Assignment 3

Assignment 3 – Colour


This is the third assignment of TAOP and should demonstrate my command of the use of colour in photography through using different colour relationships.  Specifically the assignment requires approximately four photographs in each of the following categories:

  • Colour Harmony through Complementary Colours
  • Colour Harmony through Similar Colours
  • Colour Contrast through Contrasting Colours
  • Colour Accent

I decided to use as a theme for this assignment, ‘Am I Secure’.  On reflection this may be better stated as ‘Am I Safe’ as the word ‘secure’ may be interpreted as being inwardly secure as a person rather than being concerned about the safety of ones possessions and person.  The theme is thus developed along the lines of how fences, walls and locked doors have become second nature in the area I live in South Africa.  Barricading ones possessions is commonplace and no longer seen as abnormal.

Meeting the brief has been challenging and at times interpreted more freely rather than strictly.

Throughout this assignment images are largely unaltered.  They were all imported as raw files into Lightroom3, where I may have tweaked exposure, brightness and contrast slightly.  Some have been cropped too.

Colour Harmony through Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are those that occur on opposite sides of the colour circle:  Red – Green, Blue – Orange, and Yellow – Violet.

The harmony of red’s and green.  There are of course other colours in the image and the reddish brown of the brick wall plays a part.  However, it is the bright red leaves set against the bright green foliage that provide the harmony.  Their areas are approximately equal providing the balance of these two colours.

This image has two non-pure colours – pink and light green.  The pink in the foreground is balanced with the soft green in the background.  The softness of the flowers is in stark contrast to the spikes on the wall and the razor wire in the background.

The red in this image is somewhat overwhelmed by the greater area of green.  Although we have two complementary colours here there red is almost an accent rather than a balanced red/green image.  However, the red sections on the edges of the metal doors repeated through the image add to the red goods on the trolley providing a more balanced effect.

In this photograph the red and green rectangles dominate the other colours.  They are in approximately the same proportions and as a result create colour harmony in the image.  There are however other elements in this image that create some tension, the cracks in the glass and the blue ‘lost’ card wedged into a crack.

Colour Harmony through Similar Colours

Harmony through similar colours means that they should be close to each other in the colour circle.  This image is predominantly green and blue, which are adjacent to one another.  The question is whether the red detracts from this harmony and whether the different shades of blue do likewise?   The red certainly forms a point of focus and could possibly be considered an accent.  However, the blue – green harmony is still an important part of the image.

Although there are other colours in the image I have simplified it to the two key ones, the green background and the yellow gate.  Neither is pure but they do form a harmonious pair.  This high gate with barbed wire along the top and razor wire alongside is clearly demarcating a secure area.  However, the shade and the broken yellow and green seem to take away some of the harshness.  There is some degree of tranquillity in the scene due to the colours opposing the harsh security.

This image is similar to the one above with yellow’s and background green.  However, the scene of tranquillity is no longer there.  The strong light on the fence with its harsh pointed spikes emphasises the element of security.  The yellows and greens are harmonious colours but are offset by the steel grey of the fence.  The brightness of the yellow flower in the foreground and the grey fence in the background create some visual tension.

The colour harmony in this image is created between the red coverall of the worker and the orange of the flames set against the dry brown grass.  There is a haze created by the smoke and the heat of the fire making the image more menacing[1].

Yellows and greens once again!  Here there are two distinctive yellows, the muted ones of the building walls and the bright yellows in the backlit advertising banners.

This image provides some interesting colour harmony, primarily through reflected colours in the glass.  The blue of the reflected sky with the mauve (violet) combination of the mannequin and the reflected lady provide the colour harmony in the image.

One sees the outside world in the reflections, yet the door is firmly ‘closed’.

Colour Contrast through Contrasting Colours

The following four images provide contrast in colours where the colours are approximately a third of the way round the colour circle from each other.

The two contrasting colours here are the red of the croton leaves and the blue of the sky.  The reds tend to jump out of the photograph at one set against the blue background of the sky.

The primary contrast is the orange green combination.  The orange sign advertising the protection offered is dominant framed by green.  I was in two minds with this image as I was not sure whether the out of focus fence detracted or added to the underlying narrative.  In the end I opted to keep it in as the message is I believe well conveyed.

Against the more neutral background colours of the concrete bricks we have a blue – yellow contrast.  The pillars stand out in contrast against the blue fence.

This is an interesting image from a colour perspective.  One has a really blue sky and then a dull grey – brown hillside, wall and the logs on the truck.  Then there is a little green and the red.  The contrasting colour combination is the red – blue combination as these overshadow all others.

Another yellow – blue contrast between sky and shed wall.  Although the yellow of the wall is not that bright it does contrast well against the sky, particularly at the top of the image.

Colour Accent

Red is the dominant colour here set against the fawn background.  The central section is largely darker shadow, grey and some black.  Overall I show this area as black in the sketch.  As a result, the red is a ‘colour accent’ and stands out strongly against the fawn and dark area.

This image is a favourite in terms of colour accent.  The bright orange is accented against the dark greens in the background.

I have to consider the focus and depth of field here.  The depth of field is very small which means that only a few of the petals are in sharp focus.  However, I do like the slightly out of focus fencing.  Although it is possibly not evident the grey section on the right is a fence post.  In terms of my theme of ‘Am I safe’, I think that this image fits well into the narrative.

Here we have reddish roof providing stark accent in the central area of the image, primarily against the grey of the sky and the other roofs.

Living in fenced estates is a common element in security and this image I hope brings that message across.

Although this image is essentially one of three colours, the blue, brown and green, the green is the brightest and forms a point of focus amongst the others.  The green area is small yet bright and draws attention to the farmhouse.

Security on farms is just as significant as in the urban context.  Fencing them is naturally more difficult, yet they are fenced although this is primarily to restrain their cattle.  Evidence of the fence is seen in the foreground.


This assignment has been difficult to conclude in the sense that I have felt uneasy about the theme and how well the images I have made meet the brief.  I had considered starting again using some still life subject that I could closely manipulate to provide the colour combinations.  However, after reviewing this with my tutor decided to continue with this theme.  There nevertheless remains an element of doubt in my mind although having reflected back on the images a number of times it is not as great as it was initially.

Use of colour has certainly been emphasized in this assignment and I have seen how it can be used in various combinations.  However, strictly following a defined set of rules may not always be the best option, but knowing that one is deviating from a convention is important too.

As with the previous assignments I have learnt from this one and hope that I can apply my learning in future work.  I enjoy working in colour and have not felt the draw that some have for black and white.  This may well be because I processed my own black and white in a darkroom at home in the 1960’s.

Reflecting on this assignment and my doubts, I think there is some value in the hard deadlines that one has in full time studies.  With those in place I am certain I would have had to submit my work and not sat around procrastinating.  Also however, there are advantages in the OCA flexibility.

[1] A comment from a fellow student on Flickr has compared this image to ‘The White Fence’ by Paul Strand and ‘Truro’ by Joel Mayerowitz.  These are interesting comments and I will explore them a bit further separately on my Blog with other images in this series.


3 Responses to Assignment 3

  1. vickiloader says:

    Well done on completing the assignment. And for going for a cohesive theme that holds the series together!

  2. profstoff says:

    HI Doug

    Congratulations on completing the colour assignment. Like you, I struggled with this and I think a number of other people on the course did too. I’m not sure why; I think the brief is quite straightforward so I think it might be because we are at the stage of the course where we are tuning our photographic vision and becoming more challenged by the assignments.
    I relate to your theme of security. On the couple of occasions I have visited South Africa, the level of security seems remarkable to my northern hemisphere eyes yet is commonplace to you.
    Regarding meeting the brief, my first submission for this assignment I thought met the brief quite well, in fact that was my main pre-occupation. My tutor had other ideas and felt that I should have been more creative in my image making, stuck to a theme and been a bit less prescriptive with sticking to the brief. I have since done a second set of pictures for it which do not fit the brief so well but meld together as a set better. I haven’t had feedback yet but I did clarify it with my tutor who advised effectively that we can step outside the brief for creative purposes. I think Clive has also said as much on the forums recently.
    Anyway, I waffle on. Best of luck with the assignment. Some good images and I particularly like the colour accents of the lock and the house with the green roof.

  3. Pingback: Assignment 3 – Colour « dougslr

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