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Photographing colour

August 23, 2019

Don’t judge me, but I entered a photography competition on Instagram this week. Just like when competitions used to appear via pages of the magazines I read or the adverts on television, I come across competitions all the time, but almost never enter. The reason this one grabbed my attention was not the prize itself, but rather how fun the entry requirements were.

 

The competition had a simple theme: blue. People were called to submit their best shots featuring the colour blue to be in to win, and these instructions were displayed along with several examples of the kind of shots they were after, all of which I am not so arrogant to think my own photos are on the same level as. I have no expectation that I could win against the level of skills Instagram invites, but the task of scrolling through my reams of travel photography, most of which I’ve never done anything with yet, was too much fun to pass up. And I figured – as I am wont to do – why not make a blog post out of this fun idea?

 

I thought beyond blue, and several images easily came to mind for nearly every colour I could think of. I’m not just talking a picture of a landscape which features green, for example. I’m talking images taken OF the colour; where the colour itself was the star of the shot, the very thing I was hoping to capture.

 

And so I present to you, my rainbow of colour shots. Some of them you may have seen on this site before, but I loved the idea of this post so much, I could resist – apologies for any repeat viewing. I’d love to know your favourite!

 

RED: Tomatoes at Tomatina Festival in Buñol, Spain

In hindsight I considered that perhaps the most obvious choice for my red picture would have been some stunning autumn colours, but it didn’t even enter my head when I first thought ‘red’. Last year, I went to Tomatina Festival, and when I recall the day in my memory, all I can see is this colour. My photos are blurry and messy and not all that good, but they capture the feeling and chaos of the day – and more importantly the colour of the day – to perfection.

 

ORANGE: Sand in the Sahara Desert, Morocco

Driving out to the Sahara from Marrakesh is a loooong journey. Over the two straight days of driving it took us to get there, I spent a lot of time anticipating the desert, conjuring up images of the famous landscape and wondering if it would live up to my imagination – a hard task. As we got nearer, the scenery got about as barren as it comes, and we spent a good hour straining our eyes to see what we knew was coming. I remember so clearly the moment the bright orange dunes first appeared on the horizon, vivid against the complimentary blue sky. I remember the awe of driving up to its edge, where one of the world’s most expansive landscapes simply starts. The entire time we were there, I couldn’t stop reveling in the colour of the sand – so bright, so unique, and utterly beautiful.

 

YELLOW: Sunset light in Kent, England

When someone says yellow, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it’s the Sun, and I don’t think I’m alone in that – after all, it’s one of the first things that appears in our experimental drawings as children. As much as sunlight fills so much of our lives and our photos, it’s not easy to capture its essence. I’m forever chasing the setting sun during golden hour trying to trap that oh-so-magical light that’s one of nature’s most powerful magic tricks. On this instance, I feel like I might just have done it. As we rounded a corner on a country road while away in Kent, I was greeted by this sight and yelled at Jesse to stop exactly where we were – maybe not the safest decision I’ve ever made, but it was a very quiet road, and I know how hard and fleeting these moments are to capture. Suffice to say, I’m very glad we stopped.

 

GREEN: Every hill in Ireland

Of all the colours, this one is the most abundant in my photos, and the options were endless. Somehow though, I couldn’t resist using one of the green hills of Ireland, famous around the world for a good reason. The craziest part – we visited Ireland in late July in 2018, when the UK was well into a very serious heat wave, and little rain had fallen in months. Throughout our drive around Ireland, locals kept commenting on how brown the countryside was. While there were snippets where we saw what they meant, our vision for most of the trip was flooded with the most vivid green I’ve seen. I couldn’t tell you how many times we pulled the car to the side of the road to simply gaze in awe and pull out the camera.

 

BLUE: Thick atmosphere at Lago Maggiore, Italy

Last year I visited the beautiful spot in Italy that my mum called home for two years in the seventies, Lago Maggiore. The northern Italian lakes are world-famous, and it’s not hard to see why. While it was absolutely beautiful and I loved seeing my mum’s Italian hometown, I was pretty gutted when we arrived to be greeted by the thickest haze I’ve ever seen. I thought it was pollution, the locals told me it was just a humid haze they get sometimes. I was inclined to agree with them on our second day, when the haze seemed to have a much bluer colour, so all the mountains and opposite shores seemed to be painted with a bright blue brush. Between the super calm water of the huge lake and the blue air I felt like I could touch, it was one of the most tranquil scenes I have ever walked through, and this photo captures that pretty well, I think.

 

PURPLE: Lavender fields in Provence, France

Had I got my act together and driven out to the Moors last August when the heather is in full bloom, I may have a different photograph in this spot, but the famed lavender fields in the southern French region of Provence are hardly a poor alternative. When I visited back in early July 2017, the fields were having one of their worst years anyone could remember because of temperatures being higher than normal for this time of year (heeeey global warming, you bastard). Because of this, half the fields we sought out how just been harvested, about 7 weeks earlier than the customary late August haul. Much of the lavender we saw was a browner purple than usual, and while some tourists had a lot to say about that, I was still absolutely smitten by the purple fields, this one in particular!

 

PINK: Sunset on the St Bathans range in Central Otago, New Zealand

In Central Otago, my favourite place in the whole world, golden hour should really be renamed pink hour – this time of day takes on a whole new meaning in this part of New Zealand. The iconic rolling, dry tussocky hills are not everyone’s cup of tea – a lot of people would choose lush green pastures over the dry landscape here. But some of my earliest memories are watching in awe from my grandparents’ house as the already golden hills turned yellow then orange then pink as the sun went down. On a recent trip home I wanted to get some good shots of this place that has my heart, knowing I was leaving it again and wouldn’t be back for a while. My uncle and aunty dutifully drove me out to the countryside and pulled over the car on our way back home when I asked to stop so I could capture this. Before and since, I have never seen a landscape transform to pink so magnificently. I used to say I didn’t like the colour pink… this scene changed my mind.

 

WHITE: Salt flats in Utah, USA

When thinking a beautiful white landscape, my first thought was unsurprisingly snow. My second, perhaps simply because the word ‘white’ is often in the name, was of the beautiful White Cliffs of Dover. Both stunning and treasured memories and photos, but the moment that standing on the vast Great Salt Lake flats in Utah came to mind, I knew there was no question. I have never been so dazzled – literally – by a landscape, and even the many photos you see of this famous landscape don’t prepare you for its sheer magnitude. I have never experienced a place like it and standing right in the middle of it, white glaring at the from every angle, I felt like I was in a sort of dream.

 

GREY: Moody skies in the Scottish Highlands

Living in the UK for over four years is bound to provide ample opportunity to photograph grey skies, and photograph them I did. One memory stands out though as the moodiest sky I have ever seen, made all the more so by the sun that was simultaneously shining. The Highlands are undoubtedly a unique and magical landscape, spectacularly wild. The white sand beaches and rolling hills make it truly one of the most beautiful places, but its infamous weather means it will never be a densely populated area, which means its magic is likely to stay intact. Driving around we saw so many beautiful wild places, but maybe none more than this beach along the very northern coast. Just walking on the beach I was at war with the wind, the sun was soaking the spot we were standing, but just out to sea were these blue-back clouds that were more formidable than any I’ve ever seen.

 

BROWN: Residential buildings in Rome, Italy

Brown isn’t a colour we traditionally think of as very lovely, but if there’s anywhere that can transform something into a thing of beauty, that place is Rome. Of all the famous and ancient buildings in the eternal, I’m sure some people saw me snapping away in everyday streets and wandered what on earth was wrong with me, but I just can’t get enough of the beautiful brown apartment buildings which line the streets here. I have a penchant for Italian housing; even the humble ones are some of the most charming structures I have seen. People talk about how the light in the Mediterranean has a unique golden quality to it, and I think it’s due in part to the way sun bounces off these beautiful rich colours, reflecting back on people walking down the narrow streets below. I have a handful of photos like this which are essentially a love letter to the colour brown, in all its variety.

 

BLACK: Townhouses in London, England

On my last weekend living in London, I took myself on a walk, camera in hand, to see some of the sights I had not yet get to, while I still had the chance to do so. One of those sights was the beloved Warren Mews, often referred to as one of London’s quaintest streets. While London mews aren’t uncommon, and all share a certain old world charm, the entry to these ones are unique in their all-black-everything style. I went with the sole purpose of photographing them for myself, and didn’t expect to love a line of black housing as much as I did.

 

 

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