I had been procrastinating over this exercise for far too long, mostly because I couldn’t get fired up about taking a rudimentary photo of colour knowing full well before results were displayed what the outcome would be. As such I was seldom on the look out for colours and this first exercise has created a barrier for the rest of the section. However having read some responses on Flickr about another student stuck on this project noteable the comment Neil MacG made that“sometimes you just need to work through the brief so as you come out the other side and get to something that fires you up to do more”, I decided to crack on.
Michael Freemans book Perfect Exposure (ILEX 2009) has this to say on the subject “…different colors are at their most saturated, or most pure, at different brightnesses. That means for each colour there is one ideal exposure that delivers the combination of brightness and purity”. This book even shows the result of the exercise done here.
Haynes motor museum has the largest collections of red classic cars I have ever seen. Seeing all these hues of red before me instantly brought my attention back to the long put off exercise and so I took the photos as per the brief.
Rather than using manual settings of shutter speed to adjust the exposure, which can be fiddly on my RX100 I used the exposure compensation ring instead to shoot at increments of 1/3 stop. The exposure settings for the photos from darkest to lightests were as follows.
1/320 f/4.0 -1EV
1/250 f/4.0 -2/3 EV
1/200 f/4.0 -1/3 EV
1/125 f/4.0 0EV
1/125 f/4.0 +1/3 EV
1/80 f/4.0 +2/3 EV
1/60 f/4.0 +1 EV
Strangely the exposure settings for 0 EV and +1/3 EV were the same and so the exposure looks identical.
The results of this exercise throw up and interesting question – the +2/3 EV exposure is the most accurate representation of the colours as I saw them – the first car had an almost orange hue to the red and the cars behind were more pure in their redness. However the photo at + 1/3 EV is the most vivid with regard to the boldness of the red. Also we need to think about the viewers expectation – a row of red classic cars is more expected than an orangey one with red ones. So which one is correct it down to interpretation. Overall it is safe to conclude that as the exposure travels from underexposed to slightly over exposed we go from a deep Burgundy to Red to Orange. Something to bear in mind when taking the photo, but when shooting RAW it is also something to think about when post processing.
Anyone who has ever seen a Zhang Yimou should know that the director has a fascination with the use of colour in his movies.
Having just started the Colour section of TAOP, I felt fortunate to watch this movie where colour is used so deliberatly to convey emotion.
The story start in monochrorme, a son returning home in a cold winter to his mother’s village after hearing of his father’s death. The emotions arousing from death, sense of loss and even the season are all enhanced by the removal of colour from this act of the movie.
Then the movie flashes back to tell the story of his mother and now deceased father’s romance where suddenly the movie shifts into vivid colour which matches the energy and of youth and love.
This is not the first time such a device has been used in movies, but it is the first time I really paid attention to how the use colours can help enhance moods and emotions and is something to think about going forward with this part of TAOP.
I read this book pretty much straight after Perfect Exposure and enjoyed it a lot more. I felt this book was less of a “how to” and more of a “why to”. Trying to summarise such a comprehensive book is difficult to say the least, when so many useful snippets struck home for me.
The challenge with reading books such as these is that they contain a lifetime’s knowledge and trying to absorb that in the first read is pretty impossible. If I could say I have internalised 20% of what I read and am now ready to put to practice and try out some new ideas, well I would be extremely happy. As it is there is one chapter in particular that stands out for me, both in terms of the images used to illustrate the points and the theory itself being discussed, that is the chapter on Opposition. Firstly I found that I really like photos where the planes are separated such as the one below. Freeman explains how this can be done using among other devices a long focal length or silhouette.
Schoolgirl and Dagoba – Michael Freeman
Freeman then drew my attention to something that I had never thought about before which is how Landscape painters handle planes using the Lorrain method. Using Turner’s Crossing the Brook to illustrate he explains how painters create “a brighter pool within the darker foreground as a device for catching the attention and directing it outward and upward.”
Crossing the Brook – J.M.W. Turner
After reading his explanation of how Turner leads the viewer through his painting I started to see the thought and skill that has gone into creating this picture. What then seemed to click with me wasn’t just this particular art techinque, but the fact that painting have to be thoughtfully planned so as to engage the viewer, not just faithfully depict the scene. This is of course the same as it is within photography and this is one of many parallels one can draw between the two disciplines, but to create from imagination with no prompt is really creating. One could argue that in photography with have to work with what is available and don’t have the luxury of creating our own lighting. But even so the most important thing I have taken from his book is a new found appreciation for art and a desire to look more carefully and give credit to artists who have created something with such thought for the viewer. By really studying a picture and giving it the time it is due rather than breezing past with nary a glance I think I can in some way reimburse the painter for his effort.
I have struggled with this exercise for a long time, mostly because it would mean arranging a still life shot, something that I have little interest in. I had been mulling over ideas of what to shoot for a long time. I had in mind some stones which sit on my window-sill, but it seemed cliched and like I would be doing the exercise “by the numbers”.
Then after dismissing a second idea of Thomas’ toys because of their large size, I came with the idea of photographing our bigger boys toys. I felt that just using the pieces and starting from one and building up would mean a very boring image at the start and perhaps even when I had finished laying the pieces in a satisfactory arrangement. So I used the playing cards and hexagonal terrain pieces to add a little variety and create a natural border to the top to stop the eye “falling out” of the frame.
Completing the assignment was less an exercise in science or art and more just a task based on gut feeling. As I added more pieces I was conscious of disliking symetry or regular shapes and I didn’t like them spread out too much or too bunched together. How to explain my thinking is difficult, sometimes liking something just is. Explaining dislike is easier than trying to articulaet just why something is appealing. Asking why a sunset is appealing is difficult to explain in this way.
The photo file numbers are not concurrent because in between were arrangements that didn’t look so good and these images were discarded. In fact I am not sure that No.9 looks “right”. There is a gap on the bottom left and it feels to long.
All but the final photo have been cropped as I didn’t know about the final framing until I had placed all the pieces. I then realised I had too much space on the border so zoomed in tighter. To keep the previous photos the same I had to crop in processing.
I am actually quite pleased with the final photo and this has left my confidence boosted because I know I didn’t deliberate too hard on the photo, just placed them as I felt I should.
The implied lines in the Matador photo are curving, with the Matadors capes flowing counter clockwise and the bull seeming to be turning clockwise. Put together it seems like a deadly Tango. The implied curves are further strengthen by the actual curving trail in the dirt floor.
The photos of the man working the horses implies a line going from the man to the horses and then from the horses back to the man. The horse’s headline is long and helps to point towards the man. As well as this their seems to be curving line as the horses are pivoting around towards the man.
Taking my own photos was easier than expected, it seems different people can tune into different ways of seeing.
1. The look of wonder in my son Thomas as he looks at the unmoving man creates a strong implied line. I also saw a slightly weaker one directing from his fingers towards heaven. Although I am not sure if my transposing Christian prayer (where we symbolically think of God above) is the same as Buddhist who looks for internal peace.
2. The conductor was gesturing wildly as we were about to pull out of the station and then held her hands to point in this direction. Even though I was there on the train I have no idea who she was pointing too or what this means but it does create an interesting line
3. I really like this photo taken in one of the public parks in Ruian. Everyone seems to be pulling in different directions creating a kind of balanced tension. Caught a second earlier or later and this photo wouldn’t have worked as the people passing each other would have been either overlapping or exiting the frame.
4. When we took Thomas to an indoor market the local store owners formed a perimeter around my wife and our son who they were all eager to see. Their eye directions all pull towards the same point – my son. It was difficult to get a different angle because I was in a narrow aisleway and so found this spot to be the most appealing – showing both the subject of the stares and some of the people doing the looking.
I found that I could find implied lines in many situations when out on the streets photographing and since completing the exercise I am still looking for these lines in my regular shooting. In that regard then this practice has been very useful and I know will continue to put seek out this graphical element in my future photos.
I actually struggled with this exercise a little because although I kept finding triangles due to my position or perpective, when I moved to get a better composition the components of the triangle shifting and suddenly I didn’t have a triangle anymore, or I did have one but it was a different shape than how I saw it before. Also I seemed to find many triangles that were either busily surrounded or an integral part of their environment. Sometimes this worked out well but mostly it just looked like a bad photo.
One of the first photos I took for this module was down the back yard at work. The rings on the cultivator have pointed tips that are mini triangles. I took another photo with a smaller aperture but I found this one taken at f/2.5 with my 50mm lens is a lot less busy and draws the eye to the rusty centre triangular tip at the front.
In the Chinese countryside I saw these long Poly tunnels besides acres of rapeseed and tried different angles to incorporate the two, but I just couldn’t do the scene justice because of all the rubbish littered around the area. In the end I decided for a more abstract approach and found a nice triangle at the same time.
I took this photo in an alleyway in Ruian taken at the end of our holiday there. If I had known before that I could make inverted triangles this way I would have probably found a more uniform roof line. The over-hang on the right breaks the triangle’s line a little, but it is still implies a strong triangle. I purposefully kept the alleyway dark so that the people at the bottom of the frame don’t become too much of a distraction and look oddly cropped off. This also draws the eye to the contrast between light and dark, the edge of which makes the triangle and as we look to the base of the triangle we see the full height of the apartment building.
I was lucky with this photo because I didn’t need to arrange three people specifically for the photo. As my friend Tom and I were walking down a street in Hangzhou on our way to the a large shopping mall called Hangzhou tower, we stopped to ask a policeman for directions. As we did this a family stopped to listen because they were also headed the same way. They tagged along with us and we all got chatting and I took some photos of them as we walked along. The mother was out of the frame for this shot and it worked well with the two (another unusual sight in single child China) children flanking their father, the figurehead of the family. It is not often you see a Chinese family all together and looking this happy as a unit.
For the photos of the implied Triangle I decided to use the same pieces as I used for the Multiple points exercise. I felt the military theme lended itself well to a triangle or spearhead shape. I didn’t want to use the same troops for both photos but I found that the Americans (Green) didn’t look great on the grassy backdrop. So I flipped it over and used the beachhead scenario so they contrasted better. No matter how I experimented with the three unit types, it always came back to looking best with the infantry as the base of the triangle. I think this is because they have height that the other pieces don’t and so add a sense of balance and weight to the triangle. Putting them any other way made it seem like the triangle was top heavy. From a tactical perspective the photo with the infantry at the front is most militarily correct as the artillery should be at the rear supporting the troops, but we don’t get the same offensive feel here as we do in the in the beachhead image, where although the artillery shouldn’t be out front, it feels more graphically “correct”.