Category Archives: Features

The Colour Wheel

A colour wheel is a useful tool used for understanding the relationships between colours. Used by designers, artists and photographers, they can be used to create balanced colourscapes based on the use of complimentary and harmonious colours.

The first colour wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666 and features 12 colours, using the primary colours of red, yellow and blue as a basis.

Photo of a colour wheel

One half of the wheel features the “warm” colours and the other the “cool” colours”.

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colours

In the artistic (or subtractive) colour models, the primary colours are red, yellow and blue. These are spaced equally around the wheel.

The secondary colours are produced by mixing primary colours, so mixing red and yellow gives orange, yellow and blue gives green, and blue and red gives violet. These colours also appear equally spaced around the wheel between the colours that produce them.

Finally, the tertiary colours are produced by mixing a primary and secondary colour and these are named after their constituent colours, so mixing green and blue gives blue-green, whilst mixing orange and yellow give yellow-orange. Again these colours appear on the wheel between the colours that produce them.

Lighter & Darker Colours

You can make all these colours lighter or darker by adding white or black respectively. A lighter colour is called a tint, whilst a darker colour is a shade. You can also add grey to create a different tone. These variations often appear on the back of the colour wheel.

Relationships

Colours can be related in a number of ways.

Complimentary colours are those that appear opposite one another in the wheel, for instance orange and blue.

Analagous colours are colours that appear next to each other on the wheel, often in twos or threes.

A triadic scheme uses three colours that appear equally around the wheel, such as orange, green and violet.

A tetradic scheme uses a rectangle on the wheel to match fours colours, such as yellow, blue, violet and orange.

There are also other chords such as split complimentary and square.

Use In Photography

Knowing how colours relate to one another can be a useful tool in photographic composition. Finding a dominant colour and then contrasting it with a secondary colour can lift an image.

Green and red are complimentary colours

When deciding on how to capture a particular scene, knowledge of colour theory can help influence your composition to produce pleasing images. You can choose two colours and then find an angle to exclude anything that disturbs the balance of colours.

When designers use colour they often choose a dominant colour and match it with a secondary hue, sometimes adding in a third accent colour.

For more information about colour theory you can refer to the links shown below.

Useful links:
Colour Theory (from Colormatters.com)
Introduction to Colour Theory
(from Tigercolor.com)

The Seasons: Spring

After the overcast days and long nights of Winter, Spring is a welcome season of new life. For the photographer it’s a time of fresh new colour as the sun moves higher in the sky, flowers bloom and leaves return to the trees.

It starts with apple blossom and daffodils; pink, white and yellow. Sunlit against a clear blue sky these can give a picture of freshness, awakening from the hibernation of winter. As the weeks roll by, towns and the countryside turn greener, and again this green works well with the blue sky.

When taking photos of flowers you can get close up, allowing you to experiment with depth of field. Using a large aperture will give a shallow depth of field, allowing you to blur the background. However, you should carefully choose your focal point. At this point you may want to change the camera’s focusing mode from automatic to something more appropriate, either manual or single point focus.

Alternatively, you may choose to use a smaller aperture, meaning that more of the shot is in focus. The focal point becomes less important in this case but your surrounding and background might become more of a distraction.

Later in the Spring comes the blaze of colour that is rapeseed, or Canola as it is known in America. This can present some excellent photo opportunities, although photographers with a sensitive nose might want to pass this up.

If you are anywhere near a sheepfarming community, lambs and lambing can make good subject material, although it’s always important not to disturb the animals. There are invariably some great shots to be had of lambs running around the fields in the Spring sunshine.

Mayday is a good time to focus on seasonal celebrations, with May festivals and morris dancers providing good subjects.ckground might become more of a distraction.

Theatrical Lighting

Theatrical lighting can present the photographer with huge challenges. A dramatic lighting plot can typically feature strong colours and highly contrasting areas of localised light. Sometimes the action will take place in areas of subdued lighting or feature highly animated characters. All of these conspire against the camera’s metering system to the point where the photographer has to make decisions that are outside the cameras designed remit.

Camera metering systems are designed to deal with “average” scenes. These are typically situations where the average of colour and light amount to a mid grey. The job of a lighting designer on the other hand is to produce a spectacle that is far from average. The human eye has an enormous capacity to deal with differing levels of light and white balance within a scene, much more than most cameras. The challenge to the photographer is to make decisions about exposure and white balance that best reflects what the eye sees on the stage.

Faced with this challenge, the theatrical photographer has a couple of options. The first is to allow the camera to make decisions about exposure and white balance. This can work in some situations, but not others. The alternative is to take control and override the camera’s automatic settings and choose the aperture and shutter speed yourself.

Allowing the camera to make all the decisions can work in some circumstances where lighting is less dramatic. However, if you’re faced with bright and dark areas on the stage you may need to change metering modes.

Continue reading Theatrical Lighting

Pseudometamerism

Pseudo-what? I hear you ask. It sounds very complex. And it is. It’s a problem that can afflict black and white prints, especially those produced using inkjet technology. It’s also known as Grey Balance Failure or Colour Balance Failure.

Simply put, it’s the phenomenon whereby a black and white print can appear to have a colour cast in some lights, but not others. Moreover, the colour of the cast can appear to change under varying lighting conditions, most often appearing as either a green, pink or magenta tinge.

Part of the problem is that inket and commercial photographic printers actually print black and white photos using colour inks – cyan, magenta and yellow, along with black (because no amount of mixing coloured inks can produce a genuine black, just dark brown). These printers are typically configured to produce ideal results under what is called D50 lighting, which is a illumination standard that correlates with “horizon light”, with a colour temperature of 5003 Kelvins – roughly daylight. However, as you move away from this standard illumination, into light generated by, say, tungsten or fluourescent sources, the energy levels at different frequencies can change.  Along with that change, the light reflected by the dyes or pigments in the ink can also change, resulting in a slight colour cast. The colour depends on how the inks react to different lighting situations. In some cases it might be pink or magenta, in others it might be varying shades of green. In other lighting situations there may be no colour cast at all. It depends very much on the lighting source and the inks involved.

And it’s not just inkjet prints that suffer from this problem. It’s also been noted in chromogenic colour prints as well (conventional prints that are produced using light sensitive emulsions and developed using chemicals).

Solutions vary. If you’re printing at home with an inkjet printer, consider using only black and grey inks. I’ve also read that matt prints perform better. If you use commercial printers, try shopping around for companies that offer specialist B&W services.

Further reading:
Metamerism – or Things That Go Weird in the Light
How to Successfully Print Black and White Photos on Your Inkjet Printer

Gallery f1.8

This gallery features a small selection of photos taken with my Nikkor 35mm f1.8 lens. The large aperture affords a shallow depth of field as well as allowing held held photography in low light. Being a prime lens is is also extremely sharp.

The photos shown here demonstrate the depth of field and low light capabilities of this excellent lens.

Click on any image to see more information and then again to see a larger version of the photo.

Ribba Frames

Framing options come in all shapes and sizes, but probably my favourite is the humble Ribba frame from IKEA. These come in a range of sizes suitable for various prints and enlargements, including 12×8″.  I’ve never understood why it’s so hard to find frames for this print size, given that it’s a standard 3×2 aspect ratio. However, Ikea’s 40x30cm frame comes with a mount that is ideal for either a 12×8″ or A4 print.

Other frames are suitable for 6×4″ and 7×5″ prints as well as 12×16″ and square enlargements. They come in a variety of finishes, my favourite being the oak effect.

Ribba frames also have a depth of 35mm, which means that photos can be set back from the glazing or mount. If you’re feeling creative, you can also hide lighting effects behind the mounts.

In fact their use goes beyond picture framing – they can be used for imaginative wall decorations, as described in this article at Shelterness.

Point-and-shoot

Wherever I go I always make sure I have a camera with me. You never know when a golden opportunity might present itself so if and when that happens I want to make sure I’ve got something more than a camera phone to hand.

My current choice of point-and-shoot camera is a Canon IXUS 120 IS, a beautifully compact and well-built camera that not only shoots stills but also takes 720p High Definition video.

Some of the stand out features of this camera include a wide 28mm equivalent lens with 4x zoom, a large 2.7 inch screen, 80-3200 ISO sensitivity and optical image stabilisation (as opposed to the more common digital stabilisation found on compact cameras).

The IXUS is also a very stylish and pocketable piece of kit, at just 20mm think and the same size as a credit card. And, of course, it’s a Canon.

I’m very pleased with the images produced by this camera and the HD video is excellent. It’s small enough to fit in any pocket, although I often use a case. The 2.7″ display is also very good, with an anti-reflective coating.

Overall I’m very pleased with with the IXUS 120 and it’s a joy to carry around with me and use.

Festival Roundup

During the Summer I attended a number of local music festivals, including The Westmill Farm Festival, Bramfield Music and Beer Festival and Wilkestock.

I love photographing festivals. When you’re right up at the front the music completely surrounds you and the energy levels are fantastic. It’s great to be able to capture some of that atmosphere and the energy of the musicians.

The Bodells' Credence Pym

As well as the performers I also like to focus on the audience. There are some great shots to be had of people enjoying themselves. If they know you’re taking photos of them they will often be keen to let you know just how much fun they’re having!

Most local festivals feature a couple of stages so there is rarely any let-up in the workload. No sooner has one band finished their set on one stage than another starts on the second stage. Often, the smaller stage will feature solo or acoustic acts, who fill in between the main bands.

Christina Novelli

The long Summer days also ensure that there is plenty of light well into the evening, although as the sun sets, the limitations of the lighting rig can present it’s challenges. This was not an issue at Wilkestock where organisers invested in a highly sophisticated lighting operation.

Luckily the weather was good at for all the festivals, with only The Westmill Farm Festival suffering a couple of torrential downpours, although they were shortlived. The showers however were a gift to the beer tent, where demand increased dramatically.

 

The Bramfield Music and Beer Festival takes place annually on Bramfield Village Green and is organised by The Grandison.

Westmill Farm Festival takes place over two days at Westmill Farm just north of Ware.

Wilkestock is organised by Tom and Ollie Wilkes and takes place in their back garden at Old Hall, just south of Stevenage.

Photo Restoration

The digital darkroom is a marvellous place. A place where ageing can be reversed, weather transformed and darkness turned to light. A place where colour and light can be worked to polish an image and perfect an exposure.

An array of tools and techniques can be used to improve a picture and these same tools can also be used to bring life back to old or distressed photos, be they antique prints or more recent memories from the days preceding digital photography.

Faded or underexposed prints can be fixed by adjusting the colour curves. This powerful method uses a curves tool to manipulate the different lighting levels in an image, either across the spectrum or for a given colour channel. This way the balance of light and colour can be accurately adjusted to drastically improve the appearance of an image.

Colour saturation can also be adjusted, again either across the spectrum or for a single colour channel.

Tears and blemishes can be removed using simple cloning tools or more complex healing brushes, although the work can be detailed and time-consuming where the damage is extensive.

More complex repairs and restoration can involve dodging and burning to modify the contrast or exposure in selected areas of a picture.

For more information about the products and services I offer please visit www.stevebeeston.co.uk.

Portable Studio

My portraiture service allows clients to be photographed in their own home or a chosen location, either indoors or outside. The service includes the use of a small portable studio that can be assembled in the client’s home or other indoor location.

The studio features a 3 metre wide white muslin backdrop and two daylight-balanced softboxes powered by low-energy 85W bulbs. The softboxes produce a gentle diffused light that can be used on their own or to compliment natural daylight.

Supplementary pop-up backgrounds and a range of reflectors are also available. These can all be used to provide an ideal lighting situation for photographing individuals or small family groups.

Assembly takes around 30 minutes and there is no extra charge for using the studio.