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Part three Colour – Initial thoughts.

Like a lot of the contents of this course, colour is not something I have consciously thought about in my photographic journey.  Until this course I was only vaguely aware of primary and secondary colours (my art O level was a long time ago) and their relationships.  Having said that I wonder whether, on some subconscious level I am more aware of colour than I believe myself to be?

Take this recent shot at a funfair for example.  Although, as it turned out I was not happy with it because focus is slightly out, I thought it worth considering what attracted me to the shot in the first place.  Consciously I think it was the fish but I am wondering whether, on an unconscious level it was the mix of green yellow and orange?


Goldfish at the fair F6.3 @ 1/800 ISO800

On reading “Basic colour theory”  I  thought it would be useful to summarise, for future reference (and to remind me) the attributes of the colours on the wheel.

Yellow – vigorous and sharp, the opposite of placid and restful.

Blue – cool, and has associations of intangibility and passivity. It suggests a withdrawn,reflective mood.

Red – has considerable kinetic energy, is relatively dense and solid.

Orange – a colour very much associated with radiation

Violet – has rich and sumptuous associations but can also create an impression of mystery and immensity.

Green – the colour of growth, yellow-green has spring-like associations with youth.


Again I have not consciously thought about these attributes, probably as most of my photography has been record photography i.e. not saying anything beyond “look at this”.  On consideration I think that the use of colour, as a reinforcement (and where practical to do so) could be a powerful tool but, and to me this is big but, there is a danger of being too subtle about it, in which case the intention may be lost on the viewer or being too obvious where the colour overrides the subject/message.

I recall from my film days having an idea of which film types were better for which colours (Fujifilm good for greens – Agfa for reds I think?) but did not necessarily use those films with their colour properties/strengths/weaknesses in mind.

With digital I am aware of the different colour spaces and also the importance of colour calibration to get accurate results.  I am not fanatical about altering white balance but have become more aware of this aspect and its ramifications to the image.

If I am honest I am probably more of a fan of black and white photography than colour so it will be interesting to see whether after doing this section my bias changes on this.


Focal lengths and different viewpoints

For this exercise I used the extremes of the lenses I own, 400mm and 12mm – a zoom range of some 33x.

I chose as one of the subjects the hanging bird feeder in my garden, taken at both these focal lengths:-

The second, and my preferred, choice were the rocks on Tunbridge Wells common.  Again these were taken at 400mm and 12mm:-




The 400mm shots in my view flatten the image, whereas the 12mm gives more depth to the image.  This flatness, I think, translates to the viewer that this is a shot taken from a distance while the wide angle shot makes a intimate interaction although care has to be taken to avoid excessive distortion.

Even with a flat subject the difference created by different focal lengths can be seen.  The first shot is taken with a 12mm lens at a distance of some  30″ and the window frame can clearly be seen


The second shot below was shot some 15′ away and while the subject occupies the same space in the frame, the reduced angle can be seen as there is no sign of the window frame.


As an alternative this shot of Tudeley church was taken at 12mm:-


While this was shot at 70mm and within a few feet of the window.

While again the wide angle is capable of showing the context of a subject, a longer lens is needed, in this case, to isolate the detail of that subject and the roles are reversed in that in the wide angle shot there is nothing for the viewer to get involved in but the close up of the window creates a closer relationship with the detail of the window.

I think this exercise emphasises that when considering how to shoot a subject the lens or lenses used is an important aspect.  We are used to considering certain lenses are appropriate for certain types of shots – wide angles for landscapes, medium telephoto for portraits and long telephoto for wildlife etc – but it is, I think important not to be restricted by what would be considered the norm, in terms of the type of lens, for any subject.