Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thinking about colours

click photo to enlarge
Photography, particularly the digital variety makes you much more sensitive to colour. The other day I was walking with my wife when I stopped and pointed out how improbably blue the sky looked directly above us. It was the sort of deep, strong blue that, if you saw it in a photograph, you would think had been enhanced in Photoshop. Indicating the sky nearer the horizon my wife remarked on its strong turquoise colour. That too would have looked quite unnatural in a photograph.

Why is it that, sometimes, we can't quite believe our eyes? It's perhaps because, since the second half of the twentieth century, we've been subjected to "colour photography overload". Moreover, most of the still and moving images we see have been processed and moderated by people who make the colour of images gravitate towards the sterotypical. So, a blue sky is summer blue, a tropical sea is blue-green, northern hemisphere grass is towards the yellow end of green, and snow is "snow-white". We've become used to advertisers turning up the colour saturation to give a hyper-real effect, and that's something we still notice. But when a "natural" scene is presented to us we don't see the more insidious tilt of colour towards a notional "norm". Consequently, we're sometimes surprised, as I was the other day, by the real colours of the world.

The photograph above presents colours pretty close to how I saw them as I descended the hills above Slaidburn, Lancashire, at the end of the day. I pointed a long focal length lens fairly close to the point where the sun was disappearing, and captured the graduated colours of the receding lines of hills, framing them between the blackness of the near wall and field below, and the dark, brooding clouds above. It all looks a bit improbable doesn't it!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On