Assignment 3 – Colour, Tutor Feedback

Below is the feedback from my Tutor for my third OCA TOAP assignment focusing on the use of colour. The original submission can be seen here.

Overall Comments

Thank you for sending me your next assignment, Ian. You are really working hard on the course.

Feedback on assignment

Elements to consider with your assignments:

The colour assignment asks you to take photographs to demonstrate the various relationships between colours and including colour contrast, harmony through similar colours, complementary colours and colour accents.

Your assignment in connection with the above points

You have chosen to work with a combination of still life and found subject matter for this assignment and this has worked very well for you allowing you to think very careful about aspects of colour across the frame. Working on location is a useful way of familiarizing yourself with colour considerations while working in still life gives you scope to be creative.

Complementary Colours

All of your examples for complementary colours work very well, with little distraction from opposing colours appearing in the frame. The blue/ orange example is nice and strong. The green is not really visible here and doesn’t impose on the result. The green is more prominent in your violet/ yellow picture, creating more of a contrast affect.

Similar Colours

You have worked hard with similar colours working in a number of different creative ways to achieve your result. The still life examples are nice and strong visually and it is lovely to see this level of experimentation from you to achieve your results. I would like to see a ‘cool’ example arrived at using two or more colours alongside each other on the colour wheel. Blues and greens, or blues and violets can work well for this to give a beautiful feel of colour harmony.

Contrasting Colours

Your images give a good demonstration of colour contrast. The results are bright and bold which is exactly what you want here.

Colour Accent

Colour accent is a great tool to draw your eyes to a particular point in the frame, and hence really emphasize your subject matter. Too many points and the eye is left wandering around the frame unsure which area to rest attention on. In this respect the fish is the best example. The eye is drawn automatically to your point of interest. The blue scene picture with splashes of green could perhaps equally be used for colour harmony through similar colours.

Summary/ Pointers for future work

In this assignment you have started to think about the complexities of working with colour. I am pleased that you have found this work beneficial and feel sure that you will now be able to take this information and apply it to your future work. The next assignment asks you to think about different ways of lighting your subject to create variable results. I look forward to seeing you develop your ideas to demonstrate your creativity.

Learning Logs

You have started to add some research to your blog now. This is definitely an area to build on before sending through your next assignment. Include a few photographic examples if you can and talk about the impact these have on you.

The grey text is not very clear against the black background and font size is quite small. I struggled a bit with larger pieces of text and it may be worth trying to create a better contrast for ease of reading.

Assignment 3 – Colour

The purpose of this assignment is to “show your command of colour in photography, being able to find and use different colours in different relationships”. Tackling this assignment in the winter months possibly wasn’t as easy as it could have been in one of the other seasons but I think, in the end, it was probably beneficial to my learning.

The exercises completed for the module have involved identifying and working with these different colour relationships:

  • Complementary Colours – colours that are opposite each other on the colour circle.
  • Similar Colours – colours near each other on the colour circle.
  • Contrasting Colours – colours that are spaced apart on the colour wheel, not directly opposite and not adjacent.

The assignment involved collecting 4 images for each of these categories and also a final category the draws from any of the above:

  • Colour Spot or Accent – a small amount of colour set against a larger colour in on of the relationships from above.

Subject matter was encouraged to vary as was the technical aspects (lighting and filters) and the situation in which the image was captured – still life vs found. Finally, the assignment requires sketches for each image showing it’s balance and movement.

Colour Harmony Through Complementary Colours

For this relationship, I set myself a personal challenge to try and capture at least one of each of the 3 colour relationships.



The major parts of this image are the blueness of the stormy sky and the orangeness of the clay in the cliff. These two major colours are approximately shown in the complementary 2:1 colour ratio suggested by J. W. Von Goethe.

Coastal Recession

Also in the image, we have to acknowledge the small amount of green grass at the top of the cliff and the reasonably large area of yellowish sand. I feel these colours contribute to unbalancing the image in a subtle but useful manner. When I encountered this scene, although I was specifically looking for the colour relationship, I also thought that I could try and tell a story of coastal recession. By using a wide angle lens, I knew it would emphasise the scale of the image as if it was recessing into the picture helping with the story.

In order to bring out the colour of the sky, whilst being able to capture the detail of the cliff, I’ve applied a graduated filter, digitally, along the top of the cliff edge.



This bird was captured in difficult lighting conditions. The sun was providing high contrast lighting from behind whilst leaving the side of the bird I wanted to capture in heavy shadow. I’ve been able to use the lighting to my advantage by being able to remove most of the colour in the background by “blowing out” the highlights. However, to deal with the shadow area, I’ve had to raise the ISO setting of the camera which has shown some digital noise in the image. To try to keep the ISO as low as possible, I was using a monopod (a tripod wouldn’t have been accepted in the environment the image was taken).


The 1:1 complementary colour ratio has clearly not been observed with this image, however, I don’t think this detracts from the image as the smaller area of colour is in an area of the image with greater importance.



These flowers have been captured in a way to minimise the background and make sure the Violet/Yellow relationship plays an important role without other colours causing a distraction. Although a small amount of green is evident, I think this helps to provide context to the image.

Complentary-3-blur Complentary-3-movement

To try and increase the interest in the picture, a shallow depth of field has been used to focus attention on the nearest flower, which is placed on the intersecting 3rd, and the other yellow areas were positioned to imply diagonal lines.

Green/Red (2)


This plant takes elements from both the previous green/red image and the violet/yellow image. The ratio of green to red is again not quite 1:1 and the composition has been chosen to minimise any distracting background colours. Like with the previous image, I don’t feel that the greater amount of green negatively impacts the image because the vocal point of the image is in red and is highlighted with the sun light catching and emphasising the red area.

Complentary-4-blur Complentary-4-movement

When considering how to display the image, I thought a square crop would work nicely because of the circular composition. However, placing the centre of the plant in the centre of the image felt unbalanced because of the red leaf coming out to the bottom right. By moving the plant just off centre, the balance in the image improves and introduces a diagonal that closely runs from corner to corner.

Colour Harmony Through Similar Colours

Warm (1)


This image captures the warm colours of a sunset. By applying a digital graduated ND filter, the small amount of blue that was left in the sky has been removed leaving only the warm tones.

Similar-1-blur Similar-1-movment

I personally like the balance in the image with the end of the Groyne nicely balancing with the sun, and, the line formed by the relection of the sunlight and the direction of the photographer going to opposite corners forming an implied triangle and helping the eye explore the image.

One area that I have found interesting with this image is that the colours are being used to represent warmth, whereas I know it was captured on a bitterly cold day. Initially, I rejected the picture as, although I liked it, it didn’t seem to have a warmth to it. However, after leaving the image for a few weeks, I came back to the image and decided that it did in fact meet the objective of capturing similar colours. I think this demonstrates the interesting relationship of the colours in the picture and personal and emotional attachments from people that could be aware of the environment the image was captured in. I’ve asked a number of family and friends if they consider this a warm or warming image. The people that were there didn’t consider it warm but acknowledged that it could be warming whereas people that weren’t there were more willing to believe it was warm.

Warm (2)

Using the skills and experience gained during the previous assignment, I wanted to make sure that any still life images showed depth and interesting lighting whilst displaying warm colours.


The scene was composed to try and reflect a warm and comforting moment. The colours shown range from a small amount of violet though the reds and oranges and into a small amount of yellow.


These colours are all helping to support scene and the intention.

Warm (3)


This still life was composed with a similar intention to the previous image but with more of a focus on the oranges and yellows that can represent warms and calm.

Similar-4-blur Similar-4-movement

Here, the key area of interest was placed on the third and diagonals used to introduce a small amount of movement.

Cool (1)


This still life was probably the hardest scene to compose. The intention was to create a very cool looking image that was supported by it’s contents and colour.


In order to achieve the coolness of the blue, I was using a torch shone through blue perspex. Unfortunately, the use of the torch was causing two problems:

  1. The light source was small making it more difficult to manage the reflections. 
  2. The shutter speed had to be extended because the light from the torch wasn’t very strong.

I’m still pleased with this image and feel it has achieved it’s intended goal but if the task was to be repeated in the future, more research could be done on how to light the scene to provide more interesting options.

Colour Contrast Through Contrasting Colour

Blue/Yellow (1)


This first image showing colour contrast demonstrates the natural contrasts that can be found in nature.


Having these strong colour contrasts is being used to try and keep the views attention so that the not overly attractive background plays less of a part in the image – although I think it is important to provide context.

It was an intentional choice to show only part of the bird on the edge of the frame to balance the large amount of yellow with the blue.

Blue/Yellow (2)


Another demonstration of strong colour contrasts in nature taken in difficult lighting conditions that again required the ISO to be raised – reducing the shutter speed or aperture further was not an option because the lens was at it’s widest and the shutter speed was as low as I thought possible to avoid a blurred image. Again, I was using a monopod and a tripod wouldn’t have been accepted.

Contrasting-2-blur Contrasting-2-movement

With this image, instead of using the strong colour to try and distract, I think it plays a role in guiding the way the image is viewed. Instinctively, the eye is drawn to the bright yellow that is strongly contrasting with it’s predominantly blue background. The small hints of yellow can then be followed along the fish to the most interesting part of the fish. Following the image in this way can help give the impression of movement.

The orange on the right of the image shouldn’t be ignored when considering the colour of the entire image but the low contrast in this area compared to the high contrast of the yellows and blues of the fish stop it distracting.



The strong contrast in this flower is again another example from nature where the natural intention could be different from the previous two images. In the previous two images, the strong contrast could be used to try and blend into highly contrasting environments whereas the flower may be using the strong contrast to try and attract insects.


The strong contrast in the image is intended to draw the views attention which is also supported by the limited depth of field.



This final example of colour contrast is something obviously not from nature.


The background for the image is mostly green which helps the other two colours stand out further as well as the red and the blue contrasting with each other.

The space around these tractors was limited but I still tried to find a position where I could use a longer focal length lens with the aim of compressing perspective and trying to make them appear closer together then they were.

Colour Accents



This image was taken at the same place as the Blue/Orange image above but it was taken just as the sun was raising and required a relatively long exposure to be able to capture the image (1.6s).

Early morning at the Naze Early morning at the Naze

With this image, I’ve used the an adjustment to white balance to emphasise the blueness of the early morning light. Had I been using a film camera, the same effect could have been achieved using filters. Phil Malpas describes, in Basics Photography: Capturing Colour, how the numerically high temperature of early morning light would need to be compensated for with the use of warming filters in order to match the expected colour temperature of the film. To replicate the use of white balance applied in this digital image, the amount of warming filtration applied would be reduced.

Looking at the image, because of this blue tint, the small spots of green contrast really appear to stand out. This helps to strengthen the foreground interest and then allows the view to explore deeper into the image.



Another bird taken in a challengingly lit environment.


The small amount of blue around the eye really command attention against the orangeness of the body.



Here, I’ve attempted to capture a small amount of movement in the fish, again at a high ISO.


Although the bottom of the image contains greens, brown, and red, there brightness and saturation levels are low so don’t contend with the strong contrast and high saturation of the small amount of orange against the predominant blue.



Finally, this image contains small spots of red on a predominately green background.

Accented-4-blur Accented-4-movement

The diagonals in the image help to strengthen the image with a very centred focal point.


Trying to search for images of colour in the winter proved to be a considerable challenge when I began this module and for quite a time I was struggling to engage with the exercise or determine what the learning points were. I discussed this in an earlier entry, mentioning how a talk by photographer Phil Malpas really started to help me appreciate the role of colour in photography and it’s importance.

Having completed the assignment, I feel my understanding of the subject has considerably increase and in the end, feel that completing the module in winter was a real blessing. Had I been able to venture out and find colour everywhere, I think I would have quickly progressed through the module and not really gained the understanding I now have. The learning experience of meeting Phil and reading his book on colour was a great help.

In some of the images, I mentioned the use of digital filters in place of real world filters. These have been used to achieve similar results and have mainly been used to manage contrast in light.

For quite a while now, I have enjoyed experimenting with infra-red photography and this module has helped me understand at a deeper level what it is I like about it. It’s quite common for a lot of digital infra-red photographs to be converted into fake colour images using the powerful digital tools we have available. A photographer that I enjoy viewing the work of and have been inspired by is Jojo Tan on Flickr. In his set of Infra Red images, it can be seen that the converted images often show duo tone images of strongly contrasting colours – red/blue, yellow/blue, orange/green.

Before completing this assignment, I contacted my tutor to see if it would be appropriate to use images of this type in the assignment. Caroline’s response was that she thought it wouldn’t be appropriate at this stage. In the end, I’m pleased this was the case because it’s encouraged me to go out and explore images I could capture in the visible light spectrum.

Colours into Tones in Black and White

The final exercise of the colour module had the intention of looking how we can use colour to affect black and white images.

Had I been using a film camera, this would have required the use of 4 different coloured filters and black and white film. The images would have been taken and then analysed to see how the filter impacted the images.

With digital, the process is much easier (atleast it is for me). Using Lightroom, I’ve been able to take a single colour image, convert it to black and white using the Adobe algorithm and then adjust the standard settings to mimic the affect of applying the filters.

The results are below:

Colour Image and the Adobe Standard Black and White Conversion



Applying a Red Filter


Applying a Yellow Filter


Applying a Green Filter


Applying a Blue Filter



This simple exercise shows how filtering light, or imitating the filtration of light, can effect the tones of a black and white image. Because I was performing the exercise using digital software, I’ve been able to control the tone effect in a much more precise way than if I was using actual filters with film. Had I been using film with filters, as the filter appeared to raise the tone of the colour of the filter, it would have reduced the tone of the complement to that colour.

Although this exercise seems very simplistic and maybe not quite so relevant when we’re using digital tools, it is still good to know that there is tonal control after we’ve used the Adobe preset for black and white conversion. The relationship between the complementary colours may also be useful when thinking about these conversions.

Finally, a good resource showing some more in-depth and practical examples of light filtration for Black and White can be seen here.

Colour Relationships

The purpose of this exercise is to look at the relationship between colours and is done in two parts.

Part 1

The first part is to create three images that use pairs of primary and secondary colours from the colour wheel in the proportions specified by J. W. Von Goethe. The three pairs of colours are taken from opposites on the colour wheel and are considered complementary.

The ratio’s originally specified by Goethe were:

  • Red:Green – 1:1
  • Orange:Blue – 1:2
  • Yellow:Violet – 1:3

As I was about to start this exercise, I came across a tutorial in the January addition of Digital SLR Photography magazine that involved mixing food die with cream and injecting it into water to create interesting images. I liked the idea so decided to use this to create the colour ratio’s required.







Part 2

The second part of the assignment relaxed the rules and specified that appealing colour combinations should be found. A walk on a winters day typically doesn’t immediately bring to mind colour but I was lucky to get a sunny day when at the seaside.


When I first saw this beach hut, the colours that were striking were the green and the pink. I didn’t immediately think of them as being of complementary colours because they weren’t obviously colours from part one above. However, looking at the image further, I realised that they are in fact complementary greens and reds. Instead of being the pure green and red as above, the greens and reds here have a greater lightness value but the hue’s are still quite close to the original primaries. There was also a third colour, the blue, that was playing a part in the image that didn’t initially strike me.


The colours on the front of this beach hut were again the first thing to appeal to me and the green side was causing a tension. I’ve still not been able to decide if I like or loath the green in relation to the red and yellow front. Whilst thinking about the green, it struck me that I’d been ignoring a major colour in the images I’d been taking and this was the sky. Cutting out the blue sky, seems to reduce the tension in the image:


I still feel that there is some tension, but certainly not as much as when the blue is present.

Having become aware of the impact of the sky, I started looking for colour combinations without the sky and found this:


This image contains the red/green complementary colours but I think other elements of the composition are making the red much stronger in the image than the green even though, proportionally, the green is taking an equal, if not greater area in the image. Having the blue/purple relationship seem to bring in an extra dimension and balance out the image.

Learning Point

Whilst out taking the images of the beach huts, the realisation that I had been ignoring the sky brought to my attention the importance it can play and when using colour as part of an images composition, it can’t be ignored.

Phil Malpas – Finding the Picture

Phil Malpas

Last night, 11 Feb 2013, I attended a talk by a well renowned landscape photographer, Phil Malpas. I have to confess, that I’d not heard of Phil before the evenings talks, however, I think this is more from my own ignorance than anything else.

Phil talked on 5 different topics, starting from looking at why we take photographs and finishing with a posed question of “What comes next?” and it was all based around his his book “Finding the Picture: A Location Photography Materclass (Light & Land)”. For the full set of topics, you can see the contents of the book here.

Phil’s talk was a real insight for me and I feel it has been a tremendous help with the current module, Colour, that I’m studying on the OCA The Art of Photography (TOAP) course. I’ve been struggling to engage with this module and, although I could appreciate that it is helpful to study the impact of colour in an image, I didn’t feel that I was really gaining anything from it. Phil’s talk began to show me what I was missing.

From the outset, I was noticing the use of colour in the images Phil was showing, which is probably a result of studying the current module. It was easy to see the images using similar colours to convey feeling of warmth and cool and also the use of complementary colours in the images. However, it wasn’t until the talk got to the second to last section that the use of colour was addressed directly.

By studying the course material for the Colour module, I had read that complementary colours contrast with each other but I had not really made the association between using the contrast in colour to work with, or complement, contrasting light. Phil talked about how overcast days can be great for photography and explained that, although overcast days are going to reduce contrast in the suns light, it can give us more scope to work with contrast in colour. It seemed to imply a logical relationship that many people consider good Black and White images to have large contrast in light, so for colour images to be pleasing they can get away with less contrast in light due to the increased contrast created by colour. This implicit relationship wasn’t something that Phil seemed to talk about explicitly and is an area that I should give further attention to see if this relationship is something I can identify in images I like.

Although the discussion on Colour was particularly relevant to my current studies, the sections preceding and proceeding the simplification of images were also related to aspects of the TOAP course. Early on, when talking about how we find pictures, I thought a great piece of advice was to close your eyes and image the scene as you want it, thinking about how the light is falling and then when opening your eyes, consider are you capturing the scene you want.

Talking about “Where do our ideas come from?”, Phil discussed looking at other peoples images as a way to feed our imagination and grow our vision. He showed images that when he had captured them, he believed that they were copying images he had seen others create, but on reflection had found that this wasn’t the case. Phil also talked about not being put of capturing images just because other people had captured hundreds or thousands of the same subject because they will always have your personal take on them.

Having talked though the simplification of images, including the discussion on colour and contrast, Phil posed the question of “So, what next?”. He started out by talking about being able to properly use your camera and said that if you weren’t able to use the features of the camera you have, it’s just a matter of practice. At this point, it felt like the talk digressed slightly to look at a technical aspect of photography that I had started to think about after reading Light – Science & Magic. In the book, the authors talk about the linear relationship in ‘perfect’ digital sensor so that the sensor is equally sensitive to light levels from black up to white light.

Phil looked this same idea but explained it in a slightly different way. He discussed that if you have a 12 bit RAW image, it gives you 4096 different levels at which light can be captured. Using the idea that an increase in f-stop, or exposure value (EV), is twice the light when as the value increases then you can end up with the lighter areas of the image having a greater number capture these 4096 levels.

To try and explain this closer to Phils explanation. He detailed the binary steps for a 12 bit image:

64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096

Allocating light in increasing levels to these buckets would mean the first EV gets 64 levels at which to capture data and the seventh EV in the image gets 2048 levels at which to capture data.

The practical example Phil used to try and illustrate his point was to consider that the brightest part of an image may just be the lining of a cloud but we need to consider do we want to give 2048 of the sensors possible 4096 levels to capture detail in such a small area. To try and combat such a scenario, Phil went on to discuss the use of Filters when capturing images.

The closing section of the talk was associated back to the opening by looking at the reasons why we take photographs as photographers and to enjoy photography for the reasons we like to do it.

All together, the presentation was incredibly enjoyable and informative. I’ve come away with lots to think about and I think I’ll be looking to get a copy of one of Phils earlier books Capturing Colour in order to help me with my studies.

Primary and Secondary Colours

Continuing the focus on colour, this exercise was intended to focus on the specifics of the primary and secondary colours based on a painter’s primary colours. The primary colours are:

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue

The secondary colours are those that are considered the complementary opposites of these primaries:

  • Green
  • Violet
  • Orange

An interesting break down and representation of the colour wheel can be seen here.

The aim was to find a scene that was filled with the specific colour and matched the colour from the colour wheel as closely as possible. As we found in the previous exercise, varying the exposure of the image can affect the colour that is captured so as well as capturing an exposure as defined by the camera’s meter, the task included capturing images half a stop either side of the metered exposure. The camera I used for this exercise only bracketed in 1/3rd of a stop so I’ve captured the other images at 2/3rds of a stop difference.



PrimarySecondaryColour-12 PrimarySecondaryColour-10 PrimarySecondaryColour-11

Capturing red, the camera’s meter seemed to get the closest to the red I was trying to capture.


PrimarySecondaryColour-15 PrimarySecondaryColour-13 PrimarySecondaryColour-14

The 2/3rd’s of a stop of over exposure here is the closest to the yellow of the colour wheel but it still contains quite a lot of orange. The subject itself is not quite the correct shade but this is being emphasised by the capture. As I was able to completely fill the frame with this colour, it was fooling the camera’s auto white balance setting significantly. Using AWB, the colour captured was very grey in it’s appearance.


PrimarySecondaryColour-18 PrimarySecondaryColour-16 PrimarySecondaryColour-17

Here, the 2/3rd’s under exposure from the camera’s metered value is best matching the colour wheel. This is quite interesting because of the other detail captured in the picture. With, the inclusion of some of the snow, it would be expected that the cameras meter would be fooled into under exposing the image. With the best capture of the colour being from the image 2/3rd’s of a stop under exposed it suggests that without the snow, further reduction in the exposure would have been needed.



PrimarySecondaryColour-5 PrimarySecondaryColour-4 PrimarySecondaryColour-6

Looking for a specific green really opened my eyes to just how many subtle variation of green exist in nature. With the chosen green, the cameras meter seems to have got the best exposure in terms of the colour.


PrimarySecondaryColour-2 PrimarySecondaryColour-1 PrimarySecondaryColour-3

Being the middle of winter, it turned out not to be the best time of year to be searching for this colour. The chosen plant, was actually the only thing I came across of this colour and unfortunately isn’t quite large enough to fill the frame but is enough to illustrate the objective. Looking at the leaves of the flower, I think the colours match the colour wheel closest when the image is again 2/3rd’s of a stop under exposed.


PrimarySecondaryColour-9 PrimarySecondaryColour-7 PrimarySecondaryColour-8

Until going out to specifically focus on colour, I’d always thought of bricks being red. Spotting these new bricks, they certainly looked orange. The closest colour match comes from the camera’s chosen exposure.


From this exercise, I’ve learnt a number of things. The first is that I am a lazy photographer when it comes to white balance considerations. I’ve always left the camera in an auto white balance setting and relied on being able to correct the white balance setting by capturing the RAW data. This exercise has shown that the camera can be fooled by large amounts of a single colour in the frame so relying on the AWB may not always be possible or desirable. If I want to get as much right in the camera as I can to save on time in later stages of the image workflow, it is important to consider how colour can fool the camera’s metering with regards to white balance settings and the exposure.

Controlling The Strength Of a Colour

This is the first exercise in the 3rd section of my OCA TAOP course. This section will be focusing on colour.

The aim of this exercise was to capture 5 images, all composed exactly the same but at different exposures, ranging from bright to dark.

Using a Christmas decoration I captured the series of 5 images below:






The second image in this series was the image that was determined as the “correct” exposure by the camera. The first image was taken at half a stop wider and the subsequent 3 images were taken at half stops narrower.

From the series, it starts to demonstrate that it is not only the brightness of the red that is being effected by the exposure adjustment but also the colour saturation. As the exposure is being reduced, the saturation is increasing.

With this series of exposures, I didn’t feel the effect was clearly shown so I decided to repeat the exercise but to use a full stop difference in the exposures:






With the series, I think there is a clearer difference in the saturation difference.