The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

The Art of Photography: Assignment 3 Colour

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Wed, December 05, 2012 12:30:53



This assignment was a lot harder than expected, though I hope the work enclosed presents a modicum of understanding.

16 images –

· Colour harmony through complementary colours

Brick wall blue/orange, Energy gel sachets Yellow/Violet

Acer leaf and grass, Orange wine glass on blue background

· Colour harmony through similar colours

Fallen leaves - orange/green/yellow – warm, Leaves on trees - green and yellow – cool, Waste materials – blue green – cold, Leaves in close up – yellow/green - cool

· Colour contrast through contrasting colours

Red car yellow leaves on the tree, Toy cars, Fitness instructor, Green plant against an orange wall

· Colour accent using any of the above

Coloured ball bearing, Bicycle chain with gold link, The Robin, Grass and red plastic


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1. Colour harmony through complementary colours

Complimentary colours across the wheel – brick wall blue/orange

Blue and orange dominate the scene here, and I have intentionally cropped the image to present a more balanced presentation with a ratio of 2:1 in favour of blue, the more receding colour (Freeman 2007).

Complimentary colours across the wheel – Energy gel sachets Yellow/Violet

Yellow and violet, are readily available colours naturally occurring in the peak of summer with flower blossom, but less so in the autumn winter months. Therefore a set piece artificial image was created for this selection. Bright synthetically coloured food sachets were used – disproportionally with a ratio of 2: 1 in favour of the more aggressive yellow. The image was flashgun lit on white back ground with a shutter speed of 1/100th - in order to redeem a bright transmitting colour picture that suited the colours used. F11 as an aperture setting puts the rearward yellow sachet out of the plane of focus (Shore 2009) and helps to provide a little more balance to the colour distribution in the image.

Complimentary colours across the wheel - Acer leaf and grass

A potentially controversial image to employ to illustrate this theme, as softer browns and russet colours permeate the image, however I believe with the aid of flash the red and green content is heightened. In terms of balance the red acer leaf is centrally framed, with the green leaf and grass blade surround edging in from outside the frame (Shore 2009). The overlapping of the green grass blades over the red Acer leaf helps to re emphasise the proportional balance of the colours.

Complimentary colours across the wheel - Orange wine glass on blue background

An image I have elected to use from a previous personal project. A studio shot employing a blue filter over the light source to colour the white background independently of the orange glass, which was lit with a single diffused spot studio lamp from above and behind as a hair light (Hunter etal 2007). The proportions of orange – the more brilliant colour versus the less active blue are approximately correct according to Goethes work (Freeman 2007).

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2. Colour harmony through similar colours.

Colour harmony through similar colours - Fallen leaves - orange/green/yellow - warm

All the tones in this image are warm and occupy the upper right hand side of the colour circle, with yellows oranges and green, combined with some russet natural hues from a similar range of colours from the wheel as the primary colours. The image was taken in fairly close proximity to the subject with a 16mm lens and a moderate F11 and 1/13th of a second exposure to slightly soften the detail and provide focus on the colours. The green hues are almost an accent in the image, and the image was cropped tightly to give the impression that the subject matter exceeds the boundary of the frame (Shore 2009).

Colour harmony through similar colours. - Leaves on trees - green and yellow - cool


2 adjacent colours on the colour wheel which occur naturally very readily, the image is almost transparent and lacks depth (Shore 2009) and presents a balance of two energetic colours, despite the cooler nature of the natural lighting at the time of taking the photograph.

Colour harmony through similar colours. Waste materials – blue green - cold

The two hues depicted here both lack saturation, and the blue content is more brilliant than the green, creating an imbalance in how the colours are presented. There is a lack of balance in the colours which is accentuated by the awkward composition.

Colour harmony through similar colours - Leaves in close up – yellow/green - cool

More natural world colours in this frame, presenting yellow to green leaves. The yellow foreground leaf presents the strongest element in frame, both because of the strength and forward nature of yellow and the composition. The green is more subdued and naturally falls into background; this subtlety is aided by the lack of depth of field upon these green elements.

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3. Colour contrast through contrasting colours.

Colour contrast through contrasting colours – Red car yellow leaves tree.

The 2 colours working against each other in this frame red and yellow present an unbalanced composition, focusing initially on the red car, the viewer is then drawn to the brightness of the yellow, before scanning and then re tracing. The intensity of both colours is relatively similar, though the mass held by the yellow leaves is disproportionate to the smaller mass of the car.

Colour contrast through contrasting colours – toy cars

This image presents the yellow as a less frequent colour, but dispersed through a more solid mass of red, creating an acceptable level of balance between the two colours, the colour of the display is the principle attraction in the image, overriding the subject matter.

Colour contrast through contrasting colours – Fitness instructor

The vivid nature of the strong red against the relatively strong blue in this image presents a real vibration at the juncture of the two colours. There is little balance in the picture and the two colours battle for dominance.

Colour contrast through contrasting colours – green plant against an orange wall

Here, the weight of the orange background is reduced in effect a little by use of a shallow depth of field which presents the contrasting green plant leaves closer the plane of focus; however the orange mass still outweighs the green. The green leaves are hindered in colour graphic effect by the variation in saturation and brightness of the colour, if the leaves were more solidly a single hue of darker green their contrasting effect would be stronger.

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4. Colour Accent

Accent – coloured ball bearing.

A simple accent image, and a created rather than found image – utilising red nail varnish and a box of ball bearings, shot with on camera flash and F16 for a reasonable long depth of field, and a 300mm lens to isolate the subject from their container and to fill the frame with the subject. There is a single alternative visual distraction in the frame – a wire in the bearing pile – which although offering alternative stimulus to the coloured bearing I believe its inclusion into the image aids to demonstrate the overpowering effect of contrast of the singular coloured bearing against the more muted mass highlighted only by the specular reflection from the flashgun.

Accent – bicycle chain with gold link

A more muted and similar colour picture which still presents an accent with the gold links against the more silver mass, taken again with a 300mm lens to isolate the content and occupy the full frame, the image employed flash and a faster shutter speed of 1/160th in order to reduce the amount of light flash bouncing back from the subject. Although the subject matter was quite flat the image was again shot at F16; the relatively deeper depth of field employed to force the element of accent as the point of attention rather than the focus of attention being the plane of focus (Shore 2009).

The image was cropped tightly from original, and also re orientated - pushing the key accent elements into a more static position with the composition.

Accent The Robin

A more contrasting image which has other graphic intrusions into the frame, but again I believe the colour accent still presents the strongest element. The image was taken with a relatively shallow depth of field to help isolate the central subject from the background. The red/orange breast of the robin contrasts with the green background – and becomes accent as the proportion of red to green is much less that would aid a complementary colour of colour as suggested by Von Goethe (Freeman 2007).

Accent Grass and red plastic

A contrasting image, with no use of depth of field to assist the effect – a visually and mentally (Shore 2009) simple image presenting a documentary scene – it is plastic it is grass. The red and green colours dominate the scene despite the russet brown content and the shadow to the left of the scene.

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Overall thoughts and considerations:

An exercise which I have struggled with, colour is ubiquitous, and ever present, and in the words of Daido Moriyama (Vimeo: Tate Modern reference) I find it makes too many decisions and lacks abstraction, my natural preference therefore is to eliminate colour from my own work.

However, despite my misgivings, the exercise has forced me to re assess how I utilise colour to create black and white, and to explore the effect of colour hues saturation and tone when adjusted to black and white in edit.

Additionally this part of TAOP has also forced me to consider how to present themes in my future work in colour where my previous and current photography relies on black and white; in particular chiaroscuro, to create abstraction and symbolism from the banal. Work by both Shore and Eggleston (see online references) both present this very well. A better understanding of colour may help to create a less lazy approach to good photography and less of a reliance upon chiaroscuro. Understanding colour proportions and framing of colours is enormously influential in setting the mood of an image, and in presenting an image both graphically and in creating narrative.

In terms of colour as an exercise in TAOP, I have experienced a re-awakening with regard to colour assessment, and also to truly re look at the world around me, there is a great deal of variation in colour hue, greens in particular are hugely variable.

Balance and inbalance and colour partnership can be used to dominate graphically and ensure a statement and mode can be created in an image. Conflict and compatibility between colours can also be used to state or dominate a scene as can warm and cold colour grouping.

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