The Colours of Twilight


Though this picture, Down the Lake, represents a lake at twilight, it looks more or less abstract to me. Abstract photography or painting is based on colour palette and/or composition and the viewer has more freedom as far as the interpretation is concerned. Twilight is the moment between sunset and night. It is divided into different phases according to science data, but for the photographer, the most striking characteristics of this time of the day are its unusual colours.

At sunset, the sky becomes darker and darker as the sun is going down little by little on the horizon. The sky is orange and red, the typical hues of sunset pictures.

Then orange colour still lingers on the horizon line for a time, but the sky is no longer red. Twilight colours are now displayed. The sky may be an intense blue and the sun illuminates the sky from below the horizon. The sky may have several bands of colours : purple, blue, remains of orange, and pink. This strange pink colour is always on the east, that's to say, opposite the setting sun (on the west). This phenomenon appears only when the weather is fine.

Twilight is a magical hour, a fleeting moment to capture right away. Hesitate, run to fetch your camera and it may be too late.

20 Autumn Quotes to Inspire your Photography


"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all."  Stanley Horowitz

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." Albert Camus

"A tangerine and russet cascade of kaleidoscopic leaves, creates a tapestry of autumn magic upon the emerald carpet of fading summer." Judith A. Lindberg

"Soon we will plunge ourselves into cold shadows, and all of summer's stunning afternoons will be gone. I already hear the dead thuds of logs below falling on the cobblestones and the lawn." Charles Baudelaire

"A September to remember. An October full of splendor. A November to treasure." La Prevenchere

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile." William Cullen

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree." Emily Bronte

It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon." Sarah Addison Allen

Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” Humbert Wolfe

Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” Jim Bishop

Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard." Walt Whitman

Fall colors are funny. They’re so bright and intense and beautiful. It’s like nature is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary.” Siobhan Vivian

Autumn that year painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under harvest skies.” Sharon Kay Penman


The smell of burning firewood and the molding of organic, earthy substances reminded her of jumping wildly into the enormous leaf piles of autumns past and she suddenly wished that it was appropriate for someone her age to do such a thing.” Abby Slovin

The fallen leaves in the forest seemed to make even the ground glow and burn with light” Malcolm Lowry

Nothing dies as beautifully as autumn.” Ashlee Willis

Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day.” Shira Tamir

The heat of autumn is different from the heat of summer. One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.” Jane Hirshfield

I am made for autumn. Summer and I have a fickle relationship, but everything about autumn is perfect to me. Wooly jumpers, Wellington boot, scarves, thin first, then thick, socks. The low slanting light, the crisp mornings, the chill in my fingers, those last warm sunny days before the rain and the wind. Her moody hues and subdued palate punctuated every now and again by a brilliant orange, scarlet or copper goodbye. She is my true love.” Alys Fowler

The multicolored leaves were softly glowing against the black sky, creating an untimely nocturnal rainbow which scattered its spectral tints everywhere and dyed the night with a harvest of hues: peach gold and pumpkin orange, honey yellow and winy amber, apple red and plum violet. Luminous within their leafy shapes, the colors cast themselves across the darkness and were splattered upon our streets and our fields and our faces. Everything was resplendent with the pyrotechnics of a new autumn.” Thomas Ligotti

Harmony in Three Colours


Some colours may be harmonious when they are displayed together and some may not. The human eye can perceive harmony or disharmony right away as it is a natural instinctive response. We don’t have to think about it to judge it. I haven’t researched on the origin of this response but, even if it is cultural, it has been so conditioned that it has become natural.It seems that harmony is related to the notion of order and disharmony to disorder. So colours that are harmonious must belong to a scheme. And if they are too different from a scheme, they would be seen as disharmonious.

The triadic colour scheme is a combinaison of 3 colours in a picture or a painting that are not picked up randomly but are arranged as an equilateral triangle over the colour wheel. This triadic system enables the photographer or the painter to choose a palette based on a contrast he wants to achieve while maintaining balance. There is inevitably one of the colours that is on the other side of the cold-warm colour contrast. But the balance is achieved by the two other colours on the same side, and by the fact that the triangle is a kind of basic sum up of the wheel. There are 4 basic schemes. The first one is based on the primary colours, the second one is based on the secondary colours and the two last ones are based on the tertiary colours. This achieves balance as well, as the three colours belong to the same mixed palette.


How it works

Most often than not, the colours chosen are shades or tints of the reference colour. And they may not have the same value. You can have a light blue with a dark red and a basic yellow for example. They are seldom seen sharing the same amount of space. More generally, one of the colour is used as a dominant colour, the second as a secondary colour and the last as an accent. But everything is possible. In the photo ‘Mysterious Folds’, below in this post, the colour scheme is intermediary between the second and the third scheme. The greens are the dominant colours, the yellow-orange is the secondary colour, and the purple is the accent. The palette is cold (green, purple) with a warm contrast (yellow-orange).

The meaning and the storytelling

The meaning and the storytelling related to this scheme may be diverse but will fall into one of these categories :

- a three fold story : each colour represents a step

- an opposition and a middle way (the opposition is a natural one most of the time, it is not a feud that would be better rendered with the use of a two colour scheme and complementary colours)

- a neutral point splitting into two separate things (as a natural consequence)

- two separate things reconciled into something else (like a birth, a conception, a mixing)

- a trinity : three aspects of something making up a unity

- wholeness despite diversity

I could add other key words to this list but you get the picture, in the end, balance is the main theme.


Case study 1: the picture ‘Mysterious Folds’


Greens (dominant colour) = foliage, the context, the surrounding

Orange (secondary colour) = flower, the subject

Purple (accent) = buds and the background, the source

The emphasis is laid on the flower (the contrasting colour) which seems to emerge from the surrounding. It can be understood as a three fold story : a seed-source (the buds) in a nurturing context (foliage) gives birth to a flower.


Case study 2 : the picture ‘Cornucopia’


The scheme is intermediary between scheme 2 and 4.

Yellow-green (dominant colour) : the pears, green grapes and the background

Reds (secondary colour) : the apples and the basket

Blue (accent) : the grapes in the foreground

Cornucopia represents the gifts of nature at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, the harvest that will give you whatever you need. There are just three kinds of fruit in the basket, but they represent all the fruits available. It is the story of wholeness despite diversity.


Case study 3 : "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer


The scheme 1 with primary colours.

Yellow (dominant colour) = the dress, parts of the turban

Blue (secondary colour) = other parts of the turban

Red (accent) = the lips

What should be perceived as an opposition is broken up by the triadic system. The turban displays two of the colours of the scheme, not just one. The turban is a way to hide the hair of the girl, at a time in history when modesty and chastity were praised values. Hair was considered too sensual to be shown in public. So we have here this opposition between modesty (as a social necessity) and the red lips. Remember we have a triadic system here, so a balance is reached at some point. Isn’t it a way to show that there is no real opposition, and that the turban is also a way to seduce? An attire to enhance the beauty of the girl? Modesty is achieved on a superficial reading, but the triadic system adds balance and unity to the interpretation.

As we have just seen, the triadic colour scheme is a well balanced system that enables the photographer or the painter to achieve some contrast but maintaining a balance at the same time. Interpretation is endless and playing with it opens the door to a great horizon of stories and twists within a story.

The Stone

"second facet but will be blind to the first one that his neighbour can see. I meet you and one of my sides is shining more. Some see only the defects, others see only the purity of the stone. I'm each and every side, I'm the purity and the defect, I'm an outside brilliance and a hidden mystery... Some facets are like mirrors and you think you know me while you only see you own reflection...I'd like to meet somebody who knows the secret of unity, whose eyes can see beyond what they grasp at first sight. Somebody who will know and understand I can be one thing and another at the same time, one thing and its opposite on the same moment... somebody who won't be scared away by the dark defect he guesses through a thinner part of me, who won't be blinded by the most sparkling ideas he guesses beneath the surface. Somebody who will be wise enough to let me show what I want to hide, who will be able to witness the alchemy working on me, from darkness to the purest clarity. Wise enough to let oblivion settles on outdated memories of who I used to be. A dream of a constant rebirthing day after day, an unseen mutation into an unknown state of mind... no change is death... one track mind is vicious circle... I feel the infinity of life through my soul and through my body, and I cannot but let it display all the varieties of its crystallized energy."

Secrets in the Darkroom

If you think that Photoshop has changed everything, maybe you need to be  introduced to the masters of the darkroom. Before the digital era, skilled photographers did dodge and burn like we do it now digitally, they did combine several negative plates in order to make a new photograph, they did airbrush, literally, to paint or ink over retouched areas, they did mask, they did erase unwanted objects or shapes, they scratched, they painted and drew over the photographs to add details to overexposed areas for example. Photo manipulation does exist nearly since the invention of photography, earlier examples being from the Victorian era. Spirit photography, fantastic creepy photography, people with their heads off,  were all the rage back then. Then surrealists and the dada movement used photomanipulation a lot. Propaganda used it a lot too and some dictators erased people they didn't like from the pictures for example. Then advertising and fashion photography needed this art from the early stage.

So, take a tour.. here are 20 photos, altered or manipulated before the digital era and the widespread use of Photoshop.


Unknown – Victorian head off photography

Hippolyte Bayard – Self Portrait as a Drowned Man 1840


Oscar Gustave Rejlander – Two Ways of Life 1857


Unknown – Victorian spirit photography

Henry Peach Robinson – Fading Away 1858


Maurice Guibert – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model 1892


Camille Silvy – River Scene 1858


Henry Peach Robinson – When Day’s Work is Done 1877


Edouard Baldus – Cloitre St Trophime, Arles 1861


Edward J. Steichen – The Pond, Moonrise 1904

Man Ray – Ingre’s Violin 1924


Howard S. Redell – Woman in Champagne Glass 1930

George Platt Lynes – The Sleepwalker 1935


Edmund Teske – Madison Grammar School Demolition 1937


Clarence John Laughlin – Elegy for Moss Land 1947


Grete Stern – Untitled 1948

Jerry Uelsmann – Untitled 1969


Jan Saudek – Zuzanka’s Night Window 1979


Tsunehisa Kumura – Untitled 1979

Jerry Uelsmann – Untitled 1982



'Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness'.. that's the way the poem goes.. Season of Thanksgiving and harvest festivals.. Season of the Olde Horn of Plenty and the myths of the bountiful Mother Earth..

Times have changed and we no longer need to store food and prepare ourselves for the long and dark winter days.. But let's imagine it for a day, back when there were no such things as supermarkets, year-round-greenhouses and global market.. Can you smell the jam being made in a copper pan? Can you smell the spices of the chutneys being poured into jars? Can you feel the first cool breeze on your cheeks while you're piling chunks of wood in the shed?

Can you see the dark settling earlier and earlier day after day behind the windows? Can you taste the first autumn dishes of the year, and can you feel the burning of the hot steaming drinks in your hands? Can you fear death spreading over the land while trees shed their leaves and the soil becomes barren? Can you fear for your own health? Can you feel the comfort of a full cellar and kitchen? Can you pray for the light to come back?

These days, autumn holidays still celebrate this moment of transition between light and dark, warm and cold, fertility and death. And we gather together at beautifully laid tables, and we carve pumpkins in remembrance of days gone by.


The Art of Cropping

Aspect ratio, or format, in photography is the proportions of the frame, the relationship between the width and the height of the picture. It depends on the sensor of the camera, but in our digital age, it can be changed in the settings in some types of DSLRs. And it is not without consequences. A picture may be better in a different format and one of the editing techniques is to change the aspect ratio if it's needed by cropping the picture.This post will deal with the main formats - there are a lot of others - and with their effects in the storytelling.



History : It's the former traditional TV format and a traditional format in photography.

Effect : Horizontal and vertical lines are balanced, though not equal. The effect is more or less neutral. In the landscape orientation, the horizontal plane is emphasized but the vertical plane keeps a significance too. In the portrait orientation, verticality is emphasized but the subject has enough space on both sides.

Positive points : It is neutral, so it can be used with a lot of varied subject matters.

Negative points : Its neutrality ?

Case study : On the picture above, because of the 4:3 format, we can see that it is not just about a kitten. It is lying in a relaxed way (horizontals), hidden behind some herbs (verticals) and watching what is on the other side. A different format would have focused more on the lying position and the lack of interaction between the vertical and horizontal lines would have told a different story.



History : It's a former movie format and a traditional format in photography (35mm films).

Effect : It is less neutral than the 4:3 format, with an emphasis on the horizontal plane. Nevertheless, this format is more natural as it is more or less the same as the human field of vision in the sharp zone.

Positive points : It is very widespread nowadays and we have been conditioned to see it as a 'normal' format. More specifically it is a good aspect ratio for horizontal subjects, at least for subjects in which verticality is not important. A very good format for landscapes and for whole body pictures in the portrait orientation.

Negative points : Unless particular conditions, it is not suitable for vertical subjects in the landscape orientation, so it is not a good aspect ratio for portraiture. Even in the portrait orientation, shooting portrait with this format is not so good because the person seems to be locked in a very tiny space.

Case study : In the picture above, there is no real vertical lines. It is a pasture mountain and despite the fact that it is a mountain range, the landscape seems to be flat. The mountains seem to be interwoven from this point of view and the 3:2 format is well suited to give this impression. A different format would have broken the effect by adding some vertical significance.



Case study 2 :

A counter example of what has been said in the negative points. When the story needs a closed space it may be a good format. In this picture, Tight in a Bud, the eyes are shut and the positon of the head and the shoulder suggests some kind of retreating into one's shell, or a moment before opening up, depending on what the viewer wants to see in it.



History : It was a traditional photography format from the 1950s to the 1970s. This format has regained popularity due to social media, as it is the standard format for avatars and thumbnail previews all around the web.

Effect : Because of its history it may add a vintage touch to a picture, especially if it is in black and white or in vintage colours. Apart from that, the most notable feature of this format is the perfect square. Horizontals and verticals don't matter any more. The eye can no longer relate to what it is accustomed to and the reading becomes circular.

Positive points : It is well suited for symetrical subjects, for patterns, for round shapes. Or when you want to centre the subject inside the frame.  Fine art photographers use it a lot, maybe because of its perfect balanced shape, or because this kind of photography is not so interested in the real things in the real world and is too happy to express itself in a surface where the basic perception of the world, with its well organised space-time, is abolished. You may picture imagination, poetry, or organise a new world within the frame.

Negative points : Composition is more difficult, unless you centre the subject or deal with symetry. Its perfect shape may reveal imbalance in the subject more than with other formats. It is not suited if horizontality or verticality is significant for the story in the picture.

Case Study : In the picture above, The Faded Iris, the white and black patterns of its dead petals and the shadows on the table are displayed. The structure is diagonal in both directions. The reading cannot be vertical or horizontal, it is circular and the eye remains on the flower. The square format adds an impression of stillness to this picture dealing with death.



History : It is the new movie format.

Effect : Horizontality is of primary importance. It gives a sense of scenery. Or a sense of time. The picture is not a picture but a moment in time, a sequence captured from a series of pictures or from a movie, even if it is not the case. Because of its widespread use in movies, our eyes have been used to recognising this code.

Positive points : A good format for landscapes, panoramas, 'on the road' stories.

Negative points : It is a very unusual format in photography and may be awkward with an inapropriate subject.

Case Study : In the picture above, the close up on the bent herb and the 16:9 format gives an impression of a forced horizontality, especially as the other herbs are vertical. Movement is implicit. The movie format gives a sense of time and we may feel wind is softly blowing there, or that the story will go on with a travelling movement of the camera and we will know what is happening here in this field. With another format, it would have been a still life photograph. But in 16:9 format, life is not still and we expect a motion. That will never come, because it is not a movie!


As we saw the choice for a format or another is an important one, because of the natural shape of the subject or because of the story we want to tell. But as always, it is just a guide, and rules have to be understood to be forgotten. Behind these intellectual considerations, there is this magical moment of creation when you feel it must be done that way even if you can't explain why. It's in the eye, it's in the feeling of an instant.

What's your favourite format? How do you feel when your beautiful landscape is previewed in a square format on photography websites? How do you manage when you have not the choice because of the publishing medium (magazine page, book or CD cover, video slideshows etc)? Have you ever had to choose an unusual format?

When Bad is Good


We all had to cope with badly focused pictures, an unwanted shaking, or a bad setting. And what we thought would be a great photo is just a big failure. But sometimes during the culling process, there are some of them that we just can't get rid of. We like them. With their defects. We like the poetry showing through the blur, the mysterious emotion we feel nevertheless..

The Colours of Light

At the beginning, there was light. And black and white photography has emphasized the lines born out of light, the shapes emerging from darkness. Or is it darkness which carves the world out of light? We no longer know. They are the basic complementary building blocks of our perception, so intertwined that we cannot think about one without the other. The shadows and the highlights, the blacks and the whites, and all the palette of grays.In black and white photography we grope our way in a world of forms, textures, matters. The world is well grounded, things are in order.

Then, by a twist of the elements a new energy pours into these forms, and a new dimension arises : colours. They lay there, in the tiny display of the visible light for the human eye in the whole known electromagnetic spectrum - that's to say, the fragmentation of light into wave lengths. We see these visible wave lengths as colours, and this small band is represented by the rainbow. But there are more than meet the eye. Invisible wave lengths flood the world of their invisible lights, and colours maybe. But the human eye seems not to

perceive them and our brain is unable to decipher their presence. What we see is not the whole picture. There are also the infrareds, the micro waves, the radio waves, the ultraviolets, the X rays and the gamma rays, as far as we know.

All the coloured beams light all the things around us. But for us, each object has a distinctive colour. If an object is red, for example, it is because red light is rejected, so to speak, from the surface of this object and the other colours are absorbed by it. We can only see refracted colours. How are the real surface of things? What are their intrinsic colour, if any? We can't know, because we can't see in the dark. And your camera can't either. As a matter of fact, cameras don't record colours. They record light and shadows. Colour photography needs devices to interpret shades of gray and match these shades with the corresponding colours. But it is a translation, an interpretation. That's why colour hues, in photography, are so characteristic of an era, because techniques and inventions had to include this particular process of interpreting colours, and this interpretation has evolved over time.

Light and colours are not separate entities. They are one and the same. The way we see the world around us is the result of a network of interactions involving sunlight, matters and the way their surface deals with light, and more significantly, our eyes and our brain.

Super Moon 2014


This super moon 2014 was photographed all around the world and you can find many links dealing with it and showcasing the best pictures.I had a try at photographing it too. It is actually not so difficult once you know why most of candid pictures of the moon are so blurry and displaying just a white big dot on the sky. If you want to experiment shooting the moon, you must first cope with the light. It is night but, though moonlight is indirect, it is very bright and you end up with highlights only. You must use a filter on your lense, the  same kind of filter as if you were shooting in full sun. Longest zoom range.. Now you're ready. Last point to be aware of is that the moon is not still. It moves at fast speed even if you don't see it with your naked eye and you will be unable to have a steady shot if you don't use a very quick shutter speed. Now you're done. A bit of contrast and exposition adjustment on the computer and here it is. Happy with the result as it was my first successful picture of the moon.

Lady Autumn

At this time of the year leaves are undergoing a metamorphosis and green slowly turns into warm colours. But what you may not know is that Nature is like a lady taking off her clothes for the evening show. Colours don’t change.

The pigment responsible for the green colour fades away as the amount of light decreases. This process reveals the underlying colours, yellow and orange shades, which have always been there.Then when only half of the green pigments still lingers, the leaves add red and purple shades to their beauty. This is the last dance before dying and the decay process.

At this stage brown shades are more prevalent, because they are the colours of the walls in the leaves, and slowly show through when pigments wash away. As cold settles in the country and as days shorten, cold colours of summer change into warm colours to bring that cosy feeling we like so much. A last touch of warmth before the next season.