Monday, March 21, 2011

Color and Light

Well, it looks like the blog has gotten off to a pretty decent start, for two people who don't really know what they're doing.  (Just kidding.  We do.  I think.)  Once Haley and I iron out what's working, what needs improvement, and what absolutely rocks, we'll start publicizing SLP more on das Internets and locally in Huntsville.  I may (cough) even get a logo up and running (cough).  Regardless, we'll let you, our faithful reader(s), know of any publicity stunts we do, be they on Facebook, Twitter, or some combination of Twitbook.

Anyway, this week's posts center on color, light, and, moreover, how light affects the colors of certain photographs.  My post deals more with the role of light and color in unposed portraiture, while Haley's writeup will center more on her areas of expertise.

So, let's begin with a musical.

Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, 1984, is what comes to mind when contemplating the role of color and light in certain photographs.  In his song, "Color and Light" (Hey!  What a coincidence!), the artist George Seurat sings:

Color and light.
There's only color and light.
Yellow and white.
Just blue and yellow and white.
Look at the air, miss-
See whet I mean?
No, look over there, miss-
That's done with green...
Conjoined with orange...

Throughout the musical, Sondheim's Seurat obsesses over the role of color and light, along with how these two elements make art a living, breathing creation.  Seurat surrounds himself with the idea of color and light,  with the notion that light greatly influences the power of color and vice versa.  These beliefs are reflected in his major work, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886), which relies on the eye's understanding of the combined efforts of these two elements.

Crystal - Sloss Furnace, Birmingham, AL (Sept. 2010)
Though there is much, much more to the musical than that little blurb, my brain farted and thus got rid of the college constipation of literary analysis (I love LA, so I'm not really bashing it).  However, let's take what I did summarize and apply it to some of my (*beams*) images.  Simply put, light does influence the color, along with many other aspects, of a photo.  Take, for instance, this shot at Sloss Furnace, Birmingham, AL.  This particular lighting at once washes out and emphasizes the pinks and yellows that dominate the composition, creating a soft, delicate atmosphere. Because of the soft--and, as you see, stark--lighting, the model's dress, skin, and corset share a common pink, which is also visible in the concrete.  Additionally, the glow the lighting produces also affects the model's golden hair, giving her an almost ethereal persona.  Because of her pose (I basically let her go free reign on the posing, and she was unaware I was taking this shot at all) and how the midday light centered on her and scattered over the ground, I was able to get a striking photo.  Had the model been in the shadow, the shot may have been okay, but it would have lacked the life the color and light bring.

Looking at the Geese - Green Mountain, Huntsville, AL (Jul. 2009)
The following photos also demonstrate the roles of light and color, and how effectively these two work together to create striking photographs in unstaged portraiture.  In my personal experience as an amateur photographer, I've enjoyed utilizing color and light throughout the years; sometimes, through a fluke shot of awesomeness, and other times through planned perfection (hee, alliteration always absolutely amuses me).  I'm horribly laid back as far as photographers are concerned, but it's worked for me thus far, and it will continue to work.  This shot of Heather and Declan at Green Mountain was indeed a fluke shot.  As I recall, Heather was explaining turtles to her son, and suddenly a legion of geese were gliding on the water below.  I quickly snapped the shot, giggled at my evil glee, and then realized that the lighting did a wonderful job at emphasizing the bright yellows and greens of their apparel and the natural background.  Fluke?  Yes.  But the ability to take advantage of that fluke it also very important to understanding the relationship between color and light, as being able to notice the intricacies between the two lends to more opportunities.

Wandering in Gruenewald, Berlin, Germany (May 2008)
This next one is the first in a series of People Walking Away from the Camera, but it is also yet another example of how light and color play nicely with one another.  (It's a little-known fact that those two were established enemies in preschool.)  It's also an example of planned lighting--not that I have any control whatsoever of the weather (though wouldn't that beat all?), but I recognized the lighting when I saw it and thus acted accordingly.  The light "freckles" its way from the model's feet to the almost blinding flood of light in the foreground, which the path's pattern emphasizes.  The almost overwhelming greens practically encase the model, but he remains visible because of his place in the shadows (unlike our first example).  The light's glow emphasizes the greens, and the greens emphasize the foreground's pool of light.  Much like Sondheim's Seurat, the photo seems to live and breath color and light, and their harmony makes all three photos visually interesting.  Like skittles.

There really is a lot more to be said on this theme, along with more color and light studies to be done.  Besides, I've been horribly lax on the snark factor in this post, which needs to be rectified.  Regardless, I expect to post much more on varying topics concerning this theme, such as shadow play, (effective) overexposure, etc., etc.  I look forward to it.  You should, too.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. We be havin' spammers here. I thought we had fixed this problem?

  3. Thanks for catching that so quick, Jen, you early bird, you. I think are settings are set simply to remove posts as we choose. We could set them so we can review them all beforehand, but that strikes me as potentially time consuming.

  4. Very enlightening analysis! I love your picture in Germany! The vibrant green and freckled walkway really hold your attention!

  5. Thank you, Rachel! Yes, the Germany photo is one of my favorites. Come to think of it, I don't believe the model even knows this picture exists...

    Haley, I agree. I can handle being the Gatekeeper.