Assignment 3

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

Bottlebrush Tree

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

Galveston at sunset

Galveston at 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

Summer Tanager

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

Freeport, TX

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

Similar colours, greens and yellows

Similar colours, greens and yellows

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

Common Paraque

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

Blue-winged Warbler.

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

US flag(top) and Texas state flag (bottom)

US flag(top) and Texas state flag (bottom)

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

Altimira Oriole

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

Queen Butterfly

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

Red car / yellowish orange number plate

Red car / yellowish orange 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:-

FreemanMichael 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
Highway Canon 60D 100 1/640 f/8.0 320 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
Dunlin Canon 60D 400 1/500 f/6.3 100 No
Flags Canon 60D 100 1/200 f/9.0 100 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
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Experimentation – Timelapse

I’ve been interested in timelapse for a while and after watching the incredible footage by Adam Magyar, who my tutor had recommended to me, I was spurred into actually getting around to doing some. I did some research online to find out about techniques and settings which i’ll summarise here:-

  • Chose a scene where there is some movement
  • Use a tripod!
  • Set intervals (varies but in my case) for 10 to 15 seconds
  • Set the camera mode to AV
  • Set the white balance according to conditions
  • To save camera battery turn off image preview
  • Make sure the camera is not set to auto shut-off
  • Set the ISO depending on the conditions
  • Use autofocus to get good focus then switch to manual
  • Use an intervalometer (some cameras have a built in one) to set how many shots you want to take and how often.

I used a Canon 550D with my 17-40mm lens, set on a tripod looking out through the window. It was a breezy day with winds up to 40mph so the clouds were moving fairly quickly. I set the intervalometer to take an image every 15s and to turn off after taking 1500 shots.

Sadly, after 672 shots the camera battery ran out – i’d taken 305 shots the day before in my first attempt and hadn’t charge up the battery in between. Doh!

I downloaded all the shots into iMovie and put them together to run as a time lapse video  which I then uploaded to YouTube and was pretty happy with the results – it was only my second attempt! I would certainly like to experiment some more with this!

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Photographers – Adam Magyar

In the feedback I received from my tutor for Assignment 2 one of the photographers he suggested that I have a look at was Adam Magyar. Pete very handily provided a link for me and what I found totally blew me away!

Maybe it’s because i’m bit of a geeky gadget-girl myself but I really enjoyed reading about all the technical side of things. Magyar has adapted his own cameras and written special software so that he can use unique scanning techniques to make massive images of speeding subway trains and capture the passengers on them.

I found the images to be incredible, somehow haunting, a moment captured in time but as i’ve never seen in a photograph before. Technology meets art!

My particular favourite is filmed from inside the train looking out onto the platform. Adam Magyar – Stainless, Alexanderplatz (excerpt), 2011. Look out for the running child, absolutely fascinating! 

Watching this spurred me on to experiment with some time lapse photography myself see

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Assignment 3 – Colour – Research – Ernst Haas

I’ve enjoyed the coursework and exercises for part three and looked forward to planning the assignment.

When I first started this TAoP module I dipped into one of the recommended course books Caruana and Fox (2012). I have now re-visited this book and found the content to be much more relevant.

Over the last couple of months it has been slowly dawning on me that by exploring other photographers, both past and present, and their work I can gain both inspiration and knowledge that will help me develop my own practice.

Planning for Assignment 3 is probably the first time during this course that I have spent a lot of time reading and researching and I have found that I have enjoyed it very much.

At the start of this section’s coursework I saw Ernst Haas mentioned and was immediately interested in the work of this pioneer of colour photography and wanted to find out more about both Haas and his work.

Ernst Haas (1921-1986) was born in Vienna and took up photography after the war. After moving to the USA in the early 1950s he began experimenting with colour film.

Haas’s colour images caught my eye and my imagination, particularly the blurred images such as the bullfighter (La Suerte De Capa, Pamplona, Spain, 1956) – the sense of both colour and movement in this image is fabulous.

Reading about Haas he sounded totally passionate about both life and photography – in the Ernst Haas Photofile book he is quoted as saying that to finance his travels and personal projects “Now I do absolutely everything … posters, postcards, annual reports, calendars.” I can certainly identify with that!

Most relevant to this colour section of the course I found the images “Red Tulips, Japan 1980,” “Rose (1970)” and “Parachute Flowers (1967)” to be my particular favourites and what I would most like to aspire to during this part of the course.

Caruana, Natashia and Fox, Anna (2012). Basics Creative Photography 03: Behind the Image: Research in Photography, AVA Publishing

Ernst Haas Photofile, Editor Robert Delpire, Introduction by Virginie Chardin. 2010, London, Thames and Hudson.

The Ernst Haas Estate website: (Accessed 23rd February 2014)

My Pinterest board – I found it useful to add things to my collection called “Colour” as I was researching online. I added a lot of the fabulous Ernst Haas images to that folder.

Posted in Assignment 3, Assignments, Coursework, Part 3 Assignment, Part 3 ~ Colour, Research and Reflection | 2 Comments

Assignment 3 – Colour – Planning 1

At times I have felt a little overwhelmed by all the reading and research that I have done towards Assignment 3. I felt like I needed to sit down and organise my thoughts into some sort of order and make a plan.

I’ve always been a big fan of mind maps so it seemed reasonable to start with that. I am planning on taking the photographs for this assignment while visiting Texas so my first mind map centred on Texas and some of the ideas that came to mind. I need to work on this one a little more before I publish it.

Following on from reading Caruana and Fox (2012) I asked myself questions as I made notes. What does Texas mean to me now, before I visit? Warmth, sunshine, oil, dessert, colourful birds, beef, cowboys, stetsons, rodeos? What will Texas mean to me once i’ve been there? How will I be able to make a coherent set of pictures and at the same time fulfil the remit of the assignment?

I also made a second mind map, this one detailing what exactly I need to keep in mind when looking for subjects to photograph. As I made this mind map I realised that I couldn’t say for certain what was meant by “contrasting colours.”

Luckily I’d been able to pick up a secondhand copy of Freeman (2005) for just 61p and the section from page 112 called “Discord” was very helpful. Freeman states that “By definition, colours that clash cannot be from the same region of a colour model. They must be distinctly different, yet without the optical connection of being complementary.” OK, so i’m looking for colours that clash.

Freeman mentions that Martin Parr makes use of discordant colours, it being “an integral part of his preferred subject matter – the vulgarity of the British on holiday.”

I’m familiar with Martin Parr’s work and re-visted his website to look at his work in the context of this section of the course. Yes, not much in the way of colour harmony going on in there!

So, going back to contrasting colours I added notes to my mind map to look for:-

  • Clashing colours (e.g. blue/yellow, purple/orange, red/yellow, purple/green, red/blue). Of course what constitutes clashing colours is subjective – i’m sure that some people would love purple and orange together!?
  • Cold colours / warm colours
  • Light colours / dark colours
  • Bold colours / weak colours (i.e one colour is very saturated, the other is not)

Assignment 3 Colour

I have found it very useful to go through each step of the four requirements of the assignment, really think about them and break each one down further – I have a much clearer idea now of what I need to look for when i’m out and about in Texas.

I also made notes on my mind map to remind me to be aware of the things i’d had learnt about in the previous sections.

Caruana, Natashia and Fox, Anna (2012). Basics Creative Photography 03: Behind the Image: Research in Photography, AVA Publishing.

Freeman, Michael (2005). Digital Photography Expert: Colour. Lewes, East Sussex. Ilex.

Parr, (Accessed 23rd February 2014)

Posted in Assignment 3, Assignments, Coursework, Part 3 Assignment, Part 3 ~ Colour, Research and Reflection | 4 Comments

16 Colour relationships – Colours into tones in black-and-white

Exercise: Colours into tones in black-and-white

I shot the image, containing a variety of objects consisting of items that had pure, contrasting colours using a digital camera (a Canon 550D with a 60mm macro lens) on a tripod. Naturally lit from a patio door.

Original, colour photo

Original, colour photo

Using Photoshop CC I converted the colour image, each time using Image -> Adjustments -> Black & White. The options I chose are listed on the photo’s caption.

No filter (default settings)

No filter (default settings)

With no filter applied all the objects look fairly similar in tone.

Yellow filter

Yellow filter

Using a yellow filter, the red, orange and yellow are all much lighter.

Red filter

Red filter

The red filter lightened the red, yellow and orange substantially and, as expected, darkened the blue around the edge of the plate.

Green filter

Green filter

The green  filter was interesting, the red and blue were approximately a medium to dark tone, the yellow was light, the greens slightly darker than the orange and the violet came out quite dark.

Blue filter

Blue filter

Applying a blue filter gave the most shocking result! The oranges, limes, lemon and pepper were very dark. The blue and violet were both quite light. I was a little surprised and thought “this can’t be right!.” After looking elsewhere on the internet I realised that a blue filter does indeed darken most colours.

There was some interesting information on the Photography Mad website including a useful chart showing the effects of different colour filters on a variety of colours at:

Other useful information particularly if using film was found at:

I will be interested to experiment with some of these digital filter effects on monochrome photographs in the future.

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15. Building a library of colours – Primary and secondary colours

I really enjoyed this exercise, although I did wonder as I looked out of my window at the brown dead vegetation how on earth I was going to find bold primary and secondary coloured subjects that were not man-made, during the winter in the Outer Hebrides! Good job I’m always up for a challenge!

For this exercise I was to take 18 photographs, that is 3 bracketed exposures of each of the 6 primary and secondary colours: Red, Yellow, Blue (primary colours), Green, Violet, Orange (secondary colours).

Armed with the colour wheel from the course material I headed first of all to the Co-op…

Colour wheel

Colour wheel

A bunch of tulips, reduced in price 🙂 looked good for red and violet.

I have to say that I prefer the very slightly over-exposed image of the red tulip, although the correctly exposed image (middle) does represent the most realistic colours.

The middle, correctly exposed image is nice, even though it does seem a little darker, more saturated in colour than the real item.

The lemons alas were not on special offer but I bought ingredients to make a delicious dessert so they didn’t go to waste 🙂

I preferred the brightness of the slightly over-exposed lemon image, it seemed to have the most realistic colours.

I was determined to have as few man-made items as possible but not having had any sunshine for weeks blue was not to be seen so I ended up using this shot of my other half at the recycling point (very aptly, but not intentionally, dressed in blue!). The middle, correctly exposed image is the closest to the real scene.

I felt lucky to find green, these ferns hidden under an overhang were a lovely green and when I looked closely there were lots of other greens in the surrounding vegetation too. Again the correctly exposed version was closest to the actual colours.

I had a few ideas for orange – carrots, lichen, oranges. I used oranges for the first exercise so was keen to find something more interesting. The dull skies but quite clear light brought out the colours of the dead vegetation, it looked really orange so this is what i’ve used. The slightly over-exposed scene was the closest to reality.

I found this exercise very useful and also enjoyed the challenge of finding primary colours in the Hebrides in winter!

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