Opposing Values

I would imagine given the title of today’s post, that you might think that it is about my views on something that is of political/social nature. Not today.

Today’s article is about the photography related topic I probably write most about, contrast. Contrast is of course about values or colors that contrast with each other, photographically speaking.  In other words, those values oppose each other, but become greater together than they are on their own.

Many of today’s examples of contrast began their photographic life on film. Transparency, also called slide film.  I make mention of that because slide film was inherently “contrasty”. Of course, when I copied those slides into the digital format, I could have reduced the contrast, but in many cases I preferred the higher contrast..

Many, many “moons” ago I was driving around one afternoon, simply looking for possible photos to make.  A series of powerful storms then hit. High winds, rain and more. I found few opportunities for image making while I was driving in the storm, but it was getting late in the day and what if the wind and rain stopped. I was near Lake Michigan when the sky cleared to the west and the golden light of late day began to appear. It lit everything to the east up beautifully. I headed for Lake Michigan and found that the lake out to the east, was still storming. The skies were black as night. I found this bright red lighthouse, the waves, and a handful of gulls colored by the late afternoon sun. The contrast (that word again) between the “sweet light” and the ominous storm was beautiful.

Never give up

Sidelight, produces contrast on any surface that is not smooth. There will be brightly lit areas, and shadowed areas. The difference in the shadows and light, is contrast and that translates to texture in a photo.

This first image was made in the Badlands of South Dakota. The contrast levels here, which are created by surface light and black shadows meeting in contrast with each other, produces you guess it, texture. The overall image however, has  only moderate contrast. The light was not so bright as to make the image pop.

Now we, or at least I, don’t want every image to be of high contrast. In this case there is just enough moderate contrast for a pleasing image on a day with mixed light intensity.

Bright intense light produces more contrast. The image here pops, but there is another form of contrast going on here.  Color contrast.

The warm colors of the peak in this photo, which was created in Big Bend N.P. in Texas, contrast with the cool colors of the sky. In between, the white rock developed just enough contrast to create some texture.  This image was also created on slide film.

This picture which was made in New Mexico of some Native American ruins, carries with it quite a bit of light and shadow contrast making for texture, and a fair amount of warm and cool color contrast as well.

The blue sky and warm stone contrast in both color and texture. The dark shadowed area with the window area creates depth, which in an of itself is a type of contrast. Then the side of the building has texture (more depth) due to those little shadows beaten the bricks.

Great location and subject, and perfect for contrast.

With this one we are back to the Badlands again. The contrasts here on the side of the rock are small, but more than enough to create many little shadows and give a beautiful texture to this rock.

The natural color of the rock and the color of the light blend together beautifully.

The contrasts on this dew soaked butterfly, are present mainly due to the unnatural light I used. Electronic flash. The background is black mainly due to the fact that there is a good distance from the primary subject and the background.  I actually bounced the flash off a reflector which was pointed at the butterfly.

Natural contrast is at its most opposing levels in this next shot. A bright and off center backlight (the sun) to some cactus in the Arizona Desert. This image also was conceived on transparency film. Underexposure was actually necessary here because the needles were so brightly lit. That meant whatever detail might have been captured on the other side of the cactus, remained featureless and black.

I always loved moments like this.  Subjects obviously can be very important in photography, but it is a visual art and any image that is visually interesting can be great. Sometimes have need to see “beyond the reality”, in order to see what is real and in front of us.

While contrast plays a part in every image, otherwise we would never even see the photo, it is not the overriding factor in the remainder of today’s images.

It is true that this doe is the center of everything concerning this image, just the same it is the sweet light she is bathed in that makes it worth viewing. Notice she has a foal at her side.

I caught this Red-tailed Hawk perched on a power line searching for voles or whatever else she might find. When I get a wild animal who is unconcerned with my presence, I can (and have) sit for hours watching and clicking images.

You could almost miss this Monarch Butterfly on a bunch of Sunflowers entirely.
A given subject needs not to always be large and to the front. The flowers and the butterfly share the limelight here. This was made from my car so it pays to be looking at the sides of the road.

Sunrises and sunsets, inherently contain a certain amount of contrast. With that said, the rock form sunset (Pacific Ocean, Washington State), and the lighthouse + fisherman sunrise (Wisconsin), both have a relaxing and peaceful mood to them. They are colorful but not jarring.

Photography is much about the values within the picture frame. Both opposing and complementary.

God Bless,


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