The Attraction of Opposites
This week we continue our color wheel studies with Kat’s “Exploring with a Camera” series. In this lesson, we are looking at the more complex color schemes, which prove the theorem that opposites do indeed attract.
Last week, the search for monochromatic images was a simple task, as an overwhelming majority of my recent images fall into that category. This week, the hunt for other color harmonies proved slightly more challenging.
Complementary color schemes are made of up of direct opposites on the color wheel. Nature is the ultimate source of effective color combinations as evidenced by the complementary red-violet and yellow-green of the onions above. They look too good to eat, don’t you think?
Because of my fondness for brick and windows, I did find several examples of the complementary scheme of orange and blue, like this broken glass image. A bright sunny day, the blue sky was reflected in the glass and the metal fire escape – a lovely counterpoint to the luscious orange brick and painted windows.
These vertical stripes represent a split-complementary scheme: one hue (blue) and the two colors on either side of its complement (orange) – in this case, red-orange and yellow-orange. The colors in this image are pure and fully saturated, almost fluorescent, and stand in stark contrast to the deep black background.The colors almost seem to vibrate. It was the graphic nature of this image the appealed to me – the implied black triangles and the polygonal shapes – but the vibrant color scheme is tremendously appealing to me.
Emerald green and rusty orange are two of the three colors that make up the secondary hues of the color wheel. Orange and green are evenly spaced from each other along the color wheel; used together they create a harmonious and balanced relationship.
The beautiful script-like grill was the key attraction for me with this image. I’m not sure I even noticed the green frame until I began the editing process. But it provides a beautiful backdrop for the fancy ironwork and a lovely contrast to the textured, aged brick wall.
This image demonstrates that a primary color scheme of red, blue and yellow can be effective using desaturated hues. In this image, the eye is drawn to the red rectangle around the address number, then to the yellow grid pattern of the windows which sit on the cool blue expanse of the brick wall and glass panes.
The importance of the color scheme did not become apparent until post-processing. For me, this shot was about the textures, the patterns, the lines and the bold number graphic. Those are the elements that attracted my eye. It is only now, upon review, that I understand the color theory behind why this image works.
This image also demonstrates another important concept in the successful use of color – the relative proportion of each color to the whole. Yellow dominates, followed by blue, orange and just a dash of violet.
I did not find many of these complex schemes in my photo archive. Perhaps it is the nature of living in the midwest, as opposed to South Beach or Italy, where riotous color combinations abound.
More likely, it is simply one of the identifying characteristics of my photographic eye.
This study has led me to better understand my own creative process and my relationship with color. I discovered that I rarely shoot for color but almost always emphasize color after the fact. This preference seems obvious now but was a hidden factor until I took the time to analzye my photos with color theory in mind.
Understanding ourselves – isn’t that the reason we photograph in the first place? Thanks to Kat for the guidance and instruction.