Stuck In A Rut? Get Color Coordinated  

Stuck In A Rut? Get Color Coordinated

Have you ever experienced a stretch of time where your creative juices don’t flow? Your camera gathers dust on your desk. Your motivation to go out and shoot is at an all-time low. You’re officially stuck in a rut. You look at the best images you made in the past to try and find inspiration. You browse books that house extraordinary photos, you search the Internet for award-winning photos and you lay awake at night thinking about Pulitzer Prize winners, yet nothing acts as a catalyst. If this is the case, I offer you the same challenge I gave students when I taught photography in a classroom. Assign yourself a theme and use the gear that often sits in the closet. When you haven’t used a given piece of equipment in awhile, it’s as if it’s brand new. Brand new tends to bring excitement. Let me help you dig out from the doldrums. A word that’s contained within the word doldrums is mold. Before that camera that sits on your desk grows some, grab it and make some photos.

Stuck In A Rut? Get Color Coordinated

One of my favorite themes is “Pick a Color.” On five pieces of paper, write down a single color. Fold up each piece, put each into a bowl or a hat and pick one. Your task is to go out and shoot as many images as you can that incorporate that color. Think big and shoot with a wide lens. Think small and break out the macro. Think far away and dust off the long telephoto. Think deep and dark shadows and attach your flash. Think abstract and try something creative like zooming your lens during the exposure, panning the camera or adding a special effects filter. Regardless of where your mind takes you, get outdoors and stick to the challenge. But don’t limit yourself to outdoors—a great image may surface when you enter the next room.

Stuck In A Rut? Get Color Coordinated

Color is a great challenge because every color has a mood with which it’s associated. Emphasizing the mood should be high on your list of what you try to capture. Warm colors, especially red and orange, speak of heat, love and passion. Conversely, the cool tone of blue suggests serenity, peacefulness and somber feelings. Based on the rut that’s haunted you, run with the theme or go completely the opposite if it helps you out of your funk.

Stuck In A Rut? Get Color Coordinated

When photographing color, look for areas where it stands out from a muted background. This allows the subject to pop off the page. Look for areas of adjacent color. Do the colors compete or complement the subject? If they compete, the dominant subject may get lost in confusion. Look for color harmony where many shades of the same color come together to form patterns or shapes. Make images of flowers, sides of buildings, articles of clothing, patterns of light and even sections of ordinary household items. The number of potential subjects abounds. Find them, think positive and get UNstuck from your rut.

Stuck In A Rut? Get Color Coordinated

Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.

Photography is what motivates me to move through life in a positive way. Photography is ͞All About The Light͟ and it’s the first thing I seek out before I press the shutter. Optimally, I pursue great subjects in great light, but if there’s an ordinary subject in great light, I still press the shutter. I love to share the photographic knowledge I’ve accumulated and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious so I can motivate others to feel the same way I do about my photography.

3 Comments

    “. . . all about the light . . . ” Exactly! Light in all its colours (including the legendary “black & white”), and all its tones. And studying it should involve an awareness of the need to focus the mind – and the “eye”! – on the study of light.
    Encouraged by the mantra that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, I picked a slightly different “project” a while back. Claude Monet was unquestionably one of the great french impressionists, and one series of paintings he did was focused on “the haystack”. Painting after painting showed the same scene, in different light conditions. So when someone said to me that you can’t take photos around where you live – familiarity “breeds contempt” and you won’t find anything “interesting” to photograph, you need to go further afield so that you try harder – my reaction was “rot – I’ll do a series like Monet’s haystacks, from my front door, looking along my street, in the same direction”.
    I had a rough idea what that would turn up – but I ended up being astounded by the variety of those photos. I’ve since extended the idea to other subjects – because what it teaches me about light, tone, colour, and “seeing”, is “astonishing”.
    I love your suggestion Ross – may I suggest that blue is a good starting point? – because our colour photography starts off in an RGB colour gamut and, through processing, ends up in a CMYK colour gamut – in the course of that, the total range of colours is actually limited & finite, but in nature there is NO limit to the range of colours. Blue suffers heavily in this – sometimes you find a slight cyan cast, sometimes the blue ends up insufficiently “rich” to convey the appearance of the original scene – blue can be a real test, and conquering it can be very rewarding as well as educational.

    Alec and Jean – thanks for the positive feedback. Glad I can help with your teaching and can contribute ideas to your photographic pursuits. Yes, “It’s All About The Light” has been my business motto for years and with good reason. Photo = light // Graphy = To Write. When we make a photograph, we WRITE with LIGHT!

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