I find it odd how my personal color palette has developed. I don’t mean in a fashion sense (whatever’s comfortable and functional, that’s what I wear) but rather through the viewfinder. It came to my attention when a friend was asking for advice on images to decorate their home’s interior, which is nicely done in greens and yellows (think fresh spring colors). Looking through my portfolio I realized these are not colors that show up a lot as the primary theme in my images. Surprising.
Even more surprising to me is how I’m drawn to the cool and warm colors – blues and reds – but hate their siblings of purple and magenta, casts I’m continually fighting in my slide scans. For someone who enjoys cold weather it’s amazing how often warm colors of sunset and autumn show up in my images.
Some of it is simply lighting. Using the late afternoon sun as a way to sculpt contrast on objects pretty much means you’re using warm light. The atmosphere strips out so much of the blue wavelengths as the sun passes through it at sundown that getting a cool perspective is just about impossible (without some digital adjustments, of course).
It’s similar in the early morning however the air at sunrise hasn’t accumulated all the dust from a day’s thermal activity so there’s less particulates in the air to scatter the light. You can get some nice cool tones just before sunrise on a clear day as the blue sky radiates those shorter wavelengths everywhere on the ground.
Photographing flowers as much as I have now I’ve learned that truly yellow objects don’t appear to have much contrast and so the details are very hard to bring out in an image. I don’t know if this is unique to yellow colored objects or if yellow flowers just don’t have that much detail. It may be one reason there’s so little yellow in my portfolio – frustration at reviewing shot after shot of yellow things that just sit there without any characteristic depth to them.
I do see one issue with these late afternoon, close-up photography quests. With such a small depth of field it’s hard to hold focus on an object by just leaning down to photograph it. The small swaying back and forth our bodies do in order to maintain balance, when magnified by a lens at close range, is enough to move the subject in and out of the actual focal point. Tripod time, obviously. Although sometimes you just can’t take the time needed to set up all that gear, get it oriented and then make the image.
Because I was leaning over in the grass above this bush there’s very little of this mantis that is actually in focus but he contrasts nicely against the flower so I did get some detail in the image. One of the more creepy aspects of mantis behavior is how they twist their head around to watch you – it’s not something we expect from insects. This one did let me change positions a few times to get different compositions, but he kept a close eye on me the whole time. With his antenna laid back from his head I got the sense I was disturbing something important but wasn’t so much of a threat it merited moving to a new flower.