14 Jul 2010

Colour Relationships - part 2

Having been constrained by the difficult task of shooting photographs that comply with Gothe's colour relationship theory we have now been tasked with shooting 3 or 4 photographs that demonstrate how images that don't comply can also be 'correct'.

As an aside, this isn't the first set of 'rules' we have learned, only then to be asked to break them!  In photography, I am increasingly aware that complying to a set of acknowledged conventions is the safe path to a good picture but many brilliant photographs are achieved by breaking those conventions.  Only by learning the rules, however, can we understand what we have achieved when we deliberately go out to defy them.

This first image was taken in Shanghai, China.  The Chinese seem to have a love for large blocks of primary colour in their architecture.  They have huge estates of houses all with brilliant red roofs and then next door is a similar estate all with bright blue roofs.  It seems to be a crude use of colour and reflects an overbearing authority that dictates, rather than allowing personal choice.  Here is a classic stark orange entrance hall to a block of offices that is surrounded by a bright blue wall.  Orange is a very dominant colour and would normally appear in a smaller ratio to blue than I have shown here but I like the way it takes centre stage in the image, overpowering the blue wall although the wall is trying to hide it.  The appearance of the token tree has the effect of breaking up the line of orange and being on the centre line of the photograph adds to the symmetry.  Waiting for the girl to walk into the frame, however, has taken what might just as well have been a Lego block approach to photography and adds a little social commentary.  This is where people have to live!

This van was parked up in a New York street and is a mobile graffiti wall.  The colours look like a complete mishmash but when taking a closer look the artist has chosen 4 of the primary/secondary colours from the colour wheel and a 5th colour, green, is on the door.  Yellow and blue dominate in area and blue certainly takes the subordinate role of shadow to the bold yellow letters which is a good use for it in this context.  Red appears as a highlight to emphasise parts of the lettering and the whole area is lined with violet which acts surprisingly well in its task despite scoring the lowest on Goethe's numeric allocation.  I like the chaos of this image and the disreputable character who sits idly by, however even in chaos the colour has a purpose and a meaning.

These running shoes have three rather cute shades of violet and are surrounded by an expanse of orange.  Orange scores very high on Goethe's scale as an 8 whilst violet is only a 3.  Despite this I feel that the orange street and the advertising sign only help to emphasise the presence of the shoes.  This is partly due to the depth of field putting the background into blur and partly the lines created by the legs of the passer by.  This was no fluke as I needed those legs to add interest to an otherwise rather run-of-the-mill photograph.  It looks to me like the shoes are just waiting for those legs to walk into them and start running.  So despite the difference in colour emphasis, I feel that this combination has worked well.

I wanted to show that I am capable of taking photographs in this module that are more naturalistic and that not every shot had to include hues straight from the colour wheel.  Here is a pagoda in the gardens of a Japanese temple and the singing lady in the kimono is being accompanied by a man playing what is probably a kokyū, traditional 3 stringed instrument played with a bow.  That explained, the colours are a lovely combination of red and green, although the green is dominant in area.  This doesn't distract from the image as the red serves to highlight the performers and because of it's prominence in the centre of the image it holds its own well.  The splash of blue that the kimono gives also works well as although blue scores well below green/red the muted natural colours of the foliage give way to the more strident hue that the blue gives.  It works for me and I hope it works for you too.

13 Jul 2010

Colour Relationships - part 1

The opposite colours on a colour wheel are considered to balance each other in a harmonious pairing so that they look pleasing to the eye.  However, because the quality of the hues vary so much the proportions of each colour in a balanced picture should also vary.  For example, whilst Red and Green are considered to be equal in hue and should be present in the ratio 1:1, Yellow and Violet should appear in the ratio 1:3 This is because a Yellow hue is considerably brighter and more dominant than Violet.  A balancing ratio for Orange and Blue is 1:2.  It was the German writer and polymath J W Goethe who first suggested that the hue of colours could be represented by numbers and therefore calculated the ideal ratios.  He made several reasoned conclusions about the relationships of colours which he published in his book The Theory of Colours.

This exercise asks for three photographs demonstrating the primary and secondary colours in pairs and in the correct ratio for balance.  Whilst it might appear at first glance that the proportions are a little skew, I have balanced those shades of colour that represent the correct hues and where light or exposure have changed the hues to a different shade I have ignored them in the calculation of the ratios.

Red and Green

Orange and Blue

Yellow and Violet

9 Jul 2010

Primary and Secondary colours

I think I made my point earlier about the differences between how colour is displayed and perceived.  The colour wheel that we have been given is probably not what Michel Freeman had in mind when he wrote the notes but more what the printer was able to achieve at a cost.  How we see colour depends on many factors and even if the exact shade is achieved it will look different to the eye depending on what kind of light is present.  Natural sunlight in the morning tints everything we see quite differently from midday and the evening and the presence of cloud or reflected light will alter things further.  Artificial light has its problems as well by casting differing effects depending on the type of bulb.

The camera adds its own complications as what it sees is restricted by the limitations of the technology and the manipulations that the manufacturer adds when converting the sensor's view of the world into something that we can see.  Add to that the changes that can occur when we finally display or print the colours and I think we are lucky to be able to recognise red from green... I won't even start on the differences of human perception and how our eyes and brains can deceive us.

So our colour wheel isn't the same as a pure screen colour that Photoshop (the circles of colour inlaid) produces as we can see below.
 And the colours above aren't quite the same as the professional colour checker that I photographed a couple of minutes ago either.  This is because of the variables that I mentioned earlier.  Any one of many factors might cause a change but comparing it to RGB colours above the only one I would really question is the green which is a livid lime green according to the RGB settings, a darker green on the colour wheel and a lighter but more blue-green on the colour checker.

The point I am making here is that my attempts to match colours for this exercise have been coloured (please excuse the pun) by my realisation that it is beyond the wit of a mere mortal to make an entirely accurate match.  Not only do our eyes deceive us but so does the camera, the sun and the way we view the results.  What you are seeing on your screen is probably not exactly what I am seeing and unless we all decide to meet in a laboratory to look at these results you are going to have to trust me! 

We might all just as well use this colour wheel I made a few years back for another course!

So with no more ado or excuses I publish my colour pallet.







Of course no one scene can easily demonstrate a single shade of colour.  All the images above show a variety of differing shades of the main colour, some more than others but in there somewhere is going to be an exact match for the correct colour.

I have to say that in my earlier attempts to do this exercise I tried to stick too close to the brief and ended up shooting in circles.  I also realised that in nature it is just about impossible to isolate a particular colour without resorting to macro photography and I didn't want to go there. I think the point was to get me out there looking and appreciating colours whilst trying to educate my brain in the basic hues to give me a starting block to build on.  I have no regrets about shooting mainly man made colours... they all started off in nature as crushed plants or beetles and if you want pure colours there are few other places to find them.

Back to work

Ok... things have quietened down a bit and I have an extension from my tutor so I am getting back to work as time allows.  Summer is silly season and work tends to go through the roof so the time I can allocate to less remunerative pastimes becomes smaller.  Study time comes under the law of diminishing returns and according to my wife, my employer, my children and my dogs (in that order) my free time comes last in the list.