Friday, 14 January 2011

Assignment 3 - Colours

This has been a very challenging assignment which has pushed my creativity more than the previous two. I have been avidly looking around at different coloured scenes for ages now and don't think I will ever really ignore colours in photography again.

Whilst I was happy to work within the guidelines of the course book regarding balance and traditional ratios of colours, I was also happy to take the books advice to break these rules where the subject allowed it and also to make some interesting results.

I spent a lot of time planning the shoots for this assignment and I am pleased with how the arrangements came out. I would have preferred to have a wider selection of found situations, but weather, time of year and work commitments made it difficult to travel very far and acquire the kinds of colour images that I like.

The arrangements fell into the following shoots:
  • Fashion shoot where a model applied a variety of make-up selected to meet the different colour combinations and evoke different feelings
  • Posed drinks shots where friends sat with different coloured drinks and straws
  • Coloured water shots where the colour relationships were tested in a low detail context in order to really analyse the dynamics
  • A series of visual puns involving crushed pastel coloured sweets in a drug abuse context
  • Blooming Tea shots involving a selection of different 'blooming' green teas which consist of dried flowers sewn into green tea leaves in a way that lets them open and bloom when immersed in hot water
The found shots fell into the following shoots:
  • Snow covered grave stones where the bright colours of the flowers left are the only indication that the people are not forgotten
  • Landscape shots from Chatsworth House and Blithfield Reservoir

Colour Harmony: Complimentary Colours

These are the colours that face each other across the colour wheel, colours that balance each other and have a naturally harmonious relationship.

Image 1:

Idea - The green nails and red lipstick were chosen as complimentary colours and matched in ratio so that there was an equal balance between the two. The model was asked to repeatedly brush her lips with her fingers whilst looking away in order to create the feeling of movement but also the idea that the photo has captured a moment where a significant thought has occurred to her.

Settings - F8 aperture and 1/125 shutter speed. Hand held

How the colour works - The main purpose of the colour in the image is to draw attention to the model's finger tips and lips. 
As make-up it does its usual job of glamorising the wearer and it draws the focus of the image onto the mouth and fingers. I used such a close, asymmetric crop because I wanted to focus on the colour but without losing some eye-line and some hair. Facial features without any hair or neck can often feel disconcerting.
Balance and movement - The movement of the image is subtle but still present in the direction of the eye and the fingers. I have annotated one of the reject shots to the right which shows the whole head, the movement is the same, but the focus of the colour was lost as the model's eyes dictated all focus. The ratio of the red to green is as it should be for complimentary colours, 50-50. This gives equal prominence to the fingers which may have been lost otherwise as human nature is to focus on the mouth after the eyes when looking at a face.

Image 2:

Idea - Using a jar of clear water, a high key backdrop and food colouring, I wanted to see if I could capture the moment where the relationship between the orange and blue became the ideal 3:2. One of the rejected images, below right, is shown with this ratio but I have chosen this image as I feel that it's almost 1:1 balance, whilst at odds with colour theory, makes the image work.

Settings - 1/100 shutter speed F8 aperture. Needed to be quick on this one.

How the colour works - The orange dye becomes very dark in places and ranges from bright orange to dark brown. But for me the interest lies in the tendrils of colour that can be seen on closer examination. They are almost like sugar strands. The strength and detail of the strands is balanced by the creamy blue dye which looks out of focus at some points.

Balance and movement - as mentioned above, the image to the right is one of the rejects which works well with the colour theory and shows a lot more movement than the chosen picture. But those detailed tendrils provide their own movement that spirals around the image and really puts the viewer in mind of liquid movement.

Image 3:

Idea - I wanted to capture graves in the snow so that the colours would stand out. This image has been desaturated in areas so that the red and green are prominent against a grey background.

Settings - F4 and 1/320th second. This threw out the background detail and allowed be to capture the shot whilst crouching and wobbling.

How the colour works - Interestingly, it is only the dead grasses next to the flower that has been desaturated, the rest of the image is displaying the colours as they were on that day. The green and red seem defiant at the bottom of the image despite being coated in snow they are still vibrant, and the ratio of the red and green as equals seems to represent the couple who are buried below them.

Balance and movement - I anticipate that it may be suggested that this is an accent image or that the text is the focal point as the flowers are so small, but I really wanted the eye to fall to the bottom of the image, consider the flower and then look back up to the grave. As a found image I am pleased with it. It's composition could have been better were it not for my reluctance to keep a respectful distance and not stray from the path.

Image 4:

Idea - I'm not a big fan of giving titles to photographs but I think either "Addicted to Love (hearts)" or "Sugar High" would work well with the photos that I took.
I wanted to use colour in a way that was unusual and surprising so I started thinking about situations without colour where it could be added for the element of surprise. Placing the crushed love hearts in a drug abuse contexts works well.

Settings - 1/60 second and F4.5. Lighting was difficult here hence the slower shutter speed.

How the colour works - The green and red balance here show the two lines clearly which help explain the image to anyone who doesn't immediately get it. Lines of powder on a toilet cistern will immediately link to any images of cocaine abuse that have been shown in the media.

Balance and movement - The balance is slightly in favour of the red colour only due to the love hearts that have been left in the background to give the image some additional explanation. I didn't want to leave them out as it may have looked like I'd coloured the power in in post production. There is plenty of movement in the image due to the lines of colour being placed in opposition to the lines of the tile and the cistern.

Rejected Images:
I rejected a few images for this section. As shown above there were alternative images available from the model shoot and from the food dye shots. I also had some back-up shots from the love heart shoot and there was some flowering tea with red and green present but the saturation was too weak and the ratio was completely wrong.

Colour Harmony: Similar Colours

These colours are similar in warmth or in proximity around the colour wheel.

Image 1:

Idea - I like the idea that similar colours work well together and as such during the model shoot decided that I wanted to show both eyes and have the model looking upwards to enhance the lashes and also give the photograph a fixed direction. The model was asked to apply neutral foundation so that her skin's pink tones would work well with the violet eye shadow and still with the brighter lashes.

Settings - 1/125 and F8. Tripod and studio kit allowed for detail and a quick capture.

How the colour works - Despite the pink lashes being almost neon, the combination with the more subdued, less saturated violet works really well. The colour enhances the eyes and draws attention to their size which is a natural cause of attractiveness.

Balance and movement - Ignoring the eye line, which is admittedly difficult, there is clear movement around the eye because of the use of similar colours. As demonstrated in the image to the right the eye follows around the longer lashes and meets the violet in the corner and then continues around again. The balance between the colours, 3:2, is inconsequential really as they are similar colours, but it was interesting to note as, at a glance, they seem to be quite evenly balanced.

Image 2:

Idea - This image was composed after a series of photographs were taken of two women chatting and drinking brightly coloured drinks with brightly coloured straws. The colours weren't taking precedence in the image so I decided to focus on the drinks being held but leave in the hands of the women so that some of the context can be seen. It almost makes it seem that the drinks are having a discussion of their own beneath the notice of their animated holders.

Settings - 1/100 and F2.5. I was using a flash ere but I wanted to keep the depth of field shallow to ensure the glasses were prominent.

How the colour works - The straws hue is more in the pink-violet range than the red-pink range which may lead the assessor to comment that they're not similar enough, but both colours have such an artificial intensity that, to me, they look similar.

Balance and movement - The orange is much more dominant than the pink but the lines of the straws command more movement and attention than the curves of the glass, especially as the top transparent section of the glass adds some ambiguity as to the path the eye should take.

Image 3:

Idea - As soon as I saw an advert online for these teas I knew that I wanted to use them in my colours assignment. The yellow flower and green leaves provide a really great photo. I am very pleased with this image. The high key back drop and simple stand on which the tea pot s placed, leave all of the focus on the leaves and the bloom.

Settings - 1/80 second and F22. The tripod allowed for a narrow aperture as I needed to capture as much detail as possible.

How the colour works - The colours are similar to begin with, but what makes the image work for me is that the water in the pot has started to turn yellowy-green due to the green tea leaves that form the bulk of the bloom.

Balance and movement - There is a fine balance between the yellow and green tones in this image. The grey/brown ceramic underneath adds to the natural feeling and the fact that none of the colours are too bright or saturated makes it seem like something that could have occurred on its own. The movement in the image comes from the curve of the pot accentuated but the greeny-water and the yellow bloom seems to point upwards like a flower pointing at the sun. 

Image 4:

Idea - This is another of the "Sugar High" series that plays on the idea of crushed love hearts being snorted like cocaine. To move the image forward I wanted to introduce the mirror and razor blade elements that are connected to cocaine abuse in order to enhance the pun.

Settings - F9 and 1/20. a tripod again allowed for more detail in the shot.

How the colour works - The yellow and orange in the image are very similar in hue with the orange falling firmly on the yellow side of the colour wheel. The colours are less saturated than the previous love heart image and they seem to be more natural and somehow more menacing as they could now be actual drugs. That may be an indication of my inexperience in the area though!

Balance and movement - Again the colour balance is equal and draws attention to the lines of powder. The reflected colour in the mirror plays a part in the balance too as it is slightly darker than the colour on top. The lines seem to move downwards due to the shape and the direction of the razor blade in addition to this.

Rejected Images:
The nature of the images in this section, similar colours, meant that the colour balance was somehow less important than the other areas. As a result the rejected images were not chosen either because the arrangements were too similar to arrangements selected for other areas. The images chosen were picked for their compositional strength.


Colour Contrast

These colours are quite different from each other, they are all separated on the colour wheel by a similar colour, but when this is taken away we are left with a strong, almost clashing contrast. These pictures use colour in a way that is more eye catching than harmonious.

Image 1:
Idea - This was the second type of blooming tea that I photographed and the idea was to showcase the beauty of the product with a high key background and some pleasing forms in the teapot and shape of the pedestal (which is actually a cookie jar).

Settings - F9 and 1/60. Allowing for detail.

How the colour works - The colours in this image are very subdued and I wanted to use lighting that made the focal point almost a silhouette that made distinct by the colour. As a result the colours dont appear to be a contrast until you really analyse them. The violet and green work together even though they are very different colours and because the subject is a natural product it seems to excuse the colour clash.

Balance and movement - The green is very dominant in the image but the purple holds its own, mainly due to the contrast.

Image 2:
Idea - This image was part of the series of friends holding coloured drinks with alternating straws. The aim of this image was to make the drink and straw the forefront of an stong visual through its eye catching colours. The model was lit to the right by a softbox and on the left by ambient lighting.

Settings - 1/160 and F6.3. 

How the colour works - The contrast between the orange and green work really well here and it is the clash of colours that draws the eye away from the model and onto the drink. I'd hope due to the way that the image has been lit, that the glass and straw would be quite pronounced and I'm pleased with the way that this has worked. The view will consider what the model is drinking rather than what she is thinking but the photo as a whole remains quite melancholy in mood.

Balance and movement - On my annotation to the right I said that the ration was 5:1 and I wrote the wrong colour, I must have been thinking when I wrote it that the orange was on the yellow side rather than the red. Anyway, its probably more like 4:1.

Image 3:

Idea - This image was part of the series of food dye images that I took. I had an alternative, face on image of the jar with the food dye making shapes in the water, but whilst taking the photos I decided to try one with the mouth of the jar and the dyes being poured in. This has been cropped slightly to remove my fingers hilding the food colouring bottles.

Settings- F8 and 1/100

How the colour works - Yellow and blue are great colours to put together because even though they clash slightly they are so bright and vibrant that the image seems to be dynamic and vivid without much effort.

Balance and movement - The balance here is two fold because of the liquid streams of dye that can be seen above the jar and then the spreading pools of colour in the water.

Image 4:

Idea - This is Jeremy, my friend's oldest child at 18 months whom I was photographing for her at new year. When I was editing the images I thought that one of the images needed to be discarded as the flash was quite strong and his face had too much of a highlight. This brought my attention to his blue eyes and red mouth and I decided to try and edit the image so that it was reminiscient of Richard Avedon's Funny Face poster. I'm considering this one of the found subjects even though I have heavily edited it.

Settings - 1/100 and F6.3. This was a hand-held shot.

How the colour works - The colour is the real highlight here, it shapes the image and it reinforces what we are seeing. the last thing that the eye recongises here is the nose because it is colourless and represented by shadow.

Balance and movement - The blue in more prominent than the red which is appropriate for a child's face as their eyes are still quite large in their head at that at age.

Rejected Images:

The inclusion of Jeremy and the blooming tea in this set meant that I did not use any of the love heart images, the make-up model images or a graveyard image I had taken with contrasting colours.

Colour Accent

A single spot or splash of one colour set against another can have as much impact as an equal balance of complimentary colours. These images show a single colour in isolation against a plain or muted background.

Image 1:

Idea - When I was working with the make-up model for the colour accent part of the shoot, I knew that I wanted to use a blue or a green eye shadow but waited until I saw her eye colour until I made the decision. As she has hazel coloured eyes I decided to use the green eye shadow as an accent colour to a canvas of natural pinks, browns and shadows.

I decided on the composition by deciding first just to show one eye, to highlight the accent colour. The model has got a very good facial bone structure so she suited a face half-crop.

Settings - 1/125 and F8

How the colour works - The green works well as an accent colour, it is in contrast to her natural face tones and it lifts the eye making it the centre of the image.
Balance and movement - I asked the model to look to the side in order to generate some movement in the image and the eye line is the cost compelling movement. Secondary to that though is the movement that the green accent creates by making the viewer look around her eye. This is a similar effect to the pink and purple in the similar colours image.

Image 2:
Idea - This was a found subject, on the way home from Nottingham we stopped off at Chatsworth, a risk considering the weather and the roads but it paid off, the scenery was beautiful. I didn't have my SLR with me but after spotting these three people and briefly stalking them, I managed to get a photo that I was happy with using the powershot compact.
Settings - 1/100 and F8

How the colour works - The red accent here is the key and it draws the eyes to the three people. Without the red it may have taken a while to notice the three people but the red makes them the main focus.

Balance and movement - The movement is clear and set by the legs of the people. They are moving towards the right of the frame and the viewer naturally follows them.

Image 3: 

Idea - This is the last of the Sugar High photographs that I have chosen for the assignment submission. This image works well in the final few images as it introduces the last element of the pun, a credit card which always seems to be connected to snorting drugs. I think I may have made a technical error here as I'm not quite sure whether the credit card and razor blade do the same job! 

Settings - 1/60 and F4.5

How the colour works - The colour accent here works across the whole range of the photo and the red accent may even verge on dominating the drab background colours in the image.
Balance and movement- The red colour controls the movement around the image with the eye moving initially up and down the red line of powder and then moving around the sides of the curved sweets. In this image, with red as the accent, the sweets are present not just as contextual information, but as part of the accent colour.

Image 4:

Idea - This tree in the graveyard was the only real string colour that could be seen aside from a few grave flowers.
I wanted to capture the tree against the cold snow and grey tones. The trees in the distance seem to be similar colours to the grave stones making it all highlight the green.

Settings - 1/60 and F4

How the colour works - What I was really pleased about for this image is that the moss on the grave stones is included in the accent of the green. I increased the saturation of the green in Lightroom to make sure that this was as clear as it could be.

Balance and movement - The green is equally balanced with the white in the image but when the other muted colours are considered, the browns and greys, the green becomes a true accent colour.

Rejected Images:
The rejected accent colours were rejected on the basis of the strength of the accent and it's clarity.

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