In today’s weekend photography assignment we are looking at Abstract Color. Once completed you will be asked to photograph your own image and upload it to our Free Monthly Photo Competition.
Ansel Adams once said that there was no such thing as ‘abstract photography’ only ‘extract photography’. Whether you agree or disagree with this statement, every time we pick up a camera to capture an image, we are constantly extracting a segment of reality. We are consciously deciding which part of the view to frame and capture.
One could argue that a good photograph is one where the visual appeal of the elements from which it was created, are more important than the subject itself.
Using Color Creatively
Color is one of the most powerful visual tools we use as photographers, because, regardless of subject matter, it can create great a pictures in its own right. This opens up a whole new avenue of creativity, because it allows us to capture color for color’s sake. Seeing images that others have missed – for example a yellow crane against a blue glass building (see below) or a late night shopping excursion in Venice, Italy (above)
Seeing Outside the Box
So how do we achieve this? How do we learn to see creatively? One way is to compose the image in an unconventional way. By zooming in on an image we bypass the norm of being able to identify the contents and extract a micro portion, which itself takes on a new meaning. We usually expect order and balance in our images so the viewer can immediately identify the subject matter. However by breaking this rule and framing more tightly, we lose the context and meaning of the original and take on a more abstract feel.
The key is to make color more important than subject. An example would be to photograph reflections of yachts in a marina but not include the boats themselves. Or photograph reflections in glass, such as the crane above.
In the image of the rock pool below, the ripples obscure the very stones and sand that are creating the color. The image takes on a completely different meaning, and one viewer’s interpretation of the picture could be completely different to another’s.
It’s the colors and the shapes that create the photograph as we step away from reality and instead focus on the form and the pattern.
Light changes from country to country and so too, do colors. In countries nearer the equator the sunlight is stronger and therefore colors appear more vivid. In northern and southern hemispheres the light is softened by the atmosphere, as the sun’s angle becomes lower in the sky. Light has to travel further through the atmosphere and therefore takes on a more blue grey tone that means pastel colours fit more comfortably in a landscape and saturated colour look out of place.
For this reason you often find the saturated colours in warmer climates. These clothes hanging on a
washing-line in the southern state of Kerala in India, are a good example of a warm climate encouraging the use of strong saturated color.
Some places are purpose made for colorful abstracts. Islands like Santorin in the Mediterranean and Bermuda in the Caribbean are just two examples of where locals paint their houses bright colors and you can’t fail to capture stunning images by simply wandering round the streets during the day.
Sometimes the pictures will be obvious whilst other times you’ll have to work for them by changing perspective, getting down low, or taking advantage of a higher elevation. Changing lenses, using a zoom to compress an image, or a wide angle can also help to help link colors together.
The sunnier the better! You can’t beat full sun for bringing out those hot colors and you are more likely to notice abstracts as they tend to stand out better.
When it comes to using specific colors together, you can throw away the rule book. It doesn’t matter if the colors harmonize or contrast, what’s import is that you make images that challenge, excite, disturb and stimulate your viewer and make you see things in a new and innovative way.
Weekend Photography Assignment
Go out and shoot an Abstract Color Image. Go out into your local town or city, out into the garden and look at flowers, open your fridge, or study your children’s toy chest, look for anything with bright saturated color.
Remember to keep an open mind and look for potential in things other people would miss
Look for color rather than subject.
Forget about being able to identify the object: look for pattern and shape
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