The warm and cool of it

Palouse moonrise, Fuji Velvia 50, Mamiya 6, 75mm

Contrasts intrigue photographers at both a large and detailed level.  We use contrasts to draw attention, to highlight specific elements, to set a mood or to simply revel in the span of image provided by nature.  I didn’t realize this for a long time even though I would look at a scene and just know there was something magical about it.  One benefit of learning more about photography is the knowledge that comes with it – now I know somewhat how to recognize the physical aspects of a scene that are creating an emotional impact in me.  And from that recognition set up equipment to capture the scene and share the emotion.

One of my favorite contrasts is warm/cool colors.  Discussing color theory with photographers you learn a lot about what your brain already realizes.  Warm colors advance toward the viewer in a scene and appear more active, cool colors recede to the background as calming elements.  Warm colors elicit, well, warm feelings whereas cool colors make us introspective.  And when the colors are used in combination, they give the viewer a contrast to interpret as they wish.

The scene above is about 15 minutes before sunset in the Palouse region of eastern Washington, seen from Steptoe Butte, one of the places you can get high enough above the landscape to admire the wrinkles and how light plays across them.  Harvest is going on and the fields are generally a uniform warm color, some with contour lines where the combines follow the terrain.  The moonrise here is at a good time where the moon is bright enough to stand out against the sky but not so bright that details on the surface are blown out.  The reddish-orange haze on the horizon is the sun’s rays being dispersed and refracted by all the dust in the air caused by harvest.  It makes a nice transition between the two major color areas.

Velvia 50 is a slide film known for the saturation of its colors – sometimes considered otherworldly by purists.  I like the sense it gives this scene, more meeting an expectation of what the scene ought to look like at a late summer sunset rather than an accurate documentation of it.  Late summer skies ought to be pure, deep blue right before the stars start making an appearance.  And fields of wheat being harvested should be golden in the last rays of the sun.  What better way to portray a sense of completion from a year of labor, knowing that future thinking is necessary to make the next summer equally successful.


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