Contrast is one of my favorite elements of photographic composition. Even a beginning photographer can create wonderful images with good light and contrast. I was recently asked to comment on the contrast that I use in my images. Specifically, How do I use contrast with the intent of creating a viewer experience.
Here are some examples that might be helpful. However, these examples are limited to my work. You may make use of contrast in other ways that allow you to tell your own visual stories.
I use contrast to draw the viewers eye. When I want them to focus on one portion of the image, contrast can do the trick. The contrast can be between light and dark, colors, patterns and many other differing parts of the photo.
Sometimes, I use contrast to eliminate the distractions of the background.
I use contrasting colors to emphasize a pattern or to break it up.
I often use more subtle contrast too add atmosphere to a scene.
I use contrast to add drama to the image or suggest a story to the viewer.
Contrast can bring out textures and patterns.
Sometimes contrast can simplify a scene and allow the user to see the beauty of simple forms.
I hope these examples help to explain how I regularly use contrast. How do you use contrast in your work?
Typically your subject is a person, a scene…something physical. You use the light to contrast your subject from the background or to enhance its form.
Then there are those wonderful moments in which you see the light and tune out everything else in the scene. The light becomes the subject. The light may take the form of a single ray, or the contrast of light and shadow.
Find some light & capture it.
Don’t you love a great surprise? I do, and that is exactly what I got from seeing Kitchen V: Carrying the Milk, by Marina Abramovic.
When I first entered the gallery at Detroit’s Institute of the Arts, I saw the art from across the room and immediately crossed the room to look at it closer. I thought it was a backlit photo and wanted to read about it. As I neared, the work, I noticed that the woman’s hands were trembling and milk was spilling out of the bowl and and onto her dress and the floor. I was shocked. The piece was a video playing on a loupe. I had caught it towards the end and sat to watch it through from beginning to end. Abramovic’s work was wonderful and fantastic. Representing the female characteristics of endurance and nourishment. The stillness of the woman (Abramovic) added power to the performance. Simple, powerful, surprising, and innovative. I watched it three times before I was sated and ready to move on.
Friday afternoon, I spent some time relaxing at the farm. Carriage Hill is serene and tranquil on most days. A place to wander, explore, and visit with friends. One of the rare exceptions to the quiet on the farm is when the summer thunderstorms roll through, throwing lightning in all directions and booming in loud echoes.
Not long after arriving, I wandered down to check on the horses. That’s when drops began to fall and within moments, the sky opened up and the deluge began in earnest.
Soon, the rain was everywhere. Drops bounced off the fences and dripped from the roof lines. The water collected in pools and ran in rivulets through the barnyard.
Unfortunately for the horses, they were stuck in the downpour. There is an overhang on the back side of the barn and though they found some protection, there rear ends were soaked. And, unfortunately, there was not room for all of them. Poor Jimmy and Charley had to endure the full force of the storm.
Thirty minutes passed before the thunder storm moved on and left the farm transformed by the wetness. I like the residue of the storm…wonderful light and dark wet wood and brick.
And while it’s nice to see the drops on the flowers, the sheep probably don’t appreciate being soaked with heavy wet wool.
That was the excitement on my Friday afternoon. How did I fare? Not badly at all. I found the shelter of the well’s pump shed and rode out the rain.
Have a great week, folks.
On a recent visit to the farm, Debbie read from a 19th century cook book that was written in dialect. The lush phonetic vocabulary reminded me of the short stories I’ve read from Paul Laurence Dunbar, who wrote in dialect as well. He was a fantastic and well known poet in his short life time. Unfortunately, he died young. Being a Dayton native and good friend to the wright brothers, he is one of the area’s celebrated sons.
As for the cook book reading, the wonderful descriptions of the contents and the cooking process were wonderful to hear in Debbie’s southern accent. When was the last time that you lightened to someone else reading aloud? Do you read allowed? I read in silence, and perhaps I am missing out on part of the experience.
Yesterday, Jim and I went for a nice cool hike in Clifton Gorge. It’s the only spot in this area where you can feel as though you are trekking through the mountains. Of course, the allusion is due to hiking down into the gorge.
We walked along the river, skirting boulders and a fair bit of mud when we came across a leaf, floating on the breeze. It seemed to be suspended. As though it was hovering in mid air. We both took our time and shot frame after frame of the patient leaf. I think we could have continued to shoot for hours, such was the nature of the floating leaf.
Of course, being suspended on a gossamer thread might have had a lot to do with the entire set up. Still, you have to take the opportunity when it presents itself.
Have a great week, folks. I will leave your with a shot of Jim shooting the leaf.