Tag Archives: Johannes Itten

Assignment 3

The brief:

Take about four photographs each (16 altogether) that illustrate the following colour relationships:

  • colour harmony through complementary colours
  • colour harmony through similar colours
  • colour contrast through contrasting colours
  • colour accent using any of the above.

Try to vary the subject matter, including both arrangements (such as a still-life) and found situations. In arranged photographs, you will have the advantage of being able to choose objects and settings that have the exact colours you are looking for. Uncontrolled situations are rather more difficult, and demand more careful observation. Make use of both lighting conditions and filters to help create the colours, but not in every photograph. To accompany these photographs, make notes about the ways in which the colour works in each image, and make a sketch for each to show the balance and movement.

As mentioned in my planning post  I found this assignment really time consuming. Finding the right combinations of colours in the correct ratio is exceptionally difficult as well. An artist friend once remarked to me that people tend to dress in ways that reflect their natural surroundings and where I live we are surrounded by mountains and ocean, and for eight months of the year we have grey skies and rain, so the population tend to dress in dark (mainly black) and muted colours for the most part of the year (reflecting the mood of the weather in my opinion). It improves a bit during the summer when the sun is out and the flowers are blooming, then we see people in colour on the streets. Originally from South Africa where colours are always visible and vibrant it does take some getting used to. Unfortunately for me, just when I was ready to start working on the assignment portion, the weather changed and the colours were put back into the closets.

I eventually settled on a loose theme which was inspired by William Eggleston’s Democratic Forest series (see planning post). With weather fluctuating between drizzle, rain, torrential downpours and the occasional peek of sun, and armed with plastic bags and towel for my camera, I set off to photograph Vancouver in a nonpartisan way, hitting the forests, city streets, industrial alleys, countryside and harbours. I tried to ignore the fact that I was looking for colour combinations, but found that that monkey was often on my shoulder creating problems for me.

All post-processing was done in Lightroom 5, with the exception of the creating of the colour balance/abstract images which was done in Photoshop by applying an artistic filter. The corresponding colour balance/abstract images follow directly after my reflections on each image, followed by the movement sketch and an explanatory comment.

I am including a colour wheel diagram for reference purposes.

Johannes Itten's twelve-park color circle

Johannes Itten’s twelve-park colour circle showing primary colours (yellow/red/blue) and the secondary colours (orange/green/violet) and tertiary colours (yellow-orange/red-orange/red-violet/blue-violet/blue-green/yellow-green)

Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are those colours located opposite each other on the colour wheel.

Fig. 01 - Complementary: orange-blue

Fig. 01 – Complementary: orange-blue
f5.6, 25 sec, 22mm, ISO 100

The sun had set and the lights around the Marine Campus had come on and they cast a beautiful orange glow onto these boathouses. I took a long exposure which lightened up the dark sky to a nice blue creating a very pleasing harmony and smoothed out the water. The shrubbery in the foreground had some orange foliage as well which emphasizes the orange glow of the sides of the boathouses and the reflection in the water. The clouds in the sky add a touch of drama to the image. I was very pleased with this image and think it is my favourite of the series.

Post-processing consisted of local adjustments to lighten the exposure of the water by two-thirds stops to bring out the reflections and the foliage by a third stop. A radial filter was applied over the boathouses to bump up the exposure and open the shadows a bit and add some clarity. Another radial filter was applied to the shrubs on camera left to lighten the foliage slightly.

Fig 01 - Complementary: orange-blue abstract

Fig 01 – Complementary: orange-blue abstract

Fig. 01 - Complementary: orange-blue movement

Fig. 01 – Complementary: orange-blue movement

As can be seen in the image above, the shrubbery framing the bottom of the image draws the eye inwards towards the boathouses, while the boat houses stretch diagonally across the frame converging in the distance close to the ferry. The blue doors of the boathouses form punctuation points along this diagonal line bouncing the eye along from boathouse to boathouse.

Fig. 02 - Complementary: orange-blue

Fig. 02 – Complementary: orange-blue
f5.6, 25 sec, 52mm, ISO 100

The image in fig. 02 was taken at the BCIT Marine Campus, where students learn the art of seamanship. The reflection of the orange lifeboat in the water below caught my eye and with my camera on a tripod, I chose to shoot vertically to give emphasis to the pilings of the pier and make the most of their reflections in the water. The blue sky and water create a complementary harmony against the orange lifeboat and its reflection in roughly a 1:2 ratio (one part orange, 2 parts blue). The slow shutter speed smoothed out the ripples on the water caused by the breeze to a mirror-like smoothness and the foreground bushes add just a little touch of framing at the bottom of the image and pick up on the orange tones, serving to draw the eye into the frame.

Post-processing involved globally bringing up the shadows and adding a pop of clarity. Then local exposure adjustments were made to the shrubbery to lighten them up a bit, the exposure on water in front of the pilings was increased by a third stop and a couple of bright spots had a highlight reduction and exposure reduction applied to them. Then the image was sharpened and a touch of luminance added.

Fig 02 - Complementary: orange-blue abstract

Fig 02 – Complementary: orange-blue abstract

Fig. 02 - Complementary: orange-blue movement

Fig. 02 – Complementary: orange-blue movement

The movement in this image (fig. 02) is mainly of a vertical nature with the vertical pilings and their reflections and the lifeboat, which is poised for a downward movement in the case of an emergency, with slight undulating curves on the foreground shrubbery which draw attention to the lifeboat’s reflection, with the stability of the horizontal line of the pier’s platform and roof line behind the lifeboat, as illustrated above.

Fig. 03 - Complementary: red-green

Fig. 03 – Complementary: red-green
f8.0, 1/400, 24mm, ISO 200

Red and green form almost equal parts in this complementary harmony in fig. 03. The green foliage of the trees, shrubbery and grass is offset by the maple trees which are beginning to turn red and adding to balance the red is the red curved building in the background and part red sign in the front.

In post-processing a bit of contrast and clarity was added, highlights were brought down quite a bit to bring out the detail in the sky and the shadows were opened up a bit too. Locally the exposure on the road and the tops of the trees was brought down a third of a stop.

Fig 03 - Complementary: red-green abstract

Fig 03 – Complementary: red-green abstract

Fig. 03 - Complementary: red-green movement

Fig. 03 – Complementary: red-green movement

In fig. 03 the trees on the left form a linear perspective off into the distance, while the shadows on the road in the foreground create interesting diagonal movements leading from the edge of the frame inwards towards the tree on the right. The curve of the road on camera left leading to the street is echoed by the curve of the red turret of the building in the background. The trees also provide vertical movement stretching from almost the bottom of the frame to the top edge creating an impression of strength and stability.

Fig. 04 - Complementary: yellow-violet

Fig. 04 – Complementary: yellow-violet
f8.0, 1/320, 18mm, ISO 100

This was the only yellow-violet complementary harmony that I was able to find (fig. 04). These striking yellow dragons silk-screened onto a violet background flank the original entrance to the Vancouver Art Gallery (the actual entrance has been moved around the side of the building and this majestic entrance is only used when movies are made these days. Most movies made by Lionsgate Films and other companies, that feature a court house in them are usually shot on these steps). The title of the main exhibition is hung over the portico’s ionic columns. (The exhibition is on my to do list). The violet hues of the silkscreens are echoed in the man’s jacket (camera left) as well as in the socks of man who is sitting on the edge of the fountain reading a newspaper. His bright socks form the punctum of this image for me. My eyes keep being drawn back to his ankles.

A tiny bit of contrast was added to this image in post-processing, highlights were reduced and the shadows were opened up all the way. White and black points were set and some clarity and a touch of vibrance were also added. Local adjustments were made to the front of the gallery  to lift the exposure, shadows and add an extra bit of clarity to the building. Exposure and shadows were brought down on the corner of the highrise in the background as there was a spot where the highlights were blowing out. A bit of luminance was added when the image was sharpened.

Fig 04 - Complementary: yellow-violet abstract

Fig 04 – Complementary: yellow-violet abstract

Fig. 04 - Complementary: yellow-violet movement

Fig. 04 – Complementary: yellow-violet movement

The granite monument in the middle of the fountain is triangular in shape and this is echoed in the triangular shaped portico of the gallery’s entrance as seen in fig 04 above. Both triangles have their base at the bottom, indicating stability. According to Itten (1970, p 75) the triangle ‘is the symbol of thought.’ Quite apt in this case as this building used to be the Provincial Law Courts before it was turned into an art gallery. The wide angle of the lens creates a diagonal line along the roof of the gallery, which is reinforced by the fountain wall below and complemented by the movement of the people walking across the frame to the right. One is also very conscious of the eye-line of the man reading the newspaper (Gestalt Law of Good Continuation), which in turn brings the attention back down to his socks again. The diagonal line of the branches of the tree tend to lead the eye out of the frame and the vertical line of the building in the background is reinforced by the Gallery’s ionic columns, providing elements of strength and stability to the image.

Similar Colours

Similar or analogous colours are those colours which are located next to or very close to each other on the colour wheel.

Fig. 05 - Analogous - green

Fig. 05 – Analogous – green
f8, 1/160, 26mm, ISO 400

In this image of Deep Cove harbour (fig. 05), there are various tints and shades of the colour green: the bright green of the grass, the lighter manufactured green of the building’s roof, the darker shades of the cypress trees, the lighter tints of the maple trees in the centre of the image and in the distance the blue-green of tree-clad mountains. All these shades and tints of green combine to create a restful image. Green is the colour representative of growth, balance and harmony. It is also classified as an emotionally positive colour (perhaps that is why hospitals used to be painted green back in the day). The various shades of green can be clearly below.

Post-processing involved adding contrast and bringing the highlights right down to bring out detail in the sky as it was raining. Shadows were bumped up a bit, and clarity and vibrance added. Local adjustments were made to the tree on camera left to bring out more detail, by lifting the exposure. The clouds also had an adjustment done to drop the exposure by another third stop and bring down the highlights a tad more. An exposure adjustment was also done on the trees on the right to open the shadows a bit.

Fig 05 - Analogous - green abstract

Fig 05 – Analogous – green abstract

Fig. 05 - Analogous - green movement

Fig. 05 – Analogous – green movement

Apart from the obvious vertical movement of the trees in Fig. 05 above, there is also a parallel diagonal movement between the hedge in front of the building and the walkway at the harbour’s edge. The roof is triangular in shape featuring a triangular skylight and triangular portico at the entrance. This structure lends stability to the image and tends to anchor the eye in that corner for a while.

Fig. 06 - Analogous - red-orange

Fig. 06 – Analogous – red-orange
f5.6, 1/320, 180mm, ISO 100

I was sitting on a bench near a bus stop on one of Vancouver’s busiest street when this particular bus happened on by (fig. 06). This woman’s red jacket above the orange signage on the side of the bus attracted me immediately, but it was only when I had uploaded the image that I notice the orange stripe above her head. It must have been from one of the internal bus ads. I thought the vertical repetition of the red-orange shades worked quite well. Red is the colour of physical movement and excitement.

Only local adjustments were made to this image. There was a bright spot on the side of her sunglasses where the sun was catching the metal and I have toned that down quite a bit. I also reduced the exposure across her forehead to balance out her complexion with the bottom half of her face as this area was too bright because of the sun striking her. I then brought down the exposure and saturation of the yellow grab pole on the woman’s right to avoid the eye going to that bright spot.

Fig. 06 - Analogous - red-orange abstract

Fig. 06 – Analogous – red-orange abstract

Fig. 06 - Analogous - red-orange movement

Fig. 06 – Analogous – red-orange movement

There really is not much movement in this image, apart from the woman’s eye-line. She is looking ahead in the direction she is travelling.

Fig. 07 - Analogous - red-orange-yellow

Fig. 07 – Analogous – red-orange-yellow
f8, 1/160, 18mm, ISO 200

This photo (fig. 07) was taken on Granville Island, a place where art and industry co-exist on a little island under a bridge. I liked the abstract nature of the rusted, charred and patched corrugated iron wall of the one warehouse I happened to walk past. The analogous colours range from red to orange-red to orange to yellow-orange to yellow, all colours on the warm side of the colour wheel. The graffiti scrawls add an extra element of interest.

Post-processing involved adding some contrast, lifting the shadows quite a bit and adding clarity and vibrance.

Fig. 07 - Analogous - red-orange abstract

Fig. 07 – Analogous – red-orange abstract

Fig. 07 - Analogous - red-orange-movement

Fig. 07 – Analogous – red-orange-movement

In Fig. 07 there is vertical and horizontal movement as can be seen from the directions of the corrugated iron and paint marks. The beam at the top of the image provides a slight diagonal perspective as does the graffiti on the right of the image. The graffiti on the lower left of the image is more curved in nature and draws the eye in.

Fig. 08 - Analogous - red-orange

Fig. 08 – Analogous – red-orange
f8, 1/160, 200mm, ISO 200

Coming out of Stanley Park into West Georgia Street (the main thoroughfare of the city) there are three rows of trees lining the sidewalk, all maple trees in autumn colours (fig. 08). I was lucky enough to get here on a day that it was not raining and so set about photographing the boulevard in both directions. It was early in the morning and the sun was just making its way through the clouds so the light in these trees was absolutely fantastic. I wanted to capture the canopy of red-orange foliage above as well as the carpet of fallen leaves on the ground. The fall colours are offset by the dark tree trunks and patches of green which show through the leaves, but otherwise the red-orange totally dominates the image. The orange colours create feeling of warmth and happiness.

In post-processing I added a small amount of contrast, lifted the shadows slight and set my white point. I then added clarity and a bit of vibrance. Local adjustments involved bumping up the exposure and lifting the shadows slightly on the tree trunks to make some of the bark detail visible. I also brought the exposure and highlights down a bit on the traffic lights and signage. I then applied two radial filters to the canopy of foliage to focus attention on the leaves and I also applied a tiny radial filter on the man (another photographer) in the centre of the frame to add just an extra layer of interest to the image.

Fig. 08 - Analogous - red-orange abstract

Fig. 08 – Analogous – red-orange abstract

Fig. 08 - Analogous - red-orange movement

Fig. 08 – Analogous – red-orange movement

The most obvious movement in fig. 08 above is the curve of the canopy of red-orange foliage as well as the vertical movement of all the tree trunks. A slight diagonal movement is hinted at with the cement path, but most of the path is covered by leaves, so that is not clearly visible. The group of people standing near the bus stop form a nice circular interlude for the eye to rest on.

Contrasting Colours

Itten classifies contrasting colours as being formed of 2, 3, 4 or more hues. They can be dyadic (two colours diametrically opposite each other on the colour wheel – these are our complementary colours. Triads are three hues where their intersecting lines form an equilateral triangle, eg yellow/red/blue. Tetrads are two pairs of complementary colours which when the intersecting lines are joined within the colour wheel form a square or rectangle, eg yellow/violet/red-orange/blue-green. Hexads are three pairs of complementary colours. There are only two hexads in the colour wheel, namely: yellow/violet/orange/blue/red/green and yellow-orange/blue-violet/red-orange/blue-green/red-violet/yellow-green.

Fig. 09 - Contrast - red-yellow-blue

Fig. 09 – Contrast – red-yellow-blue
f8, 1/800, 18mm, ISO 200

I was at a gas (petrol) station (fig. 09) in the rural area near the US border and just happened to look up to see these beautiful clouds in the blue sky and the contrasting red and yellow fascia board. I immediately grabbed my camera, dropped down next to the truck to get down low and took a couple of shots. The blue sky is grounded in the centre of the frame by the blue newspaper stand and shield on the door to the shop. The red of the fascia board is repeated on the trim of the windows and in the car in the lower right corner. The yellow is echoed in the parking kerbs and strip on the door. Colours that form an equilateral triangle within the colour circle are known triads. Red/yellow/blue is the best known one.

Post-processing involved adding a tiny bit of contrast, clarity and vibrance and lifting the shadows ever so slightly. The image was then sharpened and luminance added.

Fig. 09 - Contrast - red-yellow-blue abstract

Fig. 09 – Contrast – red-yellow-blue abstract

Fig. 09 - Contrast - red-yellow-blue movement

Fig. 09 – Contrast – red-yellow-blue movement

There is so much movement in this image (fig. 09). The clouds look like they are radiating away from the thick, white cloud just above the white building. The wide angle lens caused a strong linear perspective, which would probably have been more noticeable on the bottom had all those stands not been in the way. If I had included a bit more of the concrete in front of the shop this might have been a bit more visible, but I literally only had time to fire off two frames. The car provides a bit of inward movement to the photograph drawing the eye into the frame again.

Fig. 10 - Contrast - red-blue-green

Fig. 10 – Contrast – red-blue-green
f8, 1/200, 55mm, ISO 200

I happened to capture this image (fig. 10) of another photographer on Granville Island (his camera is tucked away under his jacket – you can just see the lens poke at the jacket under his arm). It was actually the beard that drew my attention. He was walking past a restaurant and I immediately saw the blue-red-green contrast as he stepped past the red flower boxes. The reflection of the blue boat rental sign enhances his blue clothing. Just as red/blue/yellow in what is known the painters’ primaries is a triad, so too are red/blue/green triadic primaries in the digital world i.e. the world of transmitted light.

In post-processing I added a tad contrast, lowered the highlights a bit and opened the shadows slightly and added quite a bit of clarity. I also sharpened and added luminance.

Fig. 10 - Contrast - red-blue-green abstract

Fig. 10 – Contrast – red-blue-green abstract

Fig. 10 - Contrast - red-blue-green movement

Fig. 10 – Contrast – red-blue-green movement

The obvious movement in fig. 10 is the direction in which the man is walking, namely camera left. His eye-line is directed straight out of the frame, at me I think, judging from the expression on his face. The horizontal and vertical lines of the window frames are echoed in the building in the window’s reflection. The slight diagonal line of the red flower box provides a sense of movement that enhances the subject’s walk through the frame.

Fig. 11 - Contrast - blue-yellow

Fig. 11 – Contrast – blue-yellow
f5, 1/500, 145mm, ISO 100

While downtown one weekend I found a colourful blue entrance (fig. 11) and decided to wait and see who would walk by. After a while this gentleman dressed in a bright yellow parka stopped in front of the door long enough to read his text messages on his cell phone providing quite an interesting shot. The blue/yellow contrast is a cold/warm contrast, the colours are separated by three other colours. Blue is a recessive colour, while yellow advances. In colour psychology blue is regarded as the colour of trust, honesty and loyalty and it also relates to one-to-one communication, while yellow denotes happiness and illumination.

In post-processing I opened the shadows a fair bit and added vibrance. Then I performed some local adjustments on the door to raise the exposure and open the shadows a little more so the details of the door could be seen.

Fig. 11 - Contrast - yellow-blue abstract

Fig. 11 – Contrast – yellow-blue abstract

Fig. 11 - Contrast - yellow-blue movement

Fig. 11 – Contrast – yellow-blue movement

Even though the subject in fig. 11 is stationary, there is movement in the diagonal branches of leaves coming in from camera right and their corresponding diagonal shadow on the pavement below. The subject’s eye-line is directed down to his cell phone in his hands.

Fig. 12 - Contrast - red-blue-green-orange

Fig. 12 – Contrast – red-blue-green-orange
f8, 1/125, 35mm, ISO 400

On a hill, overlooking a warehouse with some kind of silo, I came across this collection of containers at the docks (fig. 12). The view from where I was standing was over the harbour, looking at the mountains on the North Shore – another rainy day. The colours in this photographs can be classified as a tetrad, ie two pairs of complementary colours which would form a square or rectangle if we were to connect the lines between them on the colour wheel. In this image we have orange/blue and red/green. While the blues in the photograph are about the same intensity, the reds vary in tone from a bright red to the rust red on the silo. The orange is also fairly consistent, but the green varies across the gamut as well from emerald green moss on the roofs to the dark green of the maple tree on the right to a less saturated green in the shrubbery in the front of the image. The green of the mountains has been rendered to a grayscale by the atmospheric conditions. Within this tetradic contrast there is a further contrast of cold/warm. The blue/green (cold) contrasts with the red/orange (warm).

In this image I added some contrast to counteract the flat lighting, took the highlights right down to bring out the details in the sky, opened up the shadows and added clarity and vibrance. I also performed a local adjustment on the sky to bring the exposure down some more and added a radial filter to the silo.

Fig. 12 - Contrast - red-blue-green-orange-abstract

Fig. 12 – Contrast – red-blue-green-orange abstract

Fig. 12 - Contrast - red-blue-green-orange movement

Fig. 12 – Contrast – red-blue-green-orange movement

The photo in fig. 12 offers a vertical movement up the silo tower and an undulating movment across the mountain range in the distance. The stacked containers in the foreground are rectangular in shape providing a solid sense of stability to the image.

Colour Accent

Colour accent, also defined as the contrast of extension by Johannes Itten, is the contrast of one or two patches of colour against a larger spread of colour. As Itten (1970, p. 59) states: “It is the contrast between much and little, or great and small.”

Fig. 13 - Accent - yellow

Fig. 13 – Accent – yellow f4.8, 1/50, 32mm, ISO 400

When I turned around from shooting fig. 12 and started walking up the hill, I noticed a rain, sodden moss-clad bench under a maple tree (fig. 13). The analogous green of the moss against the bright green grass got my attention and I placed a big yellow maple leaf on the bench (realistically some of the leaves from overhead would have fallen down onto the bench at some time during the fall, so I am treating this image as my still-life). The yellow of the maple leaf adds a perfect tonal contrast to the greens of the bench and grass, making the mossy slats of the bench pop.

In post-processing contrast and clarity were added and the shadows were opened up a bit.

Fig. 13 - Accent - yellow abstract

Fig. 13 – Accent – yellow abstract

Fig. 13 - Accent - yellow movement

Fig. 13 – Accent – yellow movement

The movement in fig. 13 consists of parallel diagonal lines leading the eye in from frame left.

Fig. 14 - Accent - orange

Fig. 14 – Accent – orange f8, 1/40, 48mm, ISO 200

These orange cones immediately attracted my attention in one of the Vancouver alleys and just as I was framing my shot a cyclist rode into my frame (fig. 14). I waited for him to cycle through hoping to press the shutter before he passed the tree. Instead he stopped and got off his bike. Not knowing how long he would be there I took the shot anyway. I think it definitely works better having a live body in the shot and him having an orange jacket on was a bonus. The orange cones and jacket create very bright accent points against the grey building.

The only post-processing done on this image was to bring down the highlights and exposure and tone down the saturation of the Road Closed sign, but still keeping it white.

Fig 14. Accent - orange abstract

Fig 14. Accent – orange abstract

Fig. 14 - Accent - orange movement

Fig. 14 – Accent – orange movement

In fig. 14 the cones provide a circular movement around the cordoned off area. The yellow tape creates a movement from camera left to right to the Road Closed sign and then gives an undulating curve to the next cone. The man’s eye-line is looking up the road to something out of the frame.

Fig. 15 - Accent - pink

Fig. 15 – Accent – pink f8, 1/160, 35mm, ISO 200

Out in the country side just before Halloween this the pumpkin patch lent a few photographic opportunities (fig. 15). I immediately noticed the bright pink wheelbarrow on the side of the muddy path and composed so that it would be in the corner of the frame. The bright pink creates a garish contrast to the orange pumpkins. Orange and pink are not really colours that I would put together. This might be because pink lacks the intensity in colour that the orange has.

Post-processing involved adding a bit of contrast, bringing down the highlights sufficiently to pull the details out of the sky, opening the shadows a bit, adding clarity and vibrance.

Fig. 15 - Accent - pink abstract

Fig. 15 – Accent – pink abstract

Fig. 15 - Accent - pink movement

Fig. 15 – Accent – pink movement

The movement in fig. 15 is mainly of a diagonal nature. The muddy road leads into the pumpkin patch from the bottom left corner. The rows of orange pumpkins lead the eye across the frame diagonally. There is a bit of a circular motion in the stance of the three women in the field who are searching out a pumpkin to take home. The tree framing the top right hand corner also leads in with diagonal lines drawing focus to the pumpkins, while the pink wheelbarrow tends towards the right.

Fig. 16 - Accent - red

Fig. 16 – Accent – red f8, 1/400, 30mm, ISO 200

What first drew me to this scene in fig. 16 were the shadows on the green corrugated building and the interspersion of light on the ground under the trees. This is a light-dark contrast. The red and yellow circular sign and the man’s red shirt in the lower right of the frame provide a pleasant accent contrast. I think because of the second red accent point, the yellow circle which is behind the red circle tends to decrease in significance slightly and it is the red colour that pops out against the green.

Post-processing involved increasing the exposure overall by a third of a stop, adding a bit of contrast, reducing highlights a bit, opening up the shadows and adding clarity and vibrance. Local adjustments were on the green building to lower the exposure there and bring in a little more contrast to emphasize the corrugations on the walls. Around the parking garage I bumped up the exposure by a third stop and opened the shadows a bit more. I also increase the exposure on the red shirt. I brought down the exposure on the grey building in the background brought down the exposure on the recessed area on the left of the frame.

Fig. 16 - Accent - red abstract

Fig. 16 – Accent – red abstract

Fig. 16 - Accent - red movement

Fig. 16 – Accent – red movement

The branches of the trees and the resulting shadows provide diagonal movement throughout the image. The only circular movement is that of the sign and the curve of the pole on the right of the frame. The bird house in the foreground and the chains of the tyre swing provide converging lines in the shape of implied triangles.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

I used my 18-55 mm and 55-200 kit lenses for shooting this assignment. I have varied my techniques using short exposure times as well as long exposures, shooting landscapes, urban scenes, candid street photography and abstracts. I am definitely taking more time setting up a shot than previously, thinking more about the composition and the flow of the image. For the most part I have cropped very little and only on a few images mainly to get rid of a distracting element.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

Overall I think I am happy with the photographs. I would have liked to improve on my people photographs as I don’t think they are as good as they could be. I have posted some of my rejects on my OCA Flickr album for comparison purposes. I think I have applied the knowledge of colour well and my work is presented in a simple, straight forward manner. I certainly have a greater appreciation about the subject of colour, never having ever had an inkling that it was so involved. I think I have communicated my intentions fairly well. I’m still battling with the conceptualisation of my thoughts though.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

I have tried to base this assignment along the lines of Eggleston’s Democratic Forest. I had to be fairly creative in coming up with ideas for shooting in the rain and I tried a variety of things like shooting through the car window to create abstracts. Unfortunately not everything made the cut, but I definitely benefited from the exercise and will continue to explore some of those avenues. From a creative point I think fig. 01, 07 and 08 are my personal favourites. With regards to my personal voice – I may be seeing snatches of something develop. I do know what I like photographing and don’t, but will continue to push myself in different directions to continue this search.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

I find that I have now settled comfortably doing the learning log and I have started to develop a better physical notebook. I started a new book with this assignment. My previous book sort of morphed into more of a written notebook which I was not too happy about.  I spent a lot of time researching colour, finding more information than I could use. Johannes Itten’s Elements of Colour was my main reference text on colour. I also read a few journals and research articles. I have been to three exhibitions: Work is Art at the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art; the Karen Cooper Gallery and Bacchanal at the Art Works Gallery and have reviewed them all.

I have watched the following videos to help me with this assignment: Light Fantastic: the Science of Colour and Colour Theory. The photographers I researched for this assignment were: Steve McCurry, Fred Herzog, Stephen Shore and William Eggleston (about his work, and two documentaries: William Eggleston in the Real World and William Eggleston, the Photographer) .

I tackled Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, ploughing through it twice resolutely to gain some understanding of his writings. I do have to admit he had my poor brain in a knot quite a few times, but I think I managed to get a handle on the book. No doubt I will use it later and be able to build on my understanding of it. Little nuggets from the book have been coming to the foreground while I was working on this assignment, which I was pleased about.

I attended a talk by young photographer, Jess Findlay at the North Shore Photographic Society, which I joined recently in order to build up contact with other photographers. Another interesting video I came across which will probably stand me in good stead when I get to level 2 was a TedxTalk about Bridging the self-acceptance gap with “psyphotology” which featured photographer, Peter Hurley and psychologist, Anna Rowley.

I did not get as much reading done as I would have liked, Johannes Itten and Roland Barthes having taken up a lot of my time, but I do feel that the quality of the reading was perhaps better. I know there is a lot of reading ahead for Assignment 4 on Light and it will be slow going as it is of a more scientific nature. I’m hoping to add either Sontag or Berger to the list as well.

Reference List

Barthes, R. (1980). Camera Lucida Reflections on Photography. Paperback edition. New York: Hill and Wang.

Itten, J. (1970). The Elements of Color. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Understanding the Meaning of Colors in Color Psychology [online]. Empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com. Available from: http://www.empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com/meaning-of-colors.html [Accessed 7 August, 2014]


Ballard, Louise. (1964). The Art of Color by Johannes Itten. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 22(3), 344.

Burton, David. (1984). Applying Color. Art Education, 37(1), 40–43.

Burton, David. (1992). Red, Yellow and Blue: The Historical Origin of Color Systems. Art Education, 45(6), 39–44.

Colour Theory [webcast, online]. Jose Alvarado. 3 minutes 37 seconds. http://vimeo.com/35918329 (accessed 13/10/2014)

Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.

Lecture, Prof. Pete Vukusic. Light Fantastic: the Science of Colour [webcast, online]. Institute of Physics, Exeter University, UK, 2007. 1 hour 05 mins 11 secs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWhGmwUojBE (accessed 1 September, 2014)

OCA Basic Colour Theory Photography Course Supplement [online]. Available from: http://www.oca-student.com/node/57828. [Accessed 19 September, 2014]

Rutter, Chris. (2014). Color Theory Fundamentals for Digital Photography [online]. Available from: http://www.graphics.com/article-old/color-theory-fundamentals-digital-photography [ Accessed 14 August, 2014]

Worqx.com. (2014). Color Theory: Overview [online]. Available from: http://www.worqx.com/color/ [Accessed 14 August, 2014]



Assignment 3 – Planning

I have to admit that I have found finding preparing for this assignment more onerous than the previous ones. I think it has to due with the fact that colour seems so deceptively simple, yet it is actually quite complex. My planning began with obtaining a good foundation in the subject of colour and to this end I read Johannes Itten’s The Elements of Color. This book is based on his book The Art of Color which was used in the Bauhaus as a reference text. The book has many exercises that build on understanding colour. I tried to do as many of the exercises as possible, but owing to the fact that the book is really geared towards artists, ie painters, there were a few exercises that I had to skip as I was not about to run out and purchase painting materials.

The next step was to research photographers who make exceptional use of colour and I chose to research Steve McCurry, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston and Fred Herzog.

I created a mind map to play with some ideas that I might work with:

Assignment 3 - Mind map - first draft

Assignment 3 – Mind map – first draft

I had initially intended to see if I could ‘recreate’ some of Fred Herzog’s scenarios by going to the same locations and photographing the area as it is now. I had managed to find quite a few of the locations of his photographs and thought this would be a very interesting exercise.

However, the typical Vancouver weather set in and torrential downpours began making it impossible to photograph anything without risking my equipment. Some of the areas Herzog photographed are a little inaccessible in the fact that they are not car friendly – there is zero parking space in the streets these days (there was ample space when he roamed these streets). In between showers I managed to shoot in some areas nearer to home, but it was a little all over the place. I looked at fellow students’ assignments and didn’t see much of a theme for assignment 3 in many of the blogs I looked at. I then began to wonder if a theme was necessary.

So I posed the question on the OCA forum and I got this reply from Clive [1]:

It’s good practice for future courses to make connected bodies of work. As in Assignment 2 which investigates the compositional scaffolding that supports and enhances meaning in an image, colour relationships are another means of strengthening and supporting meaning in an image. Unless working in purely abstract terms the colour relationships should be subordinate to the meaning of the image but should enhance it.

Something to avoid is making images that have no other intent than to demonstrate a specific colour relationship and be reduced to ‘this is a blue flower with a yellow flower’, ‘this is a red flower with green leaves’. Working to a theme, say documenting your local shopping area, helps avoid this and gives purpose to the functioning of colour relationships in the course of making images with narratives that are essentially independent of their formal qualities.

OK – so a theme was preferable. My planning was now totally out of the window and shot to pieces by the rain. I continued on with research and while researching Eggleston, became aware of how he made his series “Democratic Forest” and I decided to switch my theme to something similar by creating a series along the lines of “My Democratic Vancouver”.

Here is my amended mind map for assignment 3:

Assignment 3 - Mind map - second draft

Assignment 3 – Mind map – second draft

The plan may change slightly, but this is more doable given the crazy weather we are experiencing right now.

Reference List

[1] CliveW, 2014. ‘TAOP Assignment 3’. [28 October 2014] OCA Forum: Photography, Film & Digital Media [online]. Available from: http://www.oca-student.com/content/taop-assignment-3-0 [2 November, 2014]

Exercise: Colour relationships

The brief:

This exercise is in two parts. The first is to produce one photograph for each combination of primary and secondary colours, adjusting the distance, focal length or framing when you shoot so that you compose the picture to the proportions listed according to Goethe’s ratios – or at least close to them.

For the second part, the rules are not so strict. Produce three or four images which feature colour combinations that appeal to you. They can be combinations of two colours or more. The objective here is to demonstrate that there is no single ‘correctness’ to complementary colours. But you should be aware of any imbalance in the combination and study its effect. Write this in your learning log for future reference.

The ratios mentioned above refer to Goethe’s numerical ratios to measure the contrast of extension. Contrast of extension is degree of contrast between ‘much and little, or great and small’ (Itten, 1970, p.59). Goethe’s values for the colours are:

  • Yellow = 9
  • Orange = 8
  • Red = 6
  • Violet = 3
  • Blue = 4
  • Green = 6

How these ratios work is something like this: yellow is three times as strong as its complementary colour, violet, therefore when we convert these numbers to harmonious proportions we should use only one part yellow to three parts violet. Otherwise the yellow would totally overpower the violet and most probably be very glaring on the eye. In the same way orange is twice as strong as its complementary blue, so the correct harmonious ratio to use would be one part orange to two parts blue. Red and green, however are equal in intensity so a fifty-fifty colour split would be in order here.

Part 1

Fig 01 - Yellow-violet

Fig 01 – Yellow – violet
f6.3, 1/80, 45mm, ISO 200

I have really struggled to find the colour combination in Vancouver. I had to resort to visiting the Queen Elizabeth Park, a horticultural park to find this combination. As I mentioned elsewhere in a posting, Vancouver is not a city with a riot of colour. Blues, greens, greys, blacks – yes most definitely. This is even reflected in the way the local people dress, as if to blend in with their surroundings. Now if I was looking for this in my native South Africa, this would be no problem. Colour is embraced wholeheartedly there. But I digress … Although the yellow flowers have almost orange centres I’m going to classify them as yellow because the petals are a solid shade of yellow. I think the proportion of 1:3 is close enough as well. One part yellow to three parts violet – there are violet flowers to the left and above the yellow as well. The violet doesn’t match the intensity of the yellow and is probably a few tints lighter, It is probably clearer in the abstract version below.

Fig 02 - Yellow-violet abstract

Fig 02 – Yellow – violet (abstract)

Fig 03 Orange:blue

Fig 03 – Orange – blue
f8, 1/640, 50mm, ISO 100

Goethe’s ideal ratio for the complementary colours orange and blue are 1:2. Although the orange bollards seem to dominate the scene in fig 03, the blue screen is more than twice the height of the bollard thereby creating a 1:2 ratio (or fairly close). There are also blue accents in the signs at the end of the blue screen as well as above it. There is also a blue tint in the girl’s T-shirt and signs which are hanging on the blue screen. When viewing the abstract rendition of this photo below (fig 04) the colour ratio is clearly visible and more “solidified”

Fig 04 Orange: blue - Abstract

Fig 04 – Orange – blue (abstract)

Fig 05 Red-green

Fig 05 Red – green
f6.3, 1/160, 34mm, ISO 200

Back in Queen Elizabeth Park I spotted this tree surrounded by red begonias (Fig 05). The various shades of green from the lawn, cypress tree and the rhododendron at the back provide a harmonious contrast to the vivid red of the begonias. Even though Goethe’s combination for red-green are 1:1 it is obvious that the contrast works in other combinations as well. In a red-green scenario I think sometimes less is more. The abstract version can be seen in fig 06 below.

Fig 06 - Red-green abstract

Fig 06 – Red – green (abstract)

Part 2

Fig 07 Blue - pink

Fig 07 – Blue – pink
f4, 1/160, 50mm, ISO 200

Even in this age of equal opportunity and genderless roles that society has created, it is still a strange sight to come across a man sitting crocheting berets. This reminded me so much of the African ladies back in South Africa who would sit with their backs against their huts, legs stretched out in the sun, crocheting or doing bead-work. However, this is in Canada and this photo depicts an example of cold-warm contrast (both literally and theoretically). The cold of the blue of the window frames, the man’s shirt and jeans and the tarpaulin on which his wares are displayed contrast with the warm reds and pinks of the winter berets he has crocheted and is busy crocheting. The abstract depiction below almost looks like one of those heat sensing images one sees at the movies.

Fig 08 Blue - pink (abstract)

Fig 08 – Blue – pink (abstract)

Fig 09 - Blue - yellow

Fig 09 – Blue – yellow
f5.6, 1/1250, 50mm, ISO 100

Fig 09 was shot at the Vancouver Peace Rally in Support of the Ukraine. I am rather apolitical, but find protest rallies good places for street photography as the people protesting usually do want their photos taken. This shot was taken at the beginning of the march. Most of the protesters had the Ukrainian blue and yellow flags or were dressed in blue and yellow clothing. The ratio of blue and yellow here is probably about 1:1 or fifty-fifty, this combination does work. Again, this is a cold-warm contrast which probably helps to offset the ‘imbalance of ratio’. The abstract version can be seen in fig 10.

Fig 10 Blue-yellow (abstract)

Fig 10 – Blue – yellow (abstract)

Fig 11 Orange-green

Fig 11 – Orange – green
f8, 1/800, 50mm, ISO 100

While waiting for the protest rally to begin I kept circling the Art Gallery, which was the gathering place for the rally and came across this little juice stand. Quite the perfect refreshment for a hot day. Orange and green values are quite close together, namely 8 and 6 respectively so the combination works well together. Once again it is a cold-warm contrast. Set in mainly muted tones, the eye is immediately drawn to the orange stand and the green of the umbrella and base of the trailer, but there is a darker shade of green in the trees in the background and this balances out the intensity of the orange juice stand. Fig 12 shows the abstract version.

Fig 12 Orange-green (abstract)

Fig 12 – Orange – green (abstract)

Fig 13 Red-yellow-blue

Fig 13 – Red – yellow – blue
f8, 1/640, 34mm, ISO 100

Here are all three primary colours in one photo (fig 13) – red, yellow and blue. We have the blue sky, sea and railing as well as the overall blue tone of the city buildings in the distance. The red girders form a strong visual anchor point on the right of the frame together with the yellow caution sign, which holds the eye a little longer, before going off to explore the background and sea. I think the proportions form a good triadic, harmonious balance. Fig 14 shows the abstract version.

Fig 14 Red-yellow-blue (abstract)

Fig 14 – Red – yellow – blue (abstract)

Reference List

Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.

Itten, Johannes, 1970. The Elements of Color. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Exercise: Primary and secondary colours

The brief:

Find scenes or parts of scenes that are each dominated by a single one of the primary and secondary colours. With each colour that you find, vary the exposure slightly if your camera allows. To do this, make one exposure as the meter reading indicates, a second exposure half a stop brighter, and a third exposure half a stop darker. One of the three will more closely match the colours in the circle above, and for this exercise, select whichever is the closest match.

For ease of reference, I have included Johannes Itten’s twelve-part colour circle below.

Johannes Itten's twelve-park color circle

Johannes Itten’s twelve-part colour circle showing primary colours (yellow/red/blue) and the secondary colours (orange/green/violet) and tertiary colours (yellow-orange/red-orange/red-violet/blue-violet/blue-green/yellow-green)

Taken on a very sunny day, in the middle of the day (I know – not the best time – but I just have to shoot whenever I can) my control image was taken at f8 and the histogram is nicely balanced towards the centre. At one half stop lower (Fig 02) the highlights are almost clipping and the brightness level has increased, washing the image out. At f10 (fig 03) the image is considerably darker, the brightness level having gone down. I think Fig 01 is probably the closest match to the red in the colour wheel. Red is a primary colour.

My control image was taken at f8 (fig 04) again and I believe this photo to match closest to the yellow (another primary colour)  in the colour wheel. At f6.3 (fig 05) some details is lost in the petals of the sunflower, although the highlights are not clipping yet. My personal favourite is the one taken at f10 (fig 06) as the brightness level has been turned down a notch and the details in the petals are nicely visible. This is probably how the sunflower would look had I taken the shot earlier in the morning.

Back in an alley in an industrial area, I took my control image of the garbage container at f11 (fig 07), then opened up one-third to f10 (fig 08) for the next image and finally stopped down to f13 (fig 09).  I think the image in fig 08 is the closest representation to the actual garbage container. However, the brightness of the blue (primary colour) in fig 09 probably makes it a closer match to the blue of the colour wheel.

This hydrangea is about the closest I’ve been able to find to violet (secondary colour). Violet is not an easy colour to find here where I live in Canada – I have no clue why. Again my control image was taken at f8. At 6.3 the flower looks quite washed out, The photo taken at f10 is more representative of the violet in the colour wheel above.

At the tool rental yard I spotted some orange (secondary colour) items clustered together – an orange sign, hazard light and a forklift. I focused on the sign, but decided to include a bit of the orange forklift in the frame as the forklift and the hazard light are probably closer to the orange in the colour wheel generally speaking, while the sign is more of an red/orange colour. Once again my control image was shot at f8. The image shot at f10 is lacking highlights and is too saturated. The image taken at aperture f6.3 more closely matches the orange in the colour wheel above.

Vancouver is a city that consists of green and blue colours. Green (secondary colour) abounds everywhere. Surrounded by rain forests and maple trees and other vegetation, one is spoilt for choice of which green to photograph. However, matching the green in the colour wheel is not an easy task. I think these photographs of the zucchini plant in my garden come pretty close. I think the closest match would be fig 17, although it is a bit bright for my taste. Personally I prefer the control image in fig 16 where the saturation and brightness are nicely balanced. The green in fig 18 is too saturated.

Reference List

Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.

Itten, Johannes, 1970. The Elements of Color. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

The Elements of Color – Johannes Itten

The Elements of Color by Johannes Itten

The Elements of Color by Johannes Itten

I found this book rather fascinating, even though some parts of it were rather difficult to get to grips with. It would be of utmost value to a student studying painting as the exercises Itten has in this book are all related to painting. However, after spending a little too much money on monitor calibration software and books this month I was not about to rush out to purchase paints and paintbrush to do these exercises knowing full well I would never use them again.

Itten begins his book with a brief and extremely interesting history of the use of colour in art going back all the way to the Chinese Han dynasty (ceramics) to the Roman and Byzantine mosaics to Leonardo da Vinci’s sepia tones to Rembrandt, who Itten ‘considered the exemplar of chiaroscuro painters’ (Itten, 1970, p.10) to the Cubists who used geometric shapes with mainly light-dark values and the Surrealists like Salvador Dali who used color to express their unrealistic images.

He then goes on to explain the physics of light and mentions the physical ways that colours can be produced. The most well know way is by refraction. We are all reminded of our school physics class when the teacher demonstrated light striking a prism and the separate colour bands appearing on the other side of the triangle. Other ways of generating colours are by interference, diffraction, polarization and fluorescence. A fantastic video (Light Fantastic: The Science of Colour) on the physics of colour was made by the University of Exeter and can be seen here explains some of these aspects.

Itten then discusses colour harmony which is the evaluation of ‘the joint effect of two or more colors’ (Itten, 1970, p 19), namely how colours work off each other. Harmonious colours are those located close together on the colour wheel or those with differing shades or tints of the same colours. A discussion on successive contrast – staring at an image, eg. a block of colour and then closing one’s eyes will reveal an afterimage (the afterimage always reveals the complementary colour of the object viewed) and simultaneous contrast (the colour tinges around a gray square on various coloured backgrounds will tend towards the complementary colour of the background). According to Itten, the brain is always trying to establish an equilibrium which tends towards medium gray. If one views a medium gray square against a gray background no afterimage will appear. Hence the fact that the afterimage is always the complementary colour (when mixed together the two colours will form a gray).

Itten then explains the 12-hue colour circle starting with the positioning of the three primary colours, yellow, red and blue in an equilateral triangle. A circle is then drawn around this triangle. Between each point of the equilateral triangle are three colours, the middle colour being a secondary colour, namely orange, violet and green. The colours on either side of these secondary colours are obtained by mixing a primary colour with a secondary colour to form the tertiary colours: yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green. The twelve hues are evenly spaced and the complementary colours are positioned diametrically opposite each other.

Itten goes on to explain the seven kinds of colour contrast as he sees it:

  • Contrast of hue: this is the contrast of undiluted colours at their most intense brilliance, eg. red/yellow/blue.
  • Light-Dark contrast: this is the contrast of the extreme poles like day and night. Black and specifically black velvet is one of the purest blacks, while baryta is the purest white. Baryta is barium sulphate, a clay-like substance which is applied to fibre photographic paper before the emulsion is applied. Neutral gray lies midway between the black and white, mute and ready to be transformed or to give transformation to surrounding colours. Light-dark contrast give us our chiaroscuro.
  • Cold-Warm contrast: at the two polar opposites of this type of contrast we have red-orange and blue-green. The colours in between these poles can be either warm or cold, depending on what they are contrasted with, or what they represent, eg shadow, airiness and wetness fall into the cold category, while heavy, dry and the sun would fall into the warm category.
  • Complementary contrast: we have a complementary contrast if when we mix two colours together they form a neutral gray – this would be for a painter. If we were to mix two colours using light they be a complementary contrast if they form white. Interestingly enough the three primary colours are always present in the complementary colours, eg. yellow/violet = yellow, red + blue.
  • Simultaneous contrast: this cannot be photographed as this is the situation earlier explained about the afterimage. This is literally something you seen with closed eyes.
  • Contrast of Saturation: saturation measures the purity of a colour. Contrast of saturation is the contrast between intense, pure colours vs dull and diluted colours. Colours can be diluted with white, black, gray or mixing with the corresponding complementary colour.
  • Contrast of Extension: this is the contrast of colour between a large area and a relatively small one, in other words accent colours.

Of particular interest to me was Itten’s description of the colour sphere which was invented by Philipp Otto Runge. The sphere resembles a globe and is divided into seven zones (parallel circles) and twelve vertical meridians and the pure colours are placed along the equator line. White and black are at the north and south pole respectively and form a core around which the colour zones flow. The two zones from the equator line towards the white pole represent the tints, while the two zones from the equator line towards the black pole represent the shades. If we cut the sphere in half horizontally we will see that the centre is medium gray and if we do a cross section vertically, we will see gray graduations from white through to black in the core. Totally fascinating!

The colour harmony section is one of those challenging chapters, especially for someone who is math challenged like me. One of the sketches is a circle which has a parallel circle inside of it as well as some other geometric shapes has a caption reads: “The octahedron as a figure for constructing harmonious hexads in the color sphere” (Itten, 1970, p 74). Enough said! I sort of get this chapter but I definitely can’t explain it.

Itten then covers form and colour detailing the different personalities of colours and various shapes.

A picture whose expression is determined chiefly by color should develop its forms from color, while a picture stressing form should have a coloration derived from its form.

(Itten, 1970, p 76)

 The chapter on Spatial Effect of Colours deals with how we perceive colours, how colours interact with each other, eg. on a black background yellow advances and blue will retreat. On a white background blue advances while a red-orange hue will not advance as much. Saturation and extension contrasts also affect the depth effects of colours.

Itten comes almost full circle in the following chapter, Color Impression. He states that the study of colour impression rightly begins with the study of nature. Watching how the incident light falls and changes the colour of objects and lights them, how the colour of shadows change, etc. The colour of a leaf or flower is the complementary colour of the absorbed light waves being reflected back. The whiter the light, the purer the colours reflect. This would actually be quite an interesting exercise to photograph a flower or plant throughout the day and observe the different colour variations close up.

The chapter on the Theory of Color Expression still deals with nature elements. Itten shows how the four seasons contrast each other with their colours, and moods. Spring is depicted as a youthful time, new beginnings. The prevalent colours are yellow-green (signs of new growth) as we think of all the new plants and saplings growing. Pastel hues of new flowers complement this. Autumn or fall, as it is known in North America, is the complementary season to spring. During this season, the colour of the vegetation turns to the brown and red-orange hues as nature gets ready for the dormant season. Summer brings forth the abundance of colour bursting from all flowers and vegetation. Trees and plants grow thick and dense and the colour spectrum is literally bursting at the seams. Winter is the complementary contrast to summer, where we see dormancy set in, a period of slumber and darkness. Itten then concludes the chapter by summarizing each of the hues psychological and expressive values, eg. blue is always passive and cold.

The chapter on Composition is probably more applicable to painters than to photographers as they have total control of where they want to paint a specific colour on a canvas. Itten states that “the farther a hue is removed from a given hue in the color circle, the greater its power of contrast” (Itten, 1970, p 91). If the colour blue is painted low on the canvas, it denotes a heaviness. An image of the sea comes to mind. However, if the blue is painted high on the canvas, for instance, as the sky, the denotation changes to one of lightness.

Itten finishes his book a postscript with the following reminder:

So long as colors are bound to the world of objects, we can perceive them and recognize their relationships: their inner essence remains concealed from our understanding, and must be grasped intuitively. Hence rules and formulae can be no more than signposts on the way to color fulfillment in art.

(Itten, 1970, p 94)


Ballard, L. (1964). The Art of Color by Johannes Itten. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 22(3), 344.

Lecture, Prof. Pete Vukusic – Light Fantastic: The Science of Colour [webcast, online] School of Physics at Exeter University, UK, 2007. 1 hour 05 mins 11 secs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWhGmwUojBE (accessed 01/09/2014).

Hahnemuhle FineArt Baryta [online] Hahnemuhle.com. Available from: http://www.hahnemuehle.com/en/digital-fineart/digital-fineart-collection/glossy-fineart/p/Product/show/77/300.html [Accessed 16 September 2014]

Itten, J. (1970). The Elements of Color. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.