rather than a photographer this was a fascinating read because it was very much about the emotions that colour induces. A quote from the book reads
I noticed that the blue of my paints wasn’t blue enough to get the intensity of that New Mexico sky. I painted the sky red instead. I painted Jazz yellow. He was a brown dog, but yellow expressed him better. Color became fluid
Books referred to during part three of The Art of Photography were:-
Hornung, David (2012) Colour: A workshop for artists and designers, 2nd edition. Laurence King Publishing, London.
Caruana, Natashia and Fox, Anna (2012). Basics Creative Photography 03: Behind the Image: Research in Photography, AVA Publishing
Quiller, Stephen (1989) Color Choices: Making color sense out of color theory. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York.
Freeman, Michael (2005) Colour: The definitive guide for serious digital photographers. Ilex, Lewes, East Sussex.
Coster, Bill (2009) Creative Bird Photography. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd, London
Goldberg, Natalie (1997) Living Color: A writer paints her world. Bantam Books, New York.
Whilst travelling I was able to read/refer to the following on my Kindle:-
Freeman, Michael The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
Edwards, Guy 100 ways to take better nature and wildlife photographs.
Blockley, Ann (2014) Experimental Landscapes in Watercolour. Batsford, London
Shooting information for each image
|Image||Camera||Focal length/mm||Shutter speed/sec.||Aperture||ISO||Flash|
|Bottlebrush Tree||Canon 60D||100||1/500||f/8.0||400||No|
|Galveston Sunset||Canon 60D||100||1/50||f/14||100||No|
|Summer Tanager||Canon 60D||400||1/320||f/8.0||800||No|
|Freeport Sunset||Canon 60D||100||1/25||f/14||6400||No|
|Common Paraque||Canon 60D||400||1/250||f/8.0||250||No|
|Blue-winged Warbler||Canon 60D||400||1/400||f/8.0||400||No|
|Altimira Oriole||Canon 60D||350||1/320||f/8.0||1250||No|
|Queen Butterfly||Canon 60D||400||1/500||f/8.0||640||No|
|Number Plate||Canon 60D||400||1/400||f/8.0||250||No|
|Green Jay||Canon 60D||400||1/320||f/8.0||4000||No|
|Aerial advert||Canon 60D||115||1/500||f/8.0||100||No|
|Vermillion Flycatcher||Canon 60D||400||1/320||f/8.0||400||No|
|Ring-billed Gull||Canon 60D||400||1/320||f/8.0||100||No|