Patterns and Color
Just as a painter uses tools like paint and brushes on canvas, so a photographer uses his or her tools of a camera, film and light. In this series of articles on the nature of composition, we will examine the world of line, shape, texture, color, pattern and rhythm. We will look at shape recognition and offer you tips and advice on finding and recognizing patterns in nature. This is a great series for the nature photographer as well as the nature lover and artist. Nature is filled with patterns, and learning to find them is one of the great treasure hunts of nature photography.
The world is a kaleidoscope of colors – some bright, vivid, neon and dazzling. Some may be soft, subtle and pastel. Colors can capture the attention and hold us with their intensity or move us to tears with their strong emotional qualities. Be aware of the use of color in your image and learn how to make it work for you.
There are seven basic colors (plus black and white) and each affects us differently and represents a variety of symbols. They are often memorably referred to as Roy G Biv in the art world. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. This is also the sequence of colors in the rainbow.
- Red immediately attracts and demands attention. It is used to represent an emergency: fire, ambulances, red cross, blood. Emotionally, it is an exciting color, vibrant and strong, hot and powerful. It radiates energy and vitality.
- As a mixture of red and yellow, orange has the qualities of both colors. Orange is used to symbolize fire and the sun. Sunsets are often rich in this color. It is a powerful color.
- A bright and warm color, often representative of vitality, yellow attracts attention in its brightest tones. Pastel tones may be soft and calming. Yellow represents the sun. Summer is often characterized with yellow colors.
- Green is the color of spring, grasses, leaves. It symbolizes nature, growth and youth. Emotionally, it is a cool and tranquil color or may be seen as a healthy, lush color. Green is common in nature photography.
- Blue is a cool color. It represents the sky and the water around us. Emotionally, blue is a quiet and peaceful color, but may also be interpreted as a lonely and cool color. Photographing in shade or late evening or pre-dawn can add a blue color cast to your images.
- Indigo – Violet
- These colors are commonly referred to as magenta, purple, and lavender. Purple symbolizes power, royalty and richness, possibly because of its rareness in nature. It is found in flowers and leaves, precious stones and in the setting sun on occasion.
- Often thought of as the absence of color, white is associated with cleanliness, pureness, freshness and innocence. It symbolizes pure light, snow, or clouds. It can also mean brightness and hope.
- Black is a very strong color. We associate black with the dark, with shadows, with the unknown and our fear of the unknown. We are unable to see in the dark. It represents a sense of lifelessness and is found in coal, burned wood, night, shadows. It can imply mystery, evil, or a threatening and ominous feeling. In a way, it is also considered the absence of color. It represents nothingness.
When combined, colors create difficult effects emotionally and technically. Here are a few combinations and symbolic effects to keep in mind as you create your image.
- Light and dark colors
- When we see lighter colors, we often think of day, brightness and happiness. Dark colors may be night, twilight or storms and feel ominous and threatening. Watch for dark backgrounds which may seem threatening and bright backgrounds which may overwhelm your subject.
- Muted colors
- Muted or pastel colors create softer, less intense moods. Subtle colors, especially in a diffused setting (fog), make tranquil, quiet, calm, and maybe sad images.
Color Combination Tools
A color wheel can be a fun addition to your search for complementary color combinations. Various color combinations capture societal and cultural symbols. Related colors such as red and green often symbolize Christmas, while pink and blue are baby colors in many parts of the world.