Assignment three – Colour

OCA assignment 3 (72dpi) master title

For this assignment I will demonstrate my command of colour in photography, being able to find and use different colours in deliberate relationships.

Planning and preliminary photographs

I made good use of Michael Freeman’s book “The photographer’s Eye” and also studied the work of other photographers – William Eggleston, Ernst Haas, Martin Parr and others. I noted my findings and thoughts in my research file.

I read about a North Yorkshire artist, Andi Robinson. Her work is based on colour behaviour – “Colour is only seen in relation to another colour/s. By placing colours alongside each other, whether in an ordered manner or randomly, the artist seeks to explore colour  behaviour.” Throughout this assignment, as well as referring to the course notes, I have kept her theory in mind.

Andi Robinson


Most of the subject matter I have chosen was found in the natural environment.

Colour harmony through complimentary colours

Red:Green (1:1)

P1050017     Beck leaves 7

Left: A floor inside a summer house.    Right: Field of poppies with a splash of violet in the foreground (next to red in the colour circle).

Orange:Blue (1:2)


The ratios are correct, but I feel the orange is not sufficiently vibrant to offset the blue of the sea.

Yellow:Violet (1:3)

P1060412 - Copy    021

Left: Very subtle shades of the two colours in a natural environment. Right: Vivid hues of Autumn.

Colour  harmony through similar colours


DSC_5491 - Copy


Orange/yellow/green                                                             Red/violet/blue

P1090200   041


Colour Contrast through Contrasting Colours

These colours are not harmonious but certainly catch the eye!

Red and blue                                                   Pink and aqua

102        Sheep wool


Yellow and blue

P1020632 - Copy      Leeds canal blue yellow


Colour Accent

Experimenting with colour accent or a spot of colour where a small area of colour sits against a much larger background of another colour.

035      spot 3 011


Final selection

Colour harmony through complimentary colours

Red: Green (1:1)


The Pohutakawa tree in blossom was taken while we were in New Zealand. It shows red and green in perfect harmony. I have discovered how hard it is to find pure colours (especially green), but I think the light enhances the green in this image to give the colours equal luminosity. However, since the hues are soft I do not see “vibration” between the colours. The flower with it’s tiny fibre optic “feelers” appear to light up the red.

Orange: Blue (1:2)


I think this shot is visually strong. The dish provides a background of a deep yet bright blue and the orange slices compliment the brilliance by offering a warm glow. The black background sets a sharp contrast. To me the impact of this shot shouts Mediterranean!

DSC_5718 - Copy

In complete contrast this photo supplies a much more cooling effect.  Here the orange is a lighter hue making it less colourful and giving more of a natural earthiness. The cool blue of the lake tones well with the orange to present two flat, subtle colours. The perched cormorant removes the flatness and adds interest and humour. I also noted how the shadow of the land bathes in the water around the bird to draw attention to him (or her). In terms of design the bird compliments the areas of land jutting out into the lake – all face outwards drawing the eye to the right of the shot.

DSC_5233 - Copy

Johannes Itten  implied that “You can make colour the reason for and the subject of a picture”.  Here the colour works for symbolic reasons. In Maori culture their gods are depicted on totem poles always in this terracotta colour.  A transmitter has been erected close by, creating a marriage of old and new. Out of respect, the modern piece of metal has been placed behind the “god”. He reminds us that he is in charge in this photo. In other words the blue sky (the greater area), is subservient to the terracotta of the Maori God. Note also the orange traffic cone atop the transmitter! Vying for attention with it’s colourful crown.

Yellow: Violet (1:3)


The subdued pastels of violet and yellow in this image compliment each other beautifully. Neither is harsher, duller or brighter than the other. In theory these two colours are opposites on the colour circle – warm and cool, visually I see a warm dampness. The patina of the copper roof, in its different hues emphasises this. There is texture in the flakiness of the colours  bringing them closer to the surface.


What initially caught my eye in the upstairs window of the gift shop, were the glistening yellowy-gold hearts and stars dangling on threads. Then I noticed they were interspersed with red, pink and blue – all hues of the colours either side of violet on the colour circle.
The window is framed in a deep violet hue that implies the paint had been mixed with a red. In an attempt to gain prominence the yellow jigsaw boxes are sitting proudly on the window sill.

Colour harmony through similar colours

Blue and green

P1030267 - Copy

I came across these public loos (designed by the Austrian artist F Hundertwasser) in New Zealand. The image is cool (in both meanings of the word!). It shows how the artist chooses to use green for the greatest impact. In the “window” he uses more green glass (light value 6) than blue (light value 4). This along with the green fern symbol creates an imbalance. On the floor is a centrally placed blue tile to strengthen the blue presence. The tile also draws the eye away from the window and forward to view of the rest of the room. Warmth has been introduced into the design in the form of a terracotta hue.

Red and orange


This is a fiery mix of red and orange hues. The 3D effect and the rusty texture lift the words out of the picture. The intensity of the colour behind the letters adds more heat. One imagines the intense heat of the iron emerging from the forge.

Violet and pink


Winter sunset: This image portrays a warm glow. The red is not obvious as it is an unsaturated red – appearing as a pink hue. The violet however produces an intense lavender and blends well to create a balanced picture of pastels. The blackness of the branches and distant wall set against the darkening sky lead us into night and evoke sensations of magic and mystery.

Yellow, orange and green

DSC_5621 - Copy

Yellow and green are generally classed as cool colours. In this photo the vivid orange brings warmth. The shape and spiky appearance is one of flames bringing intensity and energy to the image. As green is the most visible colour to the human eye this cannot be overlooked and diffuses the “fire” somewhat.

Blue, green and yellow

P1060670 - Copy

These two photos were taken intuitively rather than composed. All three colours are  unsaturated and/or natural. I love the harmony of the neutral earthiness. The hues are muted and soft and yet for me they have a satisfying richness.The eye is instantly drawn to the hat then on to the rest of the figure. We see him studying the fossil, then we look with interest at the rest of the scene.

Below, we see the same muted hues, yet this shot has more of a cooling effect because of the water. The water takes up two-thirds of the frame and is a bright blue, but the figure also with stronger hues, balances the frame well.

P1050298 - Copy







Colour Contrast – through Contrasting Colours

Red and blue


The contrast between these two colours makes for  dramatic and eye-catching images. I did not give any thought to the composition of colours at the time of taking the photo, but now realise that I instinctively weighed up the balance, giving more space to the blue – due to red having more light value. The richness of the clogs shows the red as close to pure (but too shiny). The blue is brighter, therefore more brilliant a hue than pure.


I composed this blossom shot against the brilliant blue of the sky. The reds vary in brilliance and saturation due to the sunlight at the time. This emphasises how the position of light affects colour. The sunlight touches each of the buds to highlight them and the composition is such that the opening buds give an impression of dripping colour.

Violet and green


A striking shot of these two colours in contrast.  Violet is the colour I found the most difficult to find. There are plenty of purple flowers available in the natural environment, but I thought this would be a change from the traditional pansy shot.  Against a muted green background the show of violet berries makes an unusual autumn picture. The unripe berries are a contrasting bright green. The hues vary in brilliance and saturation. The berries are rich and darkly vibrant as though they would almost rattle if the branch were shaken.



Having read about interference colours; “a special assembly of colours existing through a naturally occurring phenomenon” I felt I had to include this image. Taken on a sunny day following a heavy rain shower, this “rainbow” appeared in a cloud. Pearlescent, pastel and pretty – one of nature’s finer moments captured on camera!

Primary colours  showing all three together in one picture


This Amsterdam photo has the three most powerful colours vying for attention. The red and yellow are possibly pure. The blue not so, but there are two blues present – the dark denim jeans, and the turquoise blue of the bike panniers. The strong blue of the shop front supports the colour competition. The contest is enhanced by the cyclists, in particular the girl in the red jacket – standing up as though determined to overtake. I like the design elements in this shot too, the white diagonal lines evoke a sense of movement.

Colour Accent


The translucency of this jelly fish shows us a contrasting pink/lilac against the turquoise blue of the water. The photo is visually interesting as the colours are a mix of complimentary (hues of violet) and contrasting (if viewed as hues of red) to the blue. The eye immediately hones in to the bright pink/lilac then drifts along with the jelly fish through the cool, calm water. There is some conflict here as the blue is still and the vibrant pink is active.


In this shot the strawberry is mostly in shadow but has sunlight lifting the right side enticing us with it’s warm juicy sweetness. The flash of red colour evokes danger as the strawberry hangs from the top of the frame and could drop any moment now…. powerful red becomes vulnerable. I feel the contrasting colour is unusual and gives off a seaside coolness with it’s hue of aqua blue/green on the painted wood of the beach hut.



Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills 

I now find I automatically attempt to compose a picture in the frame, even casual and holiday snaps – if it’s not right I won’t take it! Looking through the selection of photos chosen for this assignment, I am aware that I have included more than the required number. This is partly due to my enthusiasm to display my learning and partly to do with the fact that I am not strict enough when it comes to being more selective in culling my photos. There are many more in my learning log!

Visually: When I commenced this assignment I was surprised at how little attention I have been giving to colour when composing pictures in the frame, especially in relation to the elements of design. I had no real concept of complimentary/contrasting colours and tended just to shoot what I liked – which I know is fine, but at least I am now able to recognise the correct approach and consider Goethe’s light values. I now also look for the correct balance of colours in my shots.

Quality of Outcome

I have given a lot of time to this assignment because the use of colour did not come naturally to me. My title page was selected because it includes all the six colours. It was a holiday shot and had I known better at the time, I would have shot tighter to the frame for better composition. I have added notes to all the images to explain my thoughts and why I chose them. I have included images which I consider to be strong and that support the brief requirements. Tutor feedback has been that my shots are mostly obvious and literal. I am now focusing on taking photos that are more than just “one liners” and invite more curiosity and interest to the viewer/reader.

Demonstration of Creativity

As I have already stated I am keen to develop a more individual approach and style to my photographs. My shots are still fairly literal, but I think this is because I am blinkered – so busy learning and wanting to get it right that I am concentrating on meeting the requirements of the brief and honing my skills. Currently I feel this is a barrier, preventing the flow of my creative juices. When I am not working on an assignment or module I find I am more natural with my shots.


To assist my research,  I have done some reading and study of the great colour photographers and also studied artists and how colour has influenced their work. In addition to the course notes I read the additional paper on the “Theory of Colour” from the OCA website.
In this assignment (and in my learning log), I have included some of my own photos where I have found comparable features to those of the great photographers. I have then analysed and given my own thoughts and reasons around the intent of the images. I have also included some in my research file.
For me in the past, colour has not been a priority when taking photographs – unless of course it was the colour itself that attracted me in the first place. I do now realise the importance  of understanding the principles of colour and recognise how colour will work (on the eye, in the brain and in camera) to give greater impact and add interest and emotion to my photographs.
Moving forward from this assignment, I will now utilise my new found knowledge of colour appreciation to add an extra dimension to my work.