If you choose to use sliver-thin depth-of-field to bring selective focus to your shots it will mean that most of your image will be blurred. When working with colour, you can turn this to advantage in a particularly special way. There are times when colour will definitely enliven an image, and times when it’s less important what those colours actually represent in real life.
Here is one case: a macro shot of a small quartz crystal, and colours introduced from something that had nothing to do with it. Being quartz, it is colourless, but it also refracts, so it seemed natural to introduce colour in the background. Shooting with a macro lens and fairly wide aperture (just enough to keep most of the crystal in focus), I placed a polished abalone shell several inches behind. The iridescent blue and green of the shell made an abstract play of colour that I could also make refract through the crystal’s facets. In fact, at this distance behind and softly blurred, the shell is made completely abstract and unrecognizable for what it was.
Blurred flowing colour behind the subject you focus on may be the most common way of doing this effect, but something very similar is possible with an out-of-focus foreground. The shooting style, however, is quite different and not so obvious. It involves shooting through gaps or around the edges of a colourful subject close to the camera, while focusing on something distant. And it also means keeping the blurred colours of the foreground dominant, so this is not a natural shooting technique.
Here, the location was Fatahillah Square on a busy weekend in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I was looking for ways of shooting the sidewalk food stalls—people at tables and the vendors with their bright mobile carts, each with glass cases full of noodles and other foods. Looking for a way to combine both, and having experimented only a little successfully with reflections in the glass cases, I decided to shoot through the glass to the people sitting beyond, at full aperture (ƒ/2.8) with a 200mm telephoto lens. It involved a lot of moving around, not least to get the right amount of blur, which depended on how close I was to the lettering.
In this fresh new approach to composition, the theme of his best-selling classic The Photographer’s Eye, Michael Freeman explores each element of composition in visual terms. With diagrams, illustrations, and deconstructions of each shot, you’ll learn intuitively what makes a photograph work without getting bogged down in technical talk about gear and equipment. Concentrating on the visual and aesthetic principles of photography, The Photographer’s Eye: A Graphic Guide is an excellent introduction to photographic composition, and also a refreshingly new perspective for advanced photographers.
The Photographer’s Eye: A Graphic Guide, by Michael Freeman
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