Brian's Photo Blog — Article 429
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Splashes of Color in a Gray World
Wednesday 20 May 2015   —   Category: Processing

Sometimes I take a photograph which has nice composition, but because of various environmental conditions the color or contrast does not turn out well. No matter how I try to process the pic­ture in Adobe Lightroom, I just can’t achieve a satisfactory result in color.

In order to salvage the worthwhile com­po­si­tion, I resort to monochrome proc­ess­ing. Quite often this works wonders, although sometimes I simply have to admit defeat and toss the photo on the virtual reject pile.

Besides its usefulness in photo proc­ess­ing, I simply love black and white pho­tog­ra­phy! There is a certain beauty and majesty to a good monochrome image which the inclusion of color tends to ruin. On the other hand, sometimes it is a pity to remove all of the color from a particular picture.

This need has given rise to selective color, which is also sometimes called “color splash.” After years of knowing about it, but rarely indulging in it, for some unknown reason I have been strangely drawn to using color splash when processing my photos this year.

It has all happened by accident rather than intentionally. A number of my pho­to outings to Portland this year have taken place on gray, dull days, which resulted in many pictures having too little contrast and very poor colors. Such images are ideal candidates for a black and white treatment.

However, it is possible to take things too far. Even though most of a photo may look great in various shades of gray, there can be a certain part (or parts) of the image in which it would be a pity to lose the color. How can a fire-engine-red fire engine look like a true fire engine without being red?

When I’m out taking pictures, I gen­er­al­ly do not have making color splash im­ag­es in mind — I’m just trying to get the best shots I can under the current con­di­tions. It is only when I am back home and examining the results that the pos­si­bil­i­ties begin to unfold. I am finding that it is quite satisfying to create an in­ter­est­ing photo from an image that is lacking that special something.

In many cases, selective color helps fo­cus the viewer’s attention on a specific portion of the photo — like an eagerly-anticipated outhouse on a long walk. Or on the rust eating away at a bridge — I will for sure remember that image the next time I drive across Ross Island Bridge!

On rare occasions, selective color can happen all by itself. Because of the spe­cif­ic lighting conditions at the time, this picture of a fountain at the Japanese Garden in Portland looks just like a color splash image, even though it basically came out of the camera that way, and was not specifically created during post-processing.

There is a related type of image which is not exactly selective color, but it is close enough that I am grouping them into my color splash category. This photo of a koi in a pond at the Japanese Garden is a good example. It is not a black and white image, although it almost looks like one, because the reflections of the silhouette of the tree and the subdued blue of the overcast sky give it a monochrome am­bi­ence. The orange of the fish then gives the picture a color splash feel.

The handful of other such photos which I have taken this year (all at the Japanese Garden) have been combined with all of this year’s color splash images (only three taken somewhere outside Port­land), and are now presented together in the new Colour Splash 2015 album.

I am having so much fun with this tech­nique that I’m sure I’ll be adding more splashes of color to a gray world during the rest of this year, so be sure to come back in a while to see what’s new.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 429
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