Tag Archives: Steve McCurry

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.

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

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]

Bibliography

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]


 

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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]

Steve McCurry

I was aware of the photograph of the Afghan Girl long before I knew about Steve McCurry, the man. When our university opened a campus in Vancouver in 2007 I was told that Steve McCurry would be exhibiting some of his work for the opening. I remember asking my colleague who Steve McCurry was and getting the reply “you know – the photo of the Afghan Girl with the stunning green eyes” and in turn replying “oh yes, now I remember.”

I was fortunate to meet Steve prior to the opening and he immediately impressed me. He is an incredibly humble man, quiet and very respectful, treating everyone he met as if they were the most important person to him right then and there. He carries this attitude through to his photography as well when photographing people. It is one of his main concerns – to treat his subjects with the respect they deserve. When he is out shooting, one of his maxims is to wait and watch. People will soon acclimatize to you and forget about you.

Steve McCurry was recently awarded the Centenary Medal for Lifetime Achievement at the 2014 Royal Photographic Society Awards for his significant contribution to photography. Among his other achievements are the Robert Capa Gold Medal, National Press Photographers Award, and four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest and that is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

He enjoys photographing people, culture and celebrations. Even though he works on assignmenst and his images need to flow in a cohesive manner, he believes photographs should be able to stand alone and each tell its own story and he strives for this in his work. He does work according to themes, for instance his personal favourite is taking photos of people reading, but this is an ongoing project. He previsualizes his images and will try and elicit something from his subjects that really stands out and he then works off that, be it a gracious smile, stunning eyes, or a character-etched face. He doesn’t plan his projects in great depth, preferring to take things as they come and wander the streets looking for his moments.

McCurry photographs throughout the day, but enjoys the golden hours the most [1]:

I just like to get out and walk around the day from start to finish. But I do think my work often leans to the dark side of lighting. When I’m working on a project, I like to be out and shooting at first light, when there is that rich, warm light. When walking down a street, I will always be on the shady side of the road.

As I have not been able to link directly to the specific photographs on Steve McCurry’s website (his photographs are in a slideshow and therefore do not have separate URL’s), I have pinned them to Pinterest so that they can be viewed separately, but I have provided reference to the name of the photograph as well as the gallery where they can be found in on McCurry’s website.

McCurry tends to photograph bright colours: beautiful blues and reds, accented by yellows and oranges as can be seen in Jodhpur, India (The Need for Speed gallery). He also photographs a lot of chiaroscuro images, mainly with a warm contrast (orange and black tones) e.g Bodh Gaya, India; Cambodia; Brazil (seen in his Silhouettes & Shadows gallery), but there are a few that have a cold contrast (blue and black tones) as in his Myanmar, Burma (Burma gallery) and Preah Kahn, Cambodia (Silhouettes & Shadows gallery) which has a green-black contrast.

In Yemen (Simple Act of Waiting gallery) he makes such great use of the pink accent colours against the sea of black burqa clad women. The little boy’s pink jersey provides the main accent location, but further back in the queue are a few women holding pink papers or cloths. This trail of pink emphasizes the leading lines of the burqa clad women and draws the eye further into the image. His image of a Holi festival, Rajasthan, India (India gallery) is bursting with vibrance. The body of the man covered in green pigment lies diagonally across a sea of red and orange turbaned men, their white clothes strewn with red pigment. The turbans provide a lot of circular movement in the image, thereby keeping the eye transfixed to the scene that is playing out.

McCurry’s use of colour in his photographs lend emotion to his images. Sadness, joy, hardship and sorrow are all emphasized by his use of colour. I think he is a true master in the use of colour, but at the same time I think he is an incredibly difficult photographer to emulate as the mould was probably broken when he developed his personal voice and style. His work is truly inspirational and he remains one of my favourite photographers. I can only hope to begin to scratch the surface of his understanding of colour, light and composition.

Reference List

[1] Wagenstein, Oded (2013). Interview with Steve McCurry Masters of Photography. One on one with the Masters of Photography. Oded Wagenstein Photography. Available from: http://www.odedwagen.com/2013/01/masters-of-photography-interview-with-steve-mccurry/ [Accessed on 3 November, 2014]

Steve McCurry. Available from http://stevemccurry.com/ [Accessed on 4 Novmeber, 2014]

Bibliography

Alan from photographers.ie (2011). An interview with Steve McCurry. www.photographers.ie. Available from: http://vimeo.com/20676578 [Accessed on 4 November, 2014]

Chan, Andrew. Fotoflock Interview of the month: Steve McCurry. Fotoflock.com. Available from: http://www.fotoflock.com/features/feature-interviews/30/2723 [Accessed on 3 November, 2014]

Steve McCurry – Stories from the Field (Speaker Series 2014)

On 2 April, 2014 I attended a lecture series by Steve McCurry, entitled “Stories from the Field”. McCurry was in Vancouver, Canada promoting his latest book, “Untold: The Stories behind the Photographs.”

He began his lecture by showing a short video presentation, outlining his photographic journey, explaining how he became interested in photography and travel. His love for travel was triggered at a very early age when he working in a drugstore. He became enamoured with the foreign tourists who came into the shop and at the first opportunity he got, he was off to Europe. Thus began his traveling and photographic career.

During his video presentation, he imparted what he called “Steve’s Maxims”, some insightful words of wisdom and experience. They were as follows:

  1. Follow your passion: he stated that he would never retire from photography. He was shooting more assignments now than he had done twenty years ago and he foresaw that he would just carry on doing it.
  2. Surround yourself with good people: when in the field it is vital to employ or have reliable people around you; someone who will have your back in tricky situations. He told the story of a driver that he first came across in India who he has used for the past thirteen or so years. He not only used this driver in India, but in the Middle East as well because he trusted him implicitly and they had built up a fantastic working relationship over the years.
  3. Keep your travel days down: by this he meant that you should keep the research to a minimum, find your story and attack it. If one only has five days in a place, don’t spend four days on the research and only one day shooting. When faced with too many options he will pick three specific locations and shoot those. He used one of his assignments in Yemen as an example. There was so much to photograph and he didn’t have the time, so he selected a city scene, a coastal scene and a scene in the mountains, as can be seen in his Yemen gallery.
  4. Be part of the conversation (whether it is social or political). He encouraged the audience to be a witness with their photography, to report and tell people what life is like and hopefully that it would affect a change.
  5. Make quality time for photos: When you find a scene that looks interesting you should stay with it and work it. Be attuned to what is happening around you. Explore the scene, wander and get lost in the moment. Let the moment wash over you. This is when the magic happens. Photography is not about the pictures, it is about the journey – take care not to let it slip away. When photographing people, if you see a good situation, spend time photographing the person and get emotional expressions. People’s expressions change by the second and within a short frame of one minute one can capture a whole range of nuances.

After his video presentation, he presented a slideshow of his various assignments on a massive screen that filled almost the entire stage. He jokingly mentioned that he was quite in awe of the huge screen as National Geographic’s screen was half the size. It definitely took the viewing experience to another level to be able to view his images on a screen that was at least 9 metres wide and 7 metres high as opposed to 24 inch prints or on the computer screen.

Of course he mentioned the Afghan Girl and told the back story of when he first took her photo when she was twelve years old. He was photographing some children in a classroom which was set up in a green tent in a refugee camp on the Pakistan border. He noticed her immediately, but didn’t photograph her straight away. Rather he proceeded to photograph about six other children, gradually working his way towards her, made a few images of her and left. Interestingly enough, National Geographic almost didn’t run with that story, but at the last minute the editor changed the cover and the Afghan Girl went on to become a major iconic photograph.

Seventeen years later, McCurry and his team returned to Afghanistan to see if they could find the Afghan Girl. McCurry did not know her name, so the only clue he could provide to the villagers was the photo he had taken of her when she was twelve. Luckily he remembered the name of the village where he had originally found her and by chance was approached by a man who had heard about his inquiries. This man turned out to be her brother. The brother also had those striking green eyes. After hearing the story, he took McCurry to meet her. McCurry then, with her husband’s permission, went on to make some images of her as wife and mother. He found out that her name was Sharbat Gula. He mentioned to the audience that National Geographic had provided a house for her and set up a fund so that she now receives regular income as her husband and daughter have both passed away.

Steve McCurry’s maxims, I believe, are applicable to every genre of photography, but the most important piece of advice is definitely to remember that it is not about the picture, but it is all about the journey. The journey will deliver the winning photograph.