The second lesson in the Find Your Eye: Journey of Fascination class is about photographic contrasts. This lesson encourages us to think beyond the obvious contrast of light/dark to other conceptual contrasts: new/old, hard/soft, straight/curved, and so on.
Looking through my Inspiration File, I discovered that there’s a strong color contrast in many of my favorite images.
Another sort of contrast I use a lot is something I think of as “solitariness.” (I may have just made that word up.) By that I mean a person or thing all by itself, contrasting with its environment: a lone person on a beach, a spider web gleaming in the rafters of a ruined building, a poppy in a field of lupine, a little bird all alone in a foggy world.
The third category that stood out to me was a contrast of incongruity . . . things that strike me as funny or ironic or surprising by their proximity to one another, like a pair of beautiful roses you wouldn’t want to get your nose too close to.
The second part of the class assignment was to go on a photo walk, looking for contrasts to photograph and taking note of how we felt while doing it. I ended up doing my photo walk twice, because I was not at all happy with the first set of images I got. I had a better idea of what I wanted and how to get it the second time around, and was pleased that I tried again. (More on this next time!)
Contrast: Natural/Man-made — Although the area where I live is very rural, it’s difficult to find “clean” scenic shots. Cell towers march along mountain ridges. Fire roads, fences, buildings, wires, power poles, billboards, etc., proliferate nearly everywhere. In the image above I deliberately framed the electrical transmission tower “trees” with the native junipers and rustic fence in the foreground to emphasize their contrast with the natural landscape.
Contrast: Illusion/Reality — Speaking of that rustic fence . . . it really isn’t. Here I tried to capture the contrast of a traditional post and split-rail fence constructed of very un-traditional molded concrete.
Multiple Contrasts — What first caught my eye here was the contrast between the shape and texture of the smooth, rectangular window panes and the random curves and roughness of the natural stone wall. Then I noticed the soft shadow of the same tree that’s reflected in sharp focus in the window. There’s also a warm/cool color contrast going on here that I like, as well as our old friend light/dark.
Contrast: Color (warm/cool) and Shape (straight/curved) — Pretty obvious. Might add Texture (smooth/rough), too. This turned out to be my favorite image from the shoot. That was a bit of a surprise, since I expected it to be one of the transmission tower photos. I love the simplicity of this one . . . and those colors!
I enjoyed looking for contrasts, and once I conquered the issues that disappointed me the first time around, I had a great time getting what I wanted. I realized that I have always instinctively used various types of contrast in my photography, but now I’ll be looking for it more consciously.