Saturday, January 04, 2014

Kumquat Shapes and Textures

Kumquat Shapes and Textures - Leica MM, 90 Summicron, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 640
I learned photography in a somewhat formal setting about 9 years ago when I took a community college class on photography (and when I retire from my current profession, I see an MFA in photography in my future).  We were taught all the usual stuff, how exposure works, rules of composition and so on.  One of the things that we learned but has been pushed to back of my mind was elements of visual design.  We were taught that there were ten: dot, line, shape, texture, tone, color, scale, movement, direction and dimension.  I've been doing a bunch of reading and it seems that these elements of visual design, or visual composition are somewhat varied.  In some texts there are only 7 and fewer in others and some are called something different.  I don't claim my list is definitive, only that it was what I was taught.

The thing I find interesting is that of the ten, color is only one and the rest are independent of color.  We were also taught to be careful about the number of visual elements we included in our photography.  Too much would increase the cognitive load and so sometimes as a photographer you had to work to remove an element.  As a result a lot of photographers convert a color image to black & white as to remove color from the visual load bringing the focus on other elements.  Of course it doesn't always have to be color you can reduce the others like say movement (by shooting a faster shutter speed) or dimension (by avoiding layering of planes or perspective) or tone (by processing to push finer tones together).

When I typically make black & white images, I use the color information to bring forth other visual elements (usually dot, tone, shape or line).  If I had used a color base image for this one I would have likely used the color (i.e. hue) difference between the orange kumquat and the green leaves to make the little round circular kumquats pop out against the leaves.  I would make yellow/greens map to darker tones and orange to lighter tones.  But what I saw was a touch of sun light highlighting the edges of the leaves.  So with no color information and just a lot of black and white tones I adjusted my post processing so that the shape of leaves were emphasized and the attention brought to their texture (which one sees better when viewing this as a large print).  I don't claim this is a better way (or even a good way) to make black & white images.  Its different and it is forcing me to break my habit (or perhaps over dependence) on hue to make black & white images.
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