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Monochromatic Color

Individual colors are used to help us navigate our way through life. They provide us with vital information, often through symbol and metaphor. Think of traffic lights: green is for go, yellow for caution and red tells us to stop.


Color is also culturally based. Orange is the national color of the Netherlands. In Ireland orange signifies the Protestant religion, why green signifies Catholicism. The national flag of Libya is green. Vermilion is an important religious color in China, signifying life and eternity in the Taoist religion. In fact the color is in such common use in China that it is referred to as China Red. In India Hindu women place Vermilion along the part in their hair to signify that they are married, while men use it to adorn their foreheads during religious ceremonies.   


One of the most important compositional choices photographers make is to determine what should be included within the frame. The choice to simplify our composition is usually a good one, and a Monochromatic Color composition can produce wonderful results.

Monochromatic color is color derived from a single hue. In other words all levels of tone (brightness) and saturation (purity of color) throughout the image are of the same hue (color). Either warm or cool colors can be considered monochromatic. Such images are, by their nature, inherently low in color contrast.


Monochromatic color is well suited to images where a particular emotion, feeling or mood explored. Examples include lust, anger, rage, peace, harmony, tranquillity, serenity, melancholy or sadness. Because of its association with nature, the color green is used to signify an environmentally friendly product or process.

Canon 5D camera with Canon 180mm f3.5 L series USM lens

Canon 5D camera with Canon 180mm f3.5 L series USM lens


The yellow image features a close up shot of a bottle of olive oil, placed on its side and photographed on a tabletop. I made use of strong backlit, from a large window, to illuminate the liquid inside the bottle. The highly saturated color, provided by the backlight, was reminiscent of the effect achieved in stain glass windows. I then placed some aluminium foil underneath the bottle to reflect the color of the illuminated oil, thereby extending and somewhat abstracting the subject.


The image was made with a Canon 5D camera and Canon 180mm f3.5 Macro L series USM lens. It seemed to me that the embossed brand name on the bottle emphasized its 3 dimensional qualities. I processed the original RAW image in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop in such a way to further emphasize the subject’s shape and highly saturated color.


Canon 5D camera with Canon 180mm f3.5 L series USM lens

Canon 5D camera with Canon 180mm f3.5 L series USM lens



The blue image is a close up of reeds on the edge of a reservoir near Harcourt in Central Victoria, Australia. This relatively large body of water can be a good place to make shots around sunset. Sadly, the long protracted drought in that part of the country has resulted in significant diminishment in the size of the reservoir.


On this occasion the sunset was a complete non-event. But, as is so often the case in landscape photography, the patient photographer is rewarded. Around 20 minutes after the sun had set the deep blue color from the sky illuminated and reflected off the surface of the water and produced this beautiful monochromatic effect. All I had to do was compose the image in such a way to minimise the confusion posed by the reeds. I employed my Canon 5D camera and Canon 180mm f3.5 Macro L series USM lens to help isolate the important design elements (line and color) from the rest of the scene. Breaking the image down to these essential elements intensifies the color and produces a quite surreal, abstract image from an otherwise non-descript location.



© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography    


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