the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

WHEN THE WALL IS ALL

As light "decays" down the wall from right to left, it reveals tiny variances in color.

As light “decays” down the wall from right to left, it reveals tiny variances in color.

By MICHAEL PERKINS

COLOR, IN REAL LIFE DOES NOT RESEMBLE SOMETHING FLATLY FILLED IN BY A CRAYON. Light never plays across surfaces in an even, unbroken tone, so, in a photograph, there really is no such thing as a “blue” wall, or a “brown” floor. Both the wall and the floor contain endless varieties and gradations of their general hue, changing inch to inch, atom by atom. Wonderfully, photography has been on a continuous upward curve over time to record these variances with better and better fidelity. As a result, we don’t just shoot tone, we shoot texture.

One way to heighten the registry of those textures, those colors-within-colors along a surface, is to vary the amount of light that hits it at different points. There’s a reason why Rembrandt and other masters of the “Dutch-lit” school used minimal or irregular light to illuminate their subjects. Light playing unevenly over fruit and the human form was simulated in their paintings by pigment colors that shimmered and smoldered: had they painted colors in a flat, uniform tone it would have read as dull as dishwater and Rembrandt and the other little daubed Dutch boys would have had to get day jobs.

In photographs, sometimes texture emits such a powerful visual impact that it’s enough to carry an entire image with little or no other subject matter. In the above picture, watching the window light at the right of the frame decay gradually as it “walks” across the distressed wall actually speaks louder than the solitary couple at the upper-right-hand corner. In such a picture, the wall becomes all, the changing colors highlighting small detail in the concrete and brick.

As usual, I learn a great deal by looking at how other people address this phenomenon. There are so many astounding ways to harness even a small bit of light via photography as it exists right now, and the best thing is, things will only improve from here, for anyone shooting at any level.

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4 responses

  1. I LOVE this wall!!! Sad and happy in the same time!!! Super

    April 30, 2015 at 8:11 AM

    • Thanks so much for visiting! I love irregular textures in mixed light.

      April 30, 2015 at 8:51 AM

      • Are u a professional photographer? give me some advice and your opinion about mine pics!

        April 30, 2015 at 8:56 AM

  2. Your candid portraits are very strong. Always be mindful of the basics of facial storytelling and you cannot go wrong. As for your landscape and urban work, it shows solid technical ability, and the fruits of many long hours of development. You seem poised to enjoy a really productive career in photography. I wish my execution was as consistent as your own! Thanks for your visit.

    April 30, 2015 at 11:29 AM

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