Sea Blue Lens



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.

Autumn Vines on Lincoln Mill

Autumn Vines on Lincoln Mill

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.

Song Sparrow


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.

There goes the neighborhood

Stopping to smell the roses…is not always a good idea.

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!)

Desert Treescape

Desert Treescape

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.

On the Fence

On the Fence

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.

Adobe Sky

Adobe Sky

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.


12 thoughts on “Contrasts

  1. I really liked this post. I recognize some Maine spots in there and LOVE that Blue Sky on the Adobe shot.

  2. Wonderful photo walk. The concrete split rail fence made me laugh. I love the solo bird. That photo gives me such a peaceful feeling.

  3. I love all of these examples, but Adobe Sky is really a great image.

  4. Wonderful examples of how contrasts enhance the image and draw us in! My favorite would be the little bird. It makes me smile, you see, solitude to me is a comforting thing.

  5. You came up with some really interesting aspects of contrast here, Lee. I like your category of solitariness, and that bird on the fence is so sweet! I’m also voting for Adobe Sky as my fave — such dramatic colors and shapes — simply beautiful!

  6. The simplicity and composition of ‘Adobe Sky’ is stunning, Lee, although I think my personal favorite is ‘Stonewalled.’ There is so much to see in that image, I kept looking closer and you described even more contrasts than I noticed in my looking at it. I also note an element of surprise in your contrasts. In many of these, the contrasts are subtle and hidden. That is a very effective use of contrast to engage and delight the viewer. Wonderful work!

  7. Great contrasts in this post. I love the whimsy of the roses, the complexity of “stonewalled”, and the irony of the desert trees standing with the power towers. My favorite has to be “Adobe Sky”. In it, you have captured the stark beauty and contrast of color, form and light in the western sky.

  8. Everyone is right, you have an amazing collection of “contrast” photos. I like that you have chosen contrasts that others haven’t mentioned…in particular, Solitude….there is such beauty in capturing a moment of peace and solitude. You photo reminded me of the many photos I have taken of birds in silhouette, “staying awhile,” do they experience contemplation? Or the single blossom standing tall. A child at rest or intent on reading. Yes, I love the notion of solitude as a contrast to our busy lives. smiles: sharon

  9. Oh, I love that last one too – you had me with that lovely architecture and then the color contrast of blue sky and orange stucco – beautiful! Great examples of different kinds of contrast. I like your idea of solitariness – whether its a word or not. It’s a great concept for creating effective contrast.

  10. A lovely post, Leon. I liked your contrast thoughts and images – and your favorite photo is mine as well. Love the colors, the shape of the building – reminds me so much of the Southwest.

  11. the adobe sky shot’s contrasting colors and textures work so well. I also had a nice smile when I realized the fence was molded concrete. So much contrast happening in the rock wall shot, a list of 5 immediately came up,

  12. It would be great if you could take part in my Fences Project (bzebza dot net)

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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