Turquoise sea with light and shaded areas
Colour,  Lens-Artists,  Themed galleries

Gallery: expressions of a single colour

Photography is of course all about colour. Even black and white photos are rarely just that but instead are all tones of grey. Meanwhile effective colour photography relies on the judicious combination of different shades, whether complementary or clashing or somewhere in between.

Some time ago I posted on the theme of ‘Monochrome in colour’, sharing my thoughts on how using shades of just one colour can create striking pictures that are as fitting for the term monochrome as the more usual black and white shots we associate with it. For this week’s Lens Artists Challenge set by Anne, with the theme of ‘Colourful expressions’ I thought it would be fun to revisit that idea with a new set of images.

By restricting ourselves to a single colour we can really maximise the expression of that colour, whether restful or punchy, calming or exciting. In this gallery I’ll start with the cooler, calming shades before moving on to some with more warmth. Which colours express the mood of the image most successfully? Which ones maybe express your mood?

Rocky snow-covered mountain peaks

Blue is a cool calming shade, but there’s nothing calming about the jagged peaks of the Torres del Paine in Chile’s Patagonia region

Faded wooden door detail, handle and lock

Purple is the colour of royalty, and also of creativity and the imagination. It takes the coolness of blue and warms it up with a touch of red. The soft mauve of this door at the Musee Tiskiwin in Marrakesh is warm and inviting, as a door perhaps should be; although the heavy lock suggests that not all are welcome.

Pile of lilac coloured powder

This more vibrant purple is powdered dye on sale in the Place des Ferblantiers, also in Marrakesh. The cooler lilac shade seems closer to me to the creative and imaginative side of purple.

Large leaves of a pale green succulent

If we move the other way on the colour wheel and add the warmth of yellow to blue we create green. Green has many of the same calming attributes that blue has, but it also incorporates some of the energy of yellow. It is the colour of nature, of growth and renewal; but also of envy and jealousy. The soft green of this succulent in a garden in Tavira, Portugal, is still relatively cool and calming; a relaxing shade to incorporate in your garden.

Close-up of bright green leaves

This much more vibrant green, an emerging young fern in Selvatura Park, Costa Rica, is much more ‘in your face’. It highlights the renewal aspect of this colour.

Stream surrounded by green palms and other plants

I couldn’t resist including another example of vibrant greens, so appropriate for this time of year in the northern hemisphere. This is the stream at Drake Bay, also in Costa Rica. Green is the colour of that country for sure, full as it is of natural diversity and beauty.

Forest on a hillside with swirling mist

Here we have the much more muted greens of a forested hillside near Peulla on Todos los Santos Lake in Chile. These deeper, cooler greens have a balancing and harmonising effect.

Cobbled street lit with yellow street light

Brown is another natural colour, associated with the earth, wood, and stone. Warm yellow-browns like this, created by street lights in the old town of Faro, Portugal, at night, have an antique look. They hint at stability and the influence of the past on our present.

Baboon with yellow fur

This baboon, caught in late afternoon light in Chobe National Park, Botswana, has the glow of warm sunshine, one of the main attributes of the colour yellow. This is also the colour of happiness and hope. But it can be associated with cowardice too. Does the baboon look cowardly to you, sticking his tongue out like this?!

Small plant perfectly reflected with an orange background

The peach shade of the sunrise backdrop to a young mangrove tree reflected in the waters of the Sine Saloum Delta in Senegal hovers between yellow and orange. Orange is a very vibrant and energetic colour. It is the colour of autumn, of sunsets and sunrises, associated with health and vitality, as well as change.  

Deep red flower centre

Finally the most eye-catching colour of all, poppy red! This is the colour of love and passion, of fire, violence, and warfare. Red means stop, and this shade should certainly stop you in your tracks. It’s also a rich colour, full of its own importance (think of celebrities on a red carpet). In China it signifies good luck and prosperity. Elsewhere it’s the colour of the devil, or of danger or mourning.

The colour red has been shown to have a physical effect on people, raising blood pressure and respiration rates. It seems to have more meaning and more significance than any other shade; a good way to end our look at the expressions of colours.


Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!