To immerse yourself in colour is to sharpen your awareness and to bring new understanding of how powerful colour is in shaping the feeling and mood of the world around us.
Colour is super-important in your photography (except of course your B&W :)) as it imbues so much meaning into your photos. To learn more about the effects of colour is pleasurable in itself, but it’s also very impactful on your photography.
A short while ago you received the first article in an occasional series about colour. I decided to start bold – and went for the colour purple. This time I want to go for one of my favourite colours to photograph – blue.
Let colour help you see the world
If photography is all about learning to see what is around you in new, fresh ways so that you can create more interesting compositions, then training your eye is as important as learning how to use your camera.
I have lots of suggestions on how to train your eye so that you can observe the world around you in different ways, by helping your awareness grow. Breaking the world down into elements is one, as is using specific composition techniques like Leading Lines or Natural Framing to help you visualise more of what is around you. Another great technique is to have a mini ‘seeing’ project where you are focusing on just one subject to shoot.
Another way to train and develop your eye and awareness is to focus on colour – and only colour. Perhaps it’s just one colour, or it’s looking at the world as a collection of colours. As Claude Monet suggested to fellow painters:
“Try to forget what objects you have before you – a tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Merely think, ‘Here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow,’ and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape until it gives you your own impression of the scene before you.”
This goes for photography too. Let colour guide your eye.
More subtle blue here, some soft blue light reflecting in the glass:
Actually, blue isn’t consciously one of my favourite colours. It just seems to appear in so many of my photos.
Given the opportunity to explore and critique myself and my creative journey, I love to look at my photos and try to discover what is subconsciously inspiring me. To know:
What is drawing my attention when I am not really thinking?
The colour blue seems to answer that question. It struck me that perhaps more was going on with my relationship with the colour blue than I realised when I read that the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky thought that blue can evoke feelings of the supernatural.
Kandinsky wrote about the feelings that different colours, and shades of colour, evoke. He felt that blue could be:
“…peaceful, supernatural, deep, “typical heavenly colour”. The lighter it is, the more calming it is. When in the end it becomes white, it reaches absolute calmness.” From Ekaterina Mirnova
This could not be more relevant to me! I am fascinated by space, science, sci-fi and the supernatural. I love contemplating the tiny-ness of our place in the galaxy and the eternalness of time.
It might not be something that I’m consciously putting out there as a subject in my photography – but it comes through because these ideas are within my thoughts.
With blue, I feel that it lacks the joy of yellow or orange. It lacks the joyous reminder of life. But a reminder of life it still gives.
I feel that a blue sky or a vast blue sea claims our attention and hypnotises, but it doesn’t reassure. It seems to say to me, get on with life. Get on with being truly alive. Not worried and occupied by the small things.
Blue feels like a colour attached not to the frivolous but to the grand ideas of life.
“Blue is the typical heavenly colour. The ultimate feeling it creates is not one of rest….[Footnote: supernatural rest. Not the earthly contentment of green.] Wassily Kandinsky
And perhaps this is why I bring so much blue into my photography – I am interested in life as an eternal concept. Not my life specifically, but in what came before I was here and how it will continue once I am gone.
I’d like to explore now what other artists and writers have said about the colour blue, and show you some of my images to provoke your own ideas and realisations about this magnificent colour.
Colour as an expression of feeling
Colour can act as an indicator of our inner emotional states, and it lends itself to abstract expression.
“Music was important to the birth of abstract art, since music is abstract by nature—it does not try to represent the exterior world, but expresses in an immediate way the inner feelings of the soul.” Wassily Kandinsky
You can only see blue because of other colours….
“Each band or level, being a particular manifestation of the spectrum, is what it is only by virtue of the other bands. The colour blue is no less beautiful because it exists alongside the other colours of a rainbow, and “blueness” itself depends upon the existence of the other colours, for if there were no colour but blue, we would never be able to see it.”
“Blue is the only colour which maintains its own character in all its tones… it will always stay blue; whereas yellow is blackened in its shades, and fades away when lightened; red, when darkened, becomes brown, and diluted with white is no longer red, but another colour – pink.”
Some shades of blue…
The Colour Blue from Bourn Creative:
“Blue represents both the sky and the sea, and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. ….
“The colour blue has positive effects on the mind and the body. As the colour of the spirit, it invokes rest and can cause the body to produce chemicals that are calming and exude feelings of tranquillity. …
“However not all blues are serene and sedate. Electric or brilliant blues become dynamic and dramatic, an engaging color that expresses exhilaration.
Also, some shades of blue or the use of too much blue may come across as cold or uncaring, and can dampen spirits.” Bourn Creative
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe from Theory of Colours
“As yellow is always accompanied with light, so it may be said that blue still brings a principle of darkness with it.
This color has a peculiar and almost indescribable effect on the eye. As a hue it is powerful — but it is on the negative side, and in its highest purity is, as it were, a stimulating negation. Its appearance, then, is a kind of contradiction between excitement and repose.
“As the upper sky and distant mountains appear blue, so a blue surface seems to retire from us.
“But as we readily follow an agreeable object that flies from us, so we love to contemplate blue — not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it.
“Blue gives us an impression of cold, and thus, again, reminds us of shade. We have before spoken of its affinity with black.
Rooms which are hung with pure blue, appear in some degree larger, but at the same time empty and cold.
“The appearance of objects seen through a blue glass is gloomy and melancholy.
When blue partakes in some degree of the plus side, the effect is not disagreeable.
“Sea-green is rather a pleasing colour.” Theory of Colours
I hope you enjoyed that little meditation on the colour blue. Now ….
Next steps – if this idea of colour affecting emotion inspires you, why not set a personal challenge for yourself?
Pick a colour. It can be blue but doesn’t have to be – whatever you feel naturally pulled towards. Then go out and shoot that colour, and while doing it I want you to observe and notice the emotion inherent in that colour, in the different shades, and how the colour affects the feeling of the subject.
This is a really cool little challenge. You can post your efforts here – and I’ll pick the photo that I think is the most successful (and a cool prize will come your way if you take my favourite photo).
Have a fantastic day, we are all off to spend the day at an olive farm. We’ll be learning how to pick olives, have a picnic on the beautiful little farm in the hills and of course, I’ll take some photos!
Anthony and our fabulous wordsmith Diana