The Athens flea market is, for some reason, full of chairs. Lots and lots of shops selling piles of chairs. No tables, just chairs. I was drawn to this scene for the contrast of the nicely restored chairs against the graffiti. (Athens is also quite full of graffiti, more of that later.) I’m not sure how I would describe the contrast, but it makes a striking statement to me.
I’m off in England right now, so no sharing from the Flickr pool today, but let’s check in on our Exploring with a Camera theme of Visual Contrast. Have you found contrasts in your archive? How about when you go out with your camera? I’m betting that you are finding more contrasts than you ever expected, so come and share. We already have a number of great images in the link up and Flick pool. Do some exploring of other’s images and see what cool interpretations have been found.
In the Athens flea market, I found this stall with a pile of junk. There were probably lots of treasures in this pile, but it was treated as junk. I photographed it for a while, until it seemed I annoyed the owners. They were trying to pack up and close for the night. It was a fascinating subject, because it was full of so many compositional opportunities. So many contrasts.
As I was looking for images with contrast for the Visual Contrast topic we are studying right now, this one popped out at me. There is a light/dark contrast of the image and the items around it, but there is another contrast that struck me at a deeper level. The religious icon dumped amongst everything else gave me a contrast of revered/abandoned. As if someone had lost their faith, and thrown it in with all of the other junk they were sending away. Kind of sad.
Amazing, isn’t it, what you might take away from the contrasts in one image. As I’ve been studying contrasts, I’ve been seeing how they can show a deeper meaning or message in our photos. I’ve also discovered that I’m studying the balance of contrasts in other ways. Today I’m on Elizabeth Gonzalez’s blog, with a guest post on balancing my artistic and technical pursuits. Elizabeth pointed out to me that the balance of contrasting forces I’ve found in my own life is just like the balance of contrasts we’re studying with Visual Contrast. I didn’t realize it until she pointed it out: You can have opposing forces work together in balance, whether it’s in life or in art.
Please stop by Elizabeth’s blog to read my thoughts on balance. Elizabeth is a talented ceramics and mixed media artist, along with being an engineer like me. When you visit, I hope you will stay around a while and look at the beautiful art she creates.
And oh my gosh – I published and then forgot – it’s the giveaway day! Here are the two winners:
The Favorite Flowers set goes to Wendy of not caught up.
The Superhero set goes to Patty of Nomadic Notebook.
Wendy and Patty, I’ll be contacting you for your address, so we can get these in the mail. Thanks to everyone for particpating!
One of the best tools a photographer has to create a powerful photograph is contrast. Today in Exploring with a Camera, I’m going to talk about the concept Visual Contrast and how it can help you create interesting images. At the end of the post, there is a link tool for you to link in your images on the theme, either new or archive. I hope you’ll join in!
For this exploration, I’m going to define Visual Contrast as the inclusion of contrast in the elements of a photograph that leads to a higher impact. The first thing that comes to mind for me when I think “contrast” and “photograph” together is contrast in light/dark. Here’s an example:
In our study of light and exposure as photographers, this is an obvious kind of contrast. Our camera, which has a limited dynamic range (range between light and dark) compared to our eyes, almost creates this type of contrast for us. For this theme, let’s look beyond light/dark contrast into other types of contrast that are more subtle but just as powerful for creating images.
The idea for this theme comes from Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye. In this book, he refers to a list of contrasts created by Johannes Itten, a Swiss painter and teacher at the Bauhaus school in the early 1900’s. Itten developed some revolutionary ways of looking at basic artistic concepts as part of his “preliminary course” on art. Using contrasts to create interesting compositions was one of his ideas. While these contrasts were original intended for painters and other fine arts of that time, they work just as well for photographers today.
Here is the list of contrasts that Freeman shares in his book and also in this post if you would like to read a bit more:
point / line
area / line
area / body
line / body
plane / volume
large / small
high / low
smooth / rough
long / short
hard / soft
broad / narrow
still / moving
thick / thin
light / heavy
light / dark
transparent / opaque
black / white
continuous / intermittent
much / little
liquid / solid
straight / curved
sweet / sour
pointed / blunt
strong / weak
horizontal / vertical
loud / soft
diagonal / circular
delicate / brash (added from Freeman’s examples in the book)
After playing with this concept, I also added a few of my own:
old / new or young
bright / neutral
natural / man-made
What other contrasts can you think of? Leave a note in the comments if you have something to add to the list. I’ll be sending a printable download of the list in my next newsletter this weekend, and will add any contrasts that you come up with here too. You’ll be able to tuck this list into your bag and keep it with you for inspiration on the go. (If you aren’t signed up for the newsletter yet, you can find the sign up form on the blog sidebar.)
Now that you have the list, let’s look at some examples of contrast in my photographs…
Large / Small
This photo is one of my favorites of my son’s early years. It’s one of the few prints from my film days I actually have here in Italy, and I was happy I had it available to share with you for this theme. I love the large/small contrast between the hands of my husband and son. There is also a parallel old/young contrast in this image.
Old / New
Our travels around Europe have provided us with plenty of examples of contrast between old and new. This image of a Roman theater at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens is an especially clear example of old/new. Millenia old ruins against the backdrop of a large, modern city. Quite a contrast.
Natural / Man-Made
Along with old/new, visits to ruins can give a great contrast between natural and man-made. I love showing decaying ruins along with thriving nature. It makes quite a commentary on the permanence of what we create in the larger scheme, doesn’t it? The opening photograph of the poppies and the Greek ruins at the Acropolis, and this image of a blooming tree by the Roman ruins of Ostia Antica near Rome are good examples.