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“The best way out is always through.”

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bring Home the Color Palette of Other Places

One of the first things that I notice when I travel someplace new is that each place seems to have its own unique palette of colors, sometimes natural, sometimes man made, that permeates almost every view. In Bermuda, for example, all of the houses are painted in soft pastel shades and the entire countryside seems to be awash in a rainbow of pastel hues--even the stores in the commercial district along Front Street in Hamilton are painted in delicate pastel colors. It's hard to walk around Bermuda and not feel like you're in a giant artist's studio. In the Loire Valley in France, I was taken by how many shades of green there are in the landscape, and in the American Southwest (particularly parts of Utah and Arizona) the landscape seems to ooze with deep reds and gold--the dust that you bring back to your motel room on your clothes spreads those colors over everything you touch. (When my girlfriend wanted to add some red to one of her sketches of Utah, she literally took some of the red dirt and mixed it with water and painted it into her sketch.)

Bringing home photos that capture the colors of a place goes a long way to making your photos more authentic and in conjuring what I call the "color spirit" of a place. While traveling near the Mexican border in Tubac, Arizona, for example, we walked among dozens of stores selling brilliantly-painted Mexican pottery and the entire town seemed to vibrate with intense reds, greens, yellows and blues. I tried for quite a while to compose a wider scene that reflected that festive palette but none of my shots seemed to capture it. Instead, I started taking close-up photos of individual pots and pieces of artwork and I ended up taking dozens of photos of hand-painted pots, pitchers, tin lizards, etc. The shot here is just a detail of one of those pots but for me it recalls all of the fun and cheerfulness of those colorful displays.

Wherever you travel, look for colors that represent the mood and the feel of the place and then look for ways to capture that palette in your photos. Look for a mix of wide views, shots of people in costumes or local clothing styles and close-ups of art work and crafts. The more different objects and settings that you shoot that show those colors the more your photos will capture the color spirit of that place.


BIKE LADY said...

Just found your blog because I have a Google Alert on Tubac--and love the colors there. Covered it in my travel guide. It's a great little Arizona town. Good advice here, too! I never thought of color and photography this way before. It certainly makes sense.

Jeff Wignall said...

Hi Bike Lady :) Thanks for your comment. I love Tubac, even if much of the town was probably created for tourism. That whole area is very mystical to me, you can feel the spirit of the Apaches in the hills nearby--or maybe that's just my imagination running wild.