The Light Collective members Ricardo Da Cunha and Luke Austin will be leading a special 10 day tour of New Zealand’s South Island during Autumn 2017. This tour will concentrate on capturing the best possible fall colours and will coincide with the famous Arrowtown Autumn Festival. We will visit and photograph some of the most colourful landscapes of the South Island including Arrowtown and Twizel. In addition, this extended tour will allow us to visit the Catlins region and the east coast where we’ll photograph the dramatic landscapes of Nugget Point and Moeraki Boulders.Read More
You are invited to enjoy an intimate day of learning, inspiration and insight into the minds and vision of some of the finest and most progressive landscape photographers in Australia today.Read More
The Light Collective will be holding their inaugural exhibition and book launch titled ‘Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre’ in Sydney between the 3rd and 12th of November, 2016 with the opening night taking place on Nov 3 from 6pm to 9pm.
Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is the first in a series of projects by The Light Collective exploring modern and progressive interpretations of Australia’s unique and arresting wild places.
The exhibition will feature large scale striking interpretive aerial imagery from one of the most alluring regions of the Australian interior – Lake Eyre.Read More
The Light Collective are proud to announce that our first ever book publication: 'KATI THANDA–LAKE EYRE - Interpretations from the air' is now available for pre-orderRead More
Contrast is king
If Contrast was in fact the king of visual communication, then possibly he is only trumped by the beautiful Queen Symmetry. We will take a look at symmetry at a later date.
If symmetry is the one element above all else that the human eye finds most attractive, then contrast would be the single element that the human eye finds the most interesting.
noun: contrast; plural noun: contrasts
1. the state of being strikingly different from something else in juxtaposition or close association.
When we think about contrast within photography, we generally think about tonal contrast. Tonal contrast is what us photographers are referring to when we’re talking about adding or reducing the contrast within an image.
However, contrast by no means stops there. In fact, tonal contrast only just scratches the surface of the types of contrasts we can use to make our photography much more interesting.
This is not something I have pulled from thin air; the power of difference, variance or “contrast” has been around for as long as art itself.
How often have you seen a photo of the odd one out? Google “Odd one out.” click on the image tab, and you will see the types of photos I am referring to. The interest that these images create is contrast at play.
Let’s break these forms of contrast into subgroups:
Compositional or in camera – types of contrast we can capture in camera
Post-processing – types of contrast we can apply within post-processing
Conceptual – Conflicting stories we can imply within our photography
Compositional Contrast (contrasting elements)
Rough v smooth
Sharp v blurry
Still v movement
Big v small
Shinny v dull
Old v new
Square v circle
Straight v curve
Symmetry v Asymmetry
Processing Contrast (contrasting effects)
Tonal contrast – high contrast v low contrast
Light contrast – Dark v light
Saturation contrast – High saturation v low saturation
Colour contrast – Complementary, cold v warm, others
Detail contrast - sharper v softer
Conceptual Contrast (contrasting stories)
Happy v sad
Many v none
Have v have not
There would be many more. I’m sure you have thought of a couple already; however, the point is, whatever we call it – contrast, variation, difference – is the foundation for interesting photography. In fact, there could be a case made that contrast is the foundation for almost everything interesting full stop.
Looking for contrast within your compositions can be an excellent way to improve the interest level within your photos.
Here is a great example of compositional contrast. The first and probably the most obvious is the rough texture of the rocks v the smooth texture of the sand and water.
- Very strong light contrast on the main triangular rock: light side v dark side.
- There is symmetry contrast with the strong symmetry of the triangular rock against the asymmetric position of that rock within the frame.
- Line contrast with the flat, straight horizon being broken by the rough outline of the rocks.
- Shape contrast: the strong triangle v the lack of any other shape
- Shape Contrast: the contrast of the triangle v the rectangular frame of the photo.
- The dark rock against the bright surroundings.
- The white soft line of the long-exposure water v the dark sharp line of the horizon.
I would be lying if I told you that I consciously saw all of these elements when composing this photo. I can clearly remember that this position was the composition that jumped off the rear LCD much more than any other shot that I composed that day. This definitely has to do with the shape and symmetry of the pinnacle rock from this exact spot. The choice of shutter seep is also interesting because I will usually do several different speeds; however, more often, it’s the longer speeds with the smooth water that look the most interesting – the contrast of smooth v rough.
When processing my images, the 3 main types of contrast I find particularly useful in leading the viewers are light, tonal contrast, and saturation.
Light (More or less light): As a type of contrast, light contrast would be the difference between a light area and an area of dark within an image. By adding light, we can attract attention to an area, or conversely by removing light or darkening an area we will tend to divert attention from that area.
Tonal contrast (more or less contrast): Tonal contrast is the more commonly referred to contrast within photography. When photographers talk about contrast, we are talking about tonal contrast. Generally speaking, to add more tonal contrast is to create a large distance between the light pixels and the dark pixels within a photo. Lighten the lights and darken the darks. To lower tonal contrast within a photo would be to create less distance between the lights and the darks. Darkening the lights and lightening the darks would reduce the overall tonal contrast of a photo.
Saturation (more or less colour saturation): Saturation as a contrast element would be the difference between highly saturated areas and the low saturated areas of a photo.
Attracting the attention of your viewer’s eye using these three forms of contrast is actually quite simple. By adding more of any of them to a specific area of our photograph (more light, more tonal contrast or more saturation) will have the effect of drawing attention to that specific area. Taking away light, tonal contrast or saturation will have the opposite effect of allowing these areas to fade into the background, as these areas will appear less interesting to your viewers.
I must highlight the fact that removing contrast interest from the surroundings is at least as equally important as adding contrast interest to your main subject. In fact, in the case of saturation contrast, I will very rarely add extra saturation; however, I will almost always remove at least a little saturation from the areas surrounding my interest point (main subject).
Let’s take a look at some examples where the above techniques are clearly visible.
Camel Rock, Bermgui NSW
Hopefully you have noticed the prominence of the central rocks within this photo and as we are discovering. This is by no fluke.
Let’s look at the types of contrast at work here:
Light contrast – notice the lightest areas of this photo are the main subject itself or located directly around and in relation to the main subject. You will also notice the edges of the photo, where I would prefer the viewer not be overly attracted to, are very dark indeed.
Tonal contrast – again the area that shows the highest amount of tonal contrast is the main subject itself. And also note the edges of the photo, although very dark, have very little tonal contrast.
Saturation contrast – notice the main subject and the area directly surrounding the main subject are the areas with the highest colour saturation, albeit not particularly high saturation. It’s all relative, as you will note the extreme edges of the photo are completely void of any colour at all.
Boat Shed, Perth WA
Hopefully once again your eye is drawn to the boatshed in this particular photo.
The centre of the image here shows the brightest areas, the highest colour saturation and also the highest area of tonal contrast (the point at which light and dark are at the closest proximity to each other).
Whereas the edges of the image contain;
- Very little, if any bright areas
- Next to no colour saturation
- Apart from the walkway leading into the photo, the edges contain very little tonal contrast.
Using these 3 forms of contrast, we can create very powerful photos that grab the viewer’s eye and lead it directly into the central subject matter.
For further information on learning how to easily process your photos for maximum impact, click the link below.
Adam Williams Photography
Conceptual contrast deals with conflicting stories or themes within a single photo.
To name just a few:
Happy v sad
Despair v hope
Love v broken heart
This is a relatively new concept to me too and, as I develop my conceptual contrast skills, I will revisit with more in-depth thoughts. In the meantime, let’s look at an image of mine where I have attempted to use conceptual contrast.
Again I will use this photo from camel rocks in Bermagui NSW as the example. In this photo, the main conceptual contrast that I wanted to portray was quite a heavy, depressing scene with the ray of light representing hope.
There is also another possible storyline containing conceptual contrast, that being one of isolation v companionship. The three rocks themselves are quite isolated within the image, but within that we also have the smaller rock of the three separated from the embrace of the other two. Once again, I didn’t consciously see this at the time of making the photo. It all may seem a bit far-fetched, but at the end of the day, the more stories that we consciously place within our photos, the greater chance that our viewers will make their own interpretation and connect with our work.
Never-ending sunrises/sunsets, a photographer’s paradise
I had been to Lofoten in the summer of 2004 on a two month camping trip around Scandinavia, and when I arrived to these Islands, north of Norway, I fell completely in love with the power of this landscape and with the size and shape of the mountains and peaks. I had always dreamt of coming back and I had the opportunity to go last February.Read More
A short write-up on the experience of visiting Torres Del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of southern Chile along with a few tips by Ricardo Da Cunha.Read More
An entertaining write-up on Paul Hoelen's once in a lifetime adventure where Paul water kayaked, pack-rafted, rubber-duckied, swum, canyoneered, free climbed, camped, white water rafted and photographed the full length of one of the greatest geological features on this Earth – the mighty Grand Canyon in the USA.Read More
Welcome to The Light Collective. We've just kicked things off as a new creative collective and we're busy making plans...Read More