Color is a special thing. It is not just light reflected. Not a few sliders in Photoshop™. It is something that moves us emotionally and physically. It changes our mood. These things happen everyday. We don’t think about it consciously, most of the time.
The digital camera opened up the world of color. Black and white was the focus of the first twenty-two years of photography. Form, line, contrast, pattern. All the things you read about for composing an image. I ignored color for the most part – except to anticipate how color would affect the composition in black and white and consider what filter I would need to use post capture to create the right effect I was after.
A sine wave of crushed green glass against a grey concrete wall.
This is a nice line. I like the implied movement of the sine wave, yet by using it to split the image half, the visual weight of the color makes the image static. I enjoy playing with these types of contrast.
I could not afford to invest much in the way of color. Processing and enlarging color images is expensive and my budget then was not that flexible. Black and white, I could process and print relatively cheaply. Money often influences what we can do in art, even if we do not like to acknowledge that fact.
At some point I embraced Photoshop™ and I became a digital retoucher at an imaging lab in Seattle. I loved the job, a chance to work with new and old tools. Computer and enlarger. It was heady stuff. Eventually it was bound to change. One day I saw the first UltraChrom™ printer by Epson™, I knew that the world of photographic processing was going to mostly go away. The colors coming out of that printer were remarkable. Clean, bright, colorfast and archival. How could a photographer not be drawn to them?
I love the way the rust and the sky play with the eye. You should always think about how someone’s eyes might see big bold colors.
While this was happening the major camera manufactures were rapidly developing and improving the SLR market. I wanted one, badly. I waited until the cost was right and the size of the capture hit my minimum size, then I pounced. I wanted to be able to print an 8 X 10 image using traditional printing standards. The EOS10D gave me that.
After the first few thousand pictures, I settled down and started to focus on my art again. Though now something big had happened, I no longer needed to make every image just right on each click of the shutter. I could change shutter speed, aperture, my angle as many times as I wanted. It was not going to cost me money to experiment. My world changed and so did my thinking about color.
Black background with swirls of colored lights from long exposure.
Being free to play with light and exposure let me glimpse a world of color. Long exposures at night became an obsession for several weeks. With my years of experience with color management and my Photoshop™ skills, my images changed.
I eagerly branched out and started playing with my idea of what the image was about, and with that, color started to dominate my shooting. The magic hours near sunrise and sunset became much more important for landscapes. The blue skies behind the buildings were suddenly a much different canvas to lay the perspective shots on. It was very exciting to suddenly be able to explore something new with a camera. Thus I wanted to share what I learned and how I think about color in my first blog.
The golden hours near sunrise and sunset are wonderful times to get that nice warm colorful light. In this shot, that light really moves the red rocks into orange.
I love how color can define a shape. I love playing with geometry in colors when I can. It is one of my driving impulses when I am shooting urban. I think of a lot of different ways I can define spaces in geometric patters and forms. To me, that is much of what it means to be human; to make and see patterns. So much of the architecture and the equipment, the sand of human life, is in repeating patterns. I like to try and catch that. Maybe that is an odd thing for someone to focus on, but I see it everywhere and when I let go and drift around human civilization, I want that in my lens.
A classic example of my chase after geometric patterns. Love the ring of rust against the grey and neutral back drop.
When I am out in nature playing with color, I find the visual rhythm of the area I am in. Try and catch a feel of the day. Sometimes it is life and the elements, sometimes it is the individual or the contrast I am seeing. That shapes the shoot, but then I am back into that world of composition of line and form. These are the foundation it is all built on. I am lucky to have been pushed though that time.
A wash of color with a single object standing alone is an excellent use of color to frame the subject.
A mood in color is easy if you know what you want to catch. Everyone finds the mood of fall or of the first flowers of spring, but sometimes the obvious is not what I will look for. A single blueberry on wet fall foliage speaks to me of the end of summer, the last of the days of plenty, fading into the long cold sleep. For me, it is important to look for those subtle moods in nature.
Ultimately, color is a powerful tool for a photographer who can find the cues it has to offer someone. For me, the discovery has been a wonderful six year journey. I have been given the chance to look at a powerful aspect of light that though has always been there, it has just come to life.