Saturday, October 10, 2009

Capturing the Splendor of Fall Colours

The winners of the Free Print contest are Amuary and Paul and please contact me for details about selecting your print. I sure wish I could give everyone an image but cost prohibits this. I may try in the future to do this again

I would also like to thank all those who participated and provided comments to help me understand about people’s desire to display printed photographic artwork.

The Colours of Fall

In the northern hemisphere and especially those with an abundance of deciduous trees, fall is a spectacular season of colours. To the eyes it’s like an explosion of bright sunlit yellows, oranges and reds that almost seems to overwhelm the senses. As photographers, the desire is strong to capturing these fleeting moments with your camera.

But upon reviewing the captured images they never seem to quite capture what our impressions where. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t capture good images it’s just that the camera records statically the scene, while your eyes actually paint a memory in your brain.

We tend to think that our eyes take in the whole scene before us, but in actual fact it has a narrow angle of view for colour and detail. It very quickly moves about a scene creating an impression of the whole. It is this, if you will, many snapshots of specific elements with each having it’s own vibrancy and focus points that lets you take in the wonder of the whole. It creates a memory that is more vibrant and dynamic.

In a previous article, I wrote about “ What I Saw, My Camera Captured and What My Mind Thought it Saw” ” that provide another example.

For the most part, this fall foliage is akin to splashes of colour on a canvas. It still needs design elements to tie it all together. A classic scene, which is hard to get in my area, is a panorama of overlying rolling hills with maybe just a touch of water, either a lakefront of even better a meandering river. Even mountains will aid this scene. They help by providing lines for the eye to move about the scene and thereby keeping the viewers interest.

In my on case I don’t have these so I find it is better to isolate the few splashes of colour and tie it together with other interesting elements.
In the above image I used the Photoshop Smart-object feature by layering different versions of the same image in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). Two of these were just to create individual masks for the red and yellow tree. This was achieved by increasing the luminance for the specific colour and reducing for all the rest. This made it easy to find a good mask and with a little curves adjustment and some clean up. I then created a version for each colour that enhanced that colour for its best attributes (red and yellow) and used the masks to make them stand out. Another was used to darken and reduce saturation for the other foliage and a final version for the blue in the water. The reason to use the smart-object feature is like in paintings, a singular colour looks different when combined with other colours. I need to fine-tune the colours to better match the others when composition is complete.

The above scene can easily fool the eyes. Because the duck is low to the water and there are imperfections in the water stillness. You might at first glance think that the horizon line is between the 2 duck images. In fact the horizon line is at the very top edge of the image.

The image below gives a better view of the types of foliage encountered near Ottawa. Lots of evergreens interspersed with colourful deciduous trees. Occasionally, especially near fields, there are pockets of only deciduous trees brightly coloured but it is hard to find grand vistas of fall colours. These pockets, while quite brilliant, mostly don’t have any other elements that will get the viewer to spend time on a scene.

The above image is a simple everyday type image, but there are many elements that keep your gaze moving and thereby spending more time and hopefully enjoying it more. As photographers, that is what we try to achieve with our photographs, viewers spending time on the image.

Below with graphic overlays I have highlighted those elements that aid.
The man’s red toque, red speed sign and red marker buoy from a triangle that aids the vision in moving around the scene and ultimately leads you down the river.

The red circle is a final destination, almost a resting point for the viewer’s gaze. The man in the boat is the strongest contrast and becomes the initial focal point. Its closeness to the red circle helps to draw you in. The Speed sign and the red marker buoy also provide leading lines to the red circle. The green arrows provide diagonal and horizontal lines that re-enforce the moment to central area.

Niels Henriksen


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