Colour Project Diary

This is the diary of activities and associated research notes pertaining to the Colour Brief project over the course of January – May 2014.

14th January – Idea Brainstorming

Dave Caton gave an explanation of the project and possible approaches; either work to a common brief but provide individual output for evaluation such as the research and  final images or work independently on a personal brief provided the tasks outlined were met. This latter would require development and approval of a brief.

The majority of the group opted for the common brief and a group discussion to generate ideas which included a lively and interesting word association discussion was held. The outcome of the session was that the theme “colour” was determined as the title for the brief.

21st January 2014

Brief formally issued to group.  Did some brief internet research on photographers noted for their use of colour in their work and identified Steve McCurry, Maria Cosindas and from a historical perspective Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky an early proponent of colour photography for further investigation.

Jan 28th January 2014

Developed and submitted outline plan for the project.

I decided to research the history of colour photography focusing on the work of Gorsky in the early 20th Century.

Click here for research notes.

Feb 4th 2014

On holiday in USA, no specific research although I did take some images in the desert and on the beach with a deliberate emphasis on the use of colour which I may consider for use as part of  final images to be presented.

Click here to view gallery of USA images.

Feb 11th 2014

Task for this week was to research ideas and themes. The only themes that came to mind were fairly obvious, e.g. nature but its the wrong time of  the year to be catching the best of nature either in terms of glorious autumnal colours or summer flowers. Colour could also be an interpretation of race or culture and I will give this further consideration later. The last obvious area was to demonstrate the power of colour in an image by setting out to capture images where colour is the main element of the composition as per some of the USA pictures.

However a serendipitous event occurred with a request to organise a photo shoot for media make up students at short notice, undertaken with fellow student Laura Ward.

In readiness for the shoot we had to book the studio space, set up the backgrounds and decide and arrange the lighting to be used.  There is a full description of the shoot here describing the technical and logistical issue that had to be addressed and solved along with link to a gallery of all the images taken.

The good fortune was that the  theme of the shoot was mythical creatures and featured some highly colourful creations. Will definitely revisit this shoot for consideration of final images.

Some sample images; Click on image to enlarge, back button to return. Click here for the complete gallery.











Feb 18th 2014

Half term week. Did some further internet based research and came across a site highlighting selective colour in images.

The technique is a well known, de-saturating an image to B&W leaving either a single colour visible or an object within the image in full colour to emphasise it as part of the overall composition. There are some particularly strong images in this collection, all the better for sometimes not colouring the obvious element.

Examples from the site.

yellow imagebaby








Two images where a single colour channel has been left, the iconic yellow New York Taxi cabs are even more distinctive  in the other wise B&W image compared to similar full colour images. The red roses surrounding the baby make for an interesting capture, I think many photographers would colour the baby rather than the roses but this works well.

reflectionmary poppins







Examples of images where an area / object has been left in full colour rather than a single colour. The “Mary Poppins” image has real impact, emphasising the make up and clothing against the background and the reflection in the water is an interesting take on a common type of image.

Think this may be a technique worth considering for some final images.

Feb 24th 2014

Research into noted exponents of colour photography.

Click here for Steve McCurry research notes.

Click here for Maria Cosindas research notes

March 4th 2014

On a private visit to London came across two examples where colour is a strong feature of the work. Firstly a graffiti artist convention and/or  competition being held in an under pass on the South Bank and secondly window displays in Fortnum and Mason which demonstrates excellent use of lighting and colour.

A description and evaluation of the work seen is here along with a description of some technical issues involved in capturing the images on the day. Click here for a gallery of sample images.

March 11th 2014

Plan Images to be shot. In order to assess what is needed to complete the project I decided to review images already available to determine what, if any, further image capture work is required.

The outcome of this process was that I think there are some strong images in the media make up shoot of mythical creatures, with strong colours and well composed and exposed images.

However, from the point of view of the colour project,  the graffiti shots are fundamentally a record of someone’s else’s creative work and there is little input from a photography view point  other than a technically competent exposure. Accordingly I am not going to pursue this or any similarly based concept for the final images, I will record the observations on such work as part of my research into colour.

It could be said that the same is true of the media make up shots however I would counter this argument by saying there is considerable input from a photography standpoint in terms of lighting and posing the models in addition to the creative input of the make up and styling. I don’t think the media make up shoot alone demonstrates sufficient variety and am leaning towards including some landscape / location shoots as part of the work.

Accordingly I consider further work is required to provide a variety, wider selection and quality of images for inclusion as final images.

March 18th 2104

Plan was to arrange a shoot this week however I think the concept to be followed needs further development before deciding on the shoot required as I dont have a fixed theme for the image series other than colour.

March 31st 2104

Had a mini “brainstorming” with a couple of fellow students as to what sort of a shoot we could arrange over the Easter Break, There had been some contact with Media Make-up lectures and they had indicated that were was interest from their students in more location shoots.

I then subsequently briefly met with the 3 MUA’s who had expressed an interest and exchanged contact details with a view to arranging a “fashion” shot at a location to be determined. Further discussion with the photographers and we discussed beach and or possible scrap yard location for a shoot.

There is a scrap yard in Wantage that I thought would be possible so I found their contact details and contacted them explaining the project and requesting permission to come on site to shoot. Pleasingly they agreed and we set a provisional date for the week following Easter. This was then communicated to all participants and Wednesday 9th was most suitable for all concerned.

Having arranged location and participants I then turned my attention to planning the photography issues of the shoot particularity the lighting required.Although notionally outside and hopefully sunny so reflectors and / or diffusers would be useful to have along there was also the possibility of needing additional light e..g. if model is inside vehicle. If shooting in a restricted space was required then for this shoot I decided that an off camera speedlite would be most useful for use in potentially restricted space and portability.

Although I have a cable that would enable the speedlite to be used in ETTL mode it is only 60cms long and more flexibility in terms of distance between  camera and flash gun was likely to be required. Additionally there would be other photographers present with non-compatible cameras and for speed and convenience on the day a more flexible solution was required. It is possible to fire the the flash with a long PC cord however felt this would not be convenient at the site and might need additional post processing if cable was visible in final shot.

I decided that radio triggers would provide the best solution. Although it may be possible to borrow them from the college decided that in the long term they would be useful to have and additionally would enable me to practice the set up before the day and address any glitches with the set-up before the day itself.

Accordingly I purchased a pair of Pocket Wizard radio triggers that will work with any flash gun / camera combination with a hot shoe. Additionally I purchased an adaptor that would allow the speedlite to be mounted on a light stand and be compatible with an Elinchrome soft box I already possessed as part of my studio lights kit. The triggers and adaptor cost £145.

March 25th 2104

Further research into basic colour concepts and application in photography.
Use of colour in imagery, Colour Wheel.

How can I choose colours for my designs?   Color wheel 150x150

Understanding and using the colour wheel will assist in selecting effective colour combinations. Either complementary colours, adjacent on the wheel or contrasting colours which are opposites on the wheel.

The colour wheel is represented by 12 colours, positioned like the hours on a traditional clock face.

The primary colours yellow, blue and red, are separated by three colours, so starting with yellow at 12 o’clock, red would be at 4, and blue at 8 o’clock.

Secondary colours are produced by mixing two primary colours. The secondary colours are placed in between the two primary colours that created them.

For example between yellow and red are orange hues, between red and blue are the purple hues, and between blue and yellow are green hues.

To create a photo with a calm, mellow feel, then use colours that are close to each other on the wheel. Good examples would be a blue sea underneath a blue sky – or an autumnal woodland scene composed of yellow, red and brown hues. 

Red, yellow, orange and brown are warm colours. Blue is a cool colour. Green and purple are somewhere in-between. Warm colours appear to come forward in a photo, and cool colours to recede. If you place a warm coloured subject against a cooler coloured background, the subject stands out, this is the basis of the selective colouring of images discussed earlier.

Colour as mood


There is much discussion on colour physiology and the effect colours may or may not have on individuals. However genuinely authoritative research is hard to access. However there are widely held common perceptions about particular colours as indicated by the graphic.

Red for example is meant to express passion, not only in a romantic or sexual context but also strong emotions such as anger. e.g. phrases such as “like a red rag to a bull”

Pastel blue tones are meant to represent calmness and serenity whilst white is used to represent purity but can also be cold and clinical and, of course, is often associated with medical settings.

Black on the other hand is considered a depressing choice and is often associated with death in imagery such as the grim reaper or, in western culture, traditional colours associated with mourning e.g.  for attendance at a funeral or a Widows dress. The fashion for mourning dress reached a zenith in Queen Victoria’s reign as following the death of her consort Prince Albert in 1861 she wore black until her own death 40 years later. In a slightly lighter vein it is also associated with formality such as “a black tie” event.

Colour research sources :–photo-1090

April 1st 2014

This week was planned to provide some contingency but things are currently on track. The Radio triggers and speedlite bracket ordered for the scrap yard shoot delivered.

April 8th 2014

The shoot planned with MUA’s at a scrap yard location was cancelled at last minute due to the withdrawal of the MUA’s. Click here for details and corrective actions required to address for future activities.

The key thing that emerges from this is the need to ensure everyone involved in a group activity understands and is committed to the project. It does cause a significant issue for the project as this shoot was one primarily designed to generate images for final consideration in the project.

Activity this week mainly centred around contacting everyone else – a total of 6 people – to try and co-ordinate the shoot, then trying to arrange alternates. All, frustratingly, to no avail considering the time and expense that had gone into arranging the location and planning the lighting. Although the speedlite accessories will be of long term benefit it was perhaps an unnecessary expense at this time.

April 15th 2014

Easter half Term –  still life. The cancelled shoot last week has created a bit of an issue as, with other projects also due, there is little time to organise another shoot involving any extensive preparation. Still nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind and doing a mind map, a technique from the ideas generation project,  based on the theme I came up with a few options. (Click on Image to enlarge, back to return)








With a combination of my existing images and desire to create something unique for the colour project have decided on a series of images that will depict colour in different photographic genres. So have decided on a series of 9 images, 3 each from Portrait genre using the Media Make up shoot of mythical creatures, Landscape genre from USA and Iceland visits early in the year and Infra-red from Camera Technique and a still life shoot to be done at home.

The still life I want to make deliberately straight forward, partially because of the time pressure, but also because the other 2 genres illustrated required either extensive preparation and/or travel and I want to demonstrate that it is equally possible to create effective images with a basic set-up without undue preparation or expense..

April 22nd 2014

Still life shoot. Trying to decide on something colourful to photograph at home I looked for inspiration by looking at some old photo magazines, a book on photographic projects and techniques and the internet. I considered water splashes using brightly coloured fruit or simply illuminating coloured liquids thrown in the air. However I don’t have a space immediately suitable for such wet projects and time is pressing.

Ultimately I saw an article on photographing marbles on a mirrored surface and decided this would be the theme of the still life. Looking in the loft unearthed some toy marbles from when the children were small  and I also had some coloured glass from Italy and using these as props along with a glass holder obtained form the local charity shop for £1.50 and an old mirror set about making some colourful still life images.

I had mentioned the project to a Camera Club friend and he was interested to come along and join the shoot as he wanted to try some macro extension tubes he had recently bought and he also turned up with some variously coloured glass pebbles of the sort used to decorate the tops of plant pots which he had obtained free from Swindon Freecycle.

We used a set up on the dining room table consisting of the mirror, marbles, and paper used both as a mini background / infinity curve and reflector. The lighting was provided by some cheap continuous lighting lights as flash proved too harsh and gave too many highlights and reflections. We took a variety of shots close up with a macro lens and the extension tubes to create some colourful images taking advantage of both the colour of the marbles and refracted light shining through them an onto the paper. With strong lighting and glass surfaces dust is a major issue and the marbles and mirror required careful cleaning to obtain images that didn’t require a lot of post processing to clean up.

Example of image with dust.








Set up used for still life shoot.








April 29th 2014

Prepare final images for presentation, this will be in the form of a Web page on this site and a power point presentation for Tuesday.

I would also have liked to produce some prints but high quality colour printing at college is an issue at the moment due to the combined pressure of continuing printing issues from the MAC platform and the need to produce images for the final year Art & Design shows.

May 6th 2014

Email Dave Caton to “hand in” project and complete project submission form.


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