The Art of Photography

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Assignment 3 - Colour

This assignment on colour was a lot harder than I expected. Sometimes trying to find colour combinations in the proportions required for the exercises was not easy.  The more I studied and researched the various aspects of colour, the more I found to learn about.  It would be very easy to spend a year on this topic and still find lots to learn. I hope I've presented a reasonable grasp of the deliberate colour relationships within the time constraints of this module.

Colour Harmony through Complementary Colours:

Complementary colours are those opposite one another in the colour wheel. One of the first exercises in this section was to show them in perfect harmony in proportions as determined by Goethe. Although these proportions make an harmonious visual they can also look equally effective in slightly different proportions.

The first image below is that of red and green. In this instance the relationship is closer to 1:2 rather than 1:1, yet for this picture it works perfectly. The green is a perfect background (see comments in next section on warm and cool colours) for the woman feeding the pigeon. The red stands out from the background emphasising the main object(the woman) of the picture.

The next image is roughly adhering to the proportions suggested by Goethe (1:2), however the orange (brickwork) is a duller hue so the contrast is not as intense. What I found useful when looking for images to photograph for this assignment is to first see the colours where you might not have noticed before. The proportion of building to sky makes a significant difference the intensity of this image. Interestingly more sky made the building appear brighter.

Purple and yellow are not the easiest combination of colours to find. I photographed flowers already. I did not find anyone wearing these colours again and I was avoiding including painted structures in my photos.
I saw these vegetables at a corner store. Ok they are a little on the tired side but I was able to get a picture of purple and yellow and in roughly Goethe's colour proportions. The yellow is a lot brighter than the shade of purple in an aubergine so leaps out of the picture more than if the purple was brighter and lighter.

This version of red and green is closer to the equal proportions recommended by Goethe, but the colours are more muted so the result is less obvious than the first image in this section.

Colour Harmony through Similar Colours:

The choice of colours can produce a visual sense of warmth or coolness to an image.

The warm colours ranging from purple to yellow if dominant in an image will give a sense of warmth, cheerfulness and excitement. These colours appear to advance toward in an image. Clearly why a stop light is red.



 All the colours in this picture are within the warm range, even the river has a warmth to it. (In China the Huange He river is known as the Yellow River. It is the same colour as the Thames).

The second image taken at sunrise has an overall warmth created by both the light from the sun and the redness of the mountain.

The cool colours of blues, greens and cyan will make an image appear cooler. These colours also visually recede. Cooler colours can be restful, relaxing or depressing. I think of Picasso's blue period. Or relaxing when on a hot beach blue and white seats are always so inviting.


The scene above of roughly equal amounts of blue and green add to the relaxing feel to the image. Any warm colour would have been a distraction to this picture.

This scene of a coffee shop is one of a cool image. Although there is a man in a burgundy coloured sweater in the coffee shop, the colour is very muted and small so doesn't detract from the overall cool feel.


Contrasting colours, those that are about a third of the way around the colour wheel. This type of colour combination is always dramatic and can often appear to be garish or clashing.

The first two images I've used blue and red showing the drama by using different balances.
The first the flag against a blue sky has a small amount of red in relation to the blue. The red and blue are both bright hues. Red as discussed in the warm shades, leaps out at you. The blue recedes adding to the intensity of the image.

In the second blue and red photo the relationship between the colours while dramatic is not as dramatic as the image above. Firstly the red and blue of the women's sweaters are muted shades. The relationship is also softened by the largely neutral background

It took me a while to try and find contrasting colours that would demonstrate how gaudy they can be. This combination of bright colours in roughly equal amounts is really vivid/intense.

Like the image of the flag this combination of green and orange is very intense. Both colours become more intense. The poppy leaps out at you in a way that it wouldn't if there was another bright colour in the image. The main poppy is pleasing but the two in the background are distracting. I used this image to demonstrate how important it is to make certain you don't have distracting edges to the frame when composing a picture.


This section demonstrates how a small amount of colour in an image can add drama giving weight to both the main colour and the accent colour in a way that wouldn't happen if the colours were more equal.


The next image with an accent of red against a largely green background makes the red bounce back at you. Red and green are complimentary when in equal proportions. Red however is a bright colour that tends to come forward in an image. In this image it is rather annoying. Especially the red plastic bag the man in the left hand corner is holding. Very useful to be aware of how a colour accent can equally ruin an image. Take care when framing picture that you have an accent you want and not something you are going to spend time in post production cloning out of your picture.

The contrasting colours of yellow and blue are dramatic in most combinations. This image which I created by throwing a yellow balloon into the air creating a very simple picture could be a useful image where you want a page that you want to add text to. Both the yellow and blue appear more dramatic by the yellow being so much smaller than the blue.

In this final image of a red accent on a very dull background shows how an accent of colour can make an image more appealing. The background is largely green but as it is a duller hue than that of the red the usual contrast relationship between red and green is different. Without the red umbrella the image is not very interesting. The accent of a bright red makes the red really stand out but also make the background colour appear more intense as well.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Black & White

This exercise is about seeing and understanding the tone each colour has when it is converted to black and white. For film a filter is used at the time of shooting to determine which light and how much of it to let through.

I am shooting digital so I have used photoshop to convert my image to black and white and then used filters to show how each affects the final shade of grey.

I found four balloons in each of the colours we are studying. I took the photo after using a grey card to determine what my exposure would be.
The first image below is that of the coloured balloons.

Colour Balloons

Now using photoshop, Image>adjustments>black and white, the image is now converted. This is the result leaving at the default settings.

Default Grey Scale

The next image is the result when applying just the red filter. What happens is where the colour is red this comes through brighter. Colours without red such as the blue and the green are filtered out so become darker. My yellow balloon is affected by the red filter so has also converted to a lighter tone.

Red Filter

Now using just the yellow filter The yellow balloon is bright, the blue and green balloons are not quite as dark as when just using the red filter.

Yellow Filter

The green filter lets the green colour come through but blocks the red. The red and green balloons now are quite similar in tone.

Green Filter

The affect of the blue filter is very dramatic. Letting blue light in while blocking the other colours, gives my blue balloon the appearance of almost being white.

Blue Filter

In my version of photoshop under the black and white converter I have used, I have additional filters of cyan and magenta.
For my final image I have adjusted the filters to control the amount of light for each colour thereby giving me tones in my black and white image that make the image more interesting. Although this is a simple image with a subject matter that is not particularly interesting, it none the less demonstrates just how colour creates tone in black and white.
For this image the red filter affected both the red and the yellow balloons (this will be because of the shade of yellow the balloon is) however when I adjusted the magenta slider I was able to change the tone of the red balloon without affecting the yellow balloon.
These subtle differences can make a huge difference when converting images of people. Adjusting the tone of lips, eyes, freckles for example without changing the entire skin tone.


This final image is one from another project I am working on. I have spent time converting to black and white then adding back a little colour. Adjusting various parts of the image to get the tones that I wanted for the image. I have included this to show my understanding of how removing or adding colour to an image affects the final tone.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Exhibition - Barbican - NY '70's

Had an American friend staying so we popped over to the Barbican to see the exhibition of works by Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown and Gordon Matta-Clark. Labelled as "Pioneers of the Downtown Scene New York 1970".
Loved the work. Relevance to this journal-blog (everything is these days). Has to be their journals.
They wrote/drew EVERYTHING in their journals. All sorts of ideas. OK I'm trying to get better at this. Maybe they found it easier as it was pre-internet days. (Still a little niggle as though my tutor is sitting on my shoulder telling me to expand my ideas more in my journal, explain how you were influenced). You can see by the development in their (the above 3 artists) journals how their ideas eventually were created. They had so many journals. Did they sit down and write this stuff everyday? I still find it difficult to create ideas this way. For me so much is spontaneous. I see things when I am there. Although I am trying to pre-plan more.
I can see my mark now: "could do better if she applied herself".

Understanding Colour

I've added a new sidebar to show the books I'm currently reading. At present three books. Two of these are on colour. Colour by Victoria Finlay is especially interesting and has really inspired me.
The chapter on red had her in South America seeking cochineal beetles and me in the National Gallery viewing Turner. Each chapter of her book (I still have more colours to read) takes you to some part of the world to discover the origins of a colour.
Red has been a tricky colour to get right. Also tricky to retain its brightness. I've had months of issues trying to get the red on my screen and printer correct. So for me this was a colour of particular interest.
When Turner painted "The Fighting Téméraire" (the one he called his darling) he experimented with a new red paint - iodine scarlet- (also known as mercury scarlet) it was a beautiful colour but unfortunately faded very quickly.
After sitting in front of the painting in the National Gallery for some time I wondered how it might have looked when just painted.

So..... I looked for an image on the web as close to the original colour as possible then copied it into photoshop and intensified the reds in the areas I assumed should be brightened.

Obviously it wont be exactly as he intended as the file I have worked with is very small. However seeing how colour changes in an image, as in this painting, or on different media as a photo can actually change the mood of a picture.

The increase in red in Turner's painting gives a greater sense of the tragedy

My experiment is pictured below.

NB: I have assumed the file I copied from the web was OK to copy as the size was small . If there is a problem with this and I am informed I will remove this post.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Colour Relationships 1

This exercise wasn't as easy as I had thought.  Finding the colours in the right balance proved to be a challenge. I spent many days looking for the perfect balance in situations around London rather than setting up a still life controlled by me.
I also learned that it is not always beneficial to underexpose to get a richer colour.  For example, orange is richer when slightly underexposed, however this can make skin colour unacceptable.
I took loads of pictures until I got the selection below.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Exhibition - Contemporary South African Photography

This exhibition on at the V&A really spun my wheels. These photos jump off the walls at you.
What was it about this work, that made more impact on me, than the spectacular photos at the Sony Awards?
I'm drawn to work that has makes a strong statement. Tells a story. Has emotion. This body of work has all of this. The work was varied, each photographer had chosen a different subject, yet there was a similar theme running through the work making you think about life in South Africa for different groups of people. The Hyena Men by Pieter Hugo is so macho. The street chic portraits by Nontsikelelo Veleko reminded me of the young trendy Japanese. Jodi Beiber's images of women in their underwear in their homes really showed how stroppy/confident these woman are. A powerful comment on body image.

It is work like this that I would feel proud to create. Making the pictures talk to you. Having the viewer feel strong emotions, whatever they are: happy, angry, sad, just as long as it is not nothing.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Problem fixed

Another photographer told me to take my laptop to THE PRINT SPACE in Kingsland Raod to see if they could sought out my colour issues.
They calibrated it and wow for the first time I now have accurate colour. AND they did it for free.

Thanks guys.

Perfect timing.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Exhibition - Sony World Photography Awards

Saw the Sony World Photography exhibition at Somerset House on the weekend. 105,000 entries. Makes it seem impossible to be selected. Many truly superb photos taken by extremely talented photographers. However within a few days I couldn't recall more than a couple. Why is that? Too many? Or too varied?
I think an exhibition of just one artist or one theme has more impact on the viewer. The work I saw in Hong Kong has certainly made more impact on me and made me think more about my work.

Have started scribbling notes on pictures I am planning.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Art in Hong Kong

On my recent trip to NZ I stopped over in Hong Kong. Spent a day visitng the galleries in Hollywood Road. Trinkets and antiques are popular with tourists but if you are visiting, go to the galleries. Well known and established artists sit alongside new and emerging artists.
Among the artists who really stood out for me were painter,Lin Yingzhao. The light and shadow in his works are breath taking. I know that sounds o.t.t. but I just stood in front of his paintings with my mouth open. The colour and light are perfect.

This one of the lemons was my favourite.
You felt as though you could touch the folds in the table cloth and feel the sunshine pouring in through the window.
The Connoisseur Gallery has thumbnails of his latest work.

Since I started looking at lots more paintings and less photographs I'm seeing light and colour differently. The painters, whose work stands out for me, really do have an incredible understanding of light and colour.

Another artist whose work excited me was Ricardo Mazal. A Mexican artist whose work is a combination of photography, digital sketching and painting. The exhibition, KORA, was the result of his pilgrimage to Tibet. (Kora is the name of the 33-mile trek around the peak of Mount Kailash). You can see his work at the Sundaramgallery along with their describtion of what influenced his work.

What excited me was the colour and the texture. I'm sure being Mexican influenced his use of colour. When I visited Mexico many years ago, if asked to describe the place in one word, without hesitation it would be COLOUR.
His work is so vibrant. I'd love to have this on my wall.
How fortunate for me to see works focusing on colour at the same time as I am studying colour. What goes with what and proportions stood out for me as well. Looking at this reminded me of the work I saw in Barcelona earlier this year. I commented on the work of William Scott and how I felt his use of colour just didn't work. Seeing Ricardo Mazal's work reinforced for me the choice of colour, the hue, vibrance, amount, placement and texture make or break an image.

I'm also seeing a common thread in the work that really inspires me. Light, colour and focusing on one theme. (that last one will make my tutor happy as she is trying to get me to do this.)
I am trying.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Primary and Secondary Colours

For this exercise we are to find and photograph the three primary colours and three secondary colours of the standard colour circle. Decide if the truest colour is achieved by altering the exposure.

I love colour and prefer taking colour pictures to black and white. I am still having issues with achieving the right colour on my screen and what I print. Given these constraints I have attempted to get as true a colour as possible.
As a generalisation my preference is to increase saturation in colour, which can be done at the time of taking a picture by slightly underexposing.

Primary colours red, yellow and blue:
Red rocks. I find that to get that vibrancy of red underexposing works. This basket of vegetables was unexposed by third of a stop. Photographing sunset or sunrise is an example of how the redness benefits from under exposing. Hence why the best pictures are underexposed to the point where everything else is a silhouette.

Yellow does not work the same way as red. Underexposing these flowers made them take on an orange hue. For this photo I have overexposed the flowers by a third of a stop. The background is underexposed. Yellow has so many shades/hues that you really need to look carefully at how to treat it. Yellow also seems to reflect other colours around it. I found it could easily take on a green hue and in some lights can easily burn out.

I gave myself a difficult challenge in the blue picture. Dark blue deck chairs and a nice blue sky. The contrast is really to great. I have metered for the grey of the building so the sky is still blue but there is detail in the deck chairs. Filters would help out here. Also I would usually photoshop to deepen the blue in the sky. Blue is a colour that does become richer by a little under exposing. If the sky is that nice vibrant blue I will use it to meter from as it is similar to mid grey.

Secondary colours, green, violet and orange:

Green can be difficult as I discovered in the previous exercise photographing the green door. It can very quickly look grey. I looked for an area of vegetation that had several shades of green in it. Underexposing gave the truest colour. I probably could have gone even darker.

Violet. This was a challenge. Not the easiest to find in a large amount. I grabbed this chap from the street and convinced him to stand next to the grey wall for this shot. The grey has a blueness to it and similar hue to the violet/purple of his trousers that made this work. The best shot was the correctly metered one.

Orange proved the most difficult to get an accurate colour. I found lots of orange, although most of it was the fluro variety which very quickly looked red. Even this final picture, overexposed by a third of a stop, still looks redder than it should.