Analogous Colours

‘Rock of Ages’, Rispond, Highland, Scotland
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 100mm, 30 seconds @ f/10, ISO 200
LEE 10-stop ND + 3-stop ND Grad filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“One of the first lessons learned by a landscape painter, is that darker elements advance and lighter ones recede.”

Analogous Colours

Landscape painters understand that employment of ‘contrasts’ enables the creation of visually arresting images, not always simply juxtapositions of light and dark, but contrasting colours, texture, tone and subject matter. Alternatively, scenes may be rendered more peaceful by the avoidance of such visual variance, juxtaposing more kindred elements can create a more relaxing result. Virtuosos like Constable and Turner were able to mix and balance such elements at will, with a degree of mastery that eclipsed earthly expectation; resulting in images that were simultaneously both breathtaking and harmonious, images with a perfect overall balance.

Contrasting colours, called ‘complementary colours’ are frequently employed by landscape photographers in pursuit of impact, the combinations of red and green, orange and blue, yellow and purple are all examples of colours occupying opposite positions on the painter’s colour-wheel. Complementary colours often work well together because of the phenomenon known as ‘simultaneous contrast’; when placed in close proximity, each colour enhances the presence of it’s complementary counterpart. Complementary colours help us to create arresting images, demanding of attention. Contrast this with the serene mood of images created using combinations of colours occupying adjacent places on the colour-wheel.

This month’s image is an example of the juxtaposition of such ‘analogous’ colours. Because blue and green are such close relatives, they harmonise beautifully, creating a more relaxing and peaceful overall effect; they also appear together naturally in some of the most beautiful places, so there may also be a subliminal attraction, an assumed naturalistic representation. However, when using analogous colours, the colour ‘contrasts’ found in abundance with the otherwise striking juxtaposition of complementary colours are diminished considerably. Our harmonious gain is offset by the inclusion of less impactful colour contrast. Incorporation of contrasting components other than colour can help to redress the balance and ensure a distinctive overall result.

One of the first lessons learned by a landscape painter, is that darker elements advance and lighter ones recede. There is a natural tendency for this to happen in the wider vista, but I have accentuated the effect by further darkening the lower edge of the image in post-processing, to enhance the depth of the scene. The solidity and permanence of the main subject begged for the texturally contrasting background of a shifting cloudscape, enabled by the use of dense neutral density filtration, emphasising the ‘moment’ over the ‘instant’.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.