As the magnificent color of the sunset dissipated, its color brought me back to my days of teaching. I was reminded of a novel I had the advanced students in my class read. Dare I mention the fact it’s still one of my all-time favorite books due to its sophistication of wordplay and metaphors? The name of the book is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster. So if you’re a photographer and you’ve stayed with me up to this point, you may be wondering—what the heck does all this have to do with photography? Read on.
In one of the chapters of the book, Milo, the main character, encounters a person named Chroma. Chroma was the conductor of the symphony. But rather than conduct music, Chroma conducted color. He played his best “music” at sunset directing the reds to play certain hues, yellows to play variations, oranges to become vibrant and saturated etc. So while I witnessed the sunset on my journey south on the interstate, all I could think about was Chroma conducting one of his best scores.
When Chroma conducts, there are ways to take advantage of his performance. Look for strong silhouettes offset against the color of the sky. The silhouette should have distinct shape and form unto itself. Combined with dramatic color, the combo becomes a winner. Make sure you’re on location at sunrise and sunset. This is when he offers his best productions. If you’re not there to “see” his music, you can’t capture the digital notes. Set the white balance on your camera to cloudy or shade to enhance the yellows. This can also be done when you process your RAW files. Additionally, move the Tint slider to the right to bias the tonality toward magenta.
While Chroma does his best work at the edge of each sunrise or sunset, he also has his hand in varying aspects of nature. Look for other colorful subjects he conducts. The male species of most birds are in their breeding plumage in the spring. It’s a great time to get out and capture them in their glory. Autumn has him conducting deciduous trees playing sumac symphonies. Chroma, being the person he is, adores photographers who aren’t adverse to supplement his work via the use of enhancing, warming or sunset filters. The next time you’re out photographing, watch for Chroma to play a masterpiece and have a listen.