Captivating Color

29 03 2011

A Guest post by: Mitchell Kanashkevich

Color is one facet of photography which we often tend to overlook and take for granted. It is frequently only considered after the photograph has already been taken.

Approaching color this way however is a big mistake and a lot of us make this mistake because we simply don’t know why color is important, we don’t understand what role it can play in our photography.

The fact is, color is as much a part of visual communication as composition and light. If you are not fully aware of this fact while framing/composing color images and later when post processing them, you’re quite simply not in full control of what your photographs communicate. A knowledgeable, intentional approach however, turns color into a powerful ally that helps us convey stories, emotions, sensations and moods from within the photographic frame.

In this post I have included some of my photographs along with brief explanations of just what role color plays in every one of them. The aim here is to raise awareness of color’s potential power, particularly among those of you for whom it (color) has been more of an afterthought than a creative ally.


The above photograph is in large part about that attention-grabbing red. It helps me to immediately bring attention to what I considered to be the most important element to the story in this image, the turban. This turban is representative of the cultural background of the shepherd, it says that he is a man of tradition and this is something that I wanted to really highlight.

The red also leads the way in communicating how this scene felt while I was shooting it -dynamic, exciting. This is also in large part due to the overall palette, which in addition to the red is made up of other bright, vivid colors that are usually considered dynamic, lively, exciting.

The dominant color palette in this image is fairly subdued and neutral. The mood that it creates leans towards being melancholic, but the rather subtle “splashes” of brighter colors inject a little life and excitement into the scene (without completely shifting the feel of it). I think that this is fitting, as the mood in that room was a little melancholic and somewhat lively at once.

Against the mostly subdued, neutral palette that dominates the frame those “splashes” of color inevitably demand our attention. It is as if the photograph is saying quietly, but clearly “Look here and now look there, these details are also important to the story”. Color (along with composition) helps our eye progress from the brightest, most vivid element, the central character – the woman, to all the other, less noticeable elements that add a certain level depth to the story.


Here we’ve got bright, fairly vivid colors. Again there’s a sense of excitement, energy, perhaps an association with happy times, due to the blue sky and the brightness of everything, especially when you connect the color to the subject matter – parent and child.

The dark flesh tones really stand out against that bright blue sky, hence the presence of the father and the son is strongly felt. It’s clear that they are the central characters of the story. At the same time, the surroundings, which are also important components of the story are not completely overshadowed either, because they are so bright and vivid, their presence is strongly felt too.


Here the colors are equally important to the mood and to the story. The subdued, earthy palette dominated by shades of grey creates a mood which is fairly sombre and that’s exactly how the scene felt. The palette is also reflective of this man’s story, his tough job of ploughing the land during a grey, foggy autumn (fall) day.

It should be noted that the absence of certain colors can be just as important to creating a mood and telling a story as their presence, and here, the absence of bright, vivid colors ensures that the somberness is communicated strongly and that the story of hard-living is clear as can be.


This image is essentially duo-tone. The simple minimal palette allowed me to emphasize the “gestures”, which are where the story is, the hand with the spear-gun pointing towards the palm leaves underwater (that’s what those things are), the legs in swimming motion. Less colors has equalled in no distractions from what’s important.

One could argue that this image would work just as well in black and white, but I feel that the blue of the water plays a strong role in speaking to the senses, it helps communicate what it’s like to be in the sea, the coolness, the powerful presence of it. Towards the bottom part of the frame, as the water becomes dark blue, things get a little mysterious, darkness (dark colors) is often associated with the unknown. This sense of mystery is what you feel in the deeper part of the sea and it’s something that I really wanted to convey through the photograph too.


Vibrant shades of green and the warm, yellow-orange tinge created by the morning sun dominate this image. This palette is inevitably evocative of vitality and generally positive emotions.

The story in this photograph is quite simple, it’s about the beauty of the landscape, the energy and excitement of the morning and it is only through the palette dominated by those vibrant, warm colors that it can be communicated effectively.


Sometimes the color of a particular scene we see captures our imagination, gets us excited and compels us to make the photograph. Even if we aren’t aware of it, it speaks to our senses. The above image is one such example. Color lends it a somewhat surreal and mystical quality, it creates a very distinct feel. In such photographs, color and the sensory response it evokes are so important that any kind of story can in a sense become secondary. Color is what makes (or breaks) these kinds of images and without it they (the images) simply do not work.

Well, that’s all for this post. I hope that by taking a closer look at these examples of what role color can play in photography you are now a little more aware of its importance and potential. I urge those of you who make color photographs to begin taking advantage of color during your next shoot. Start thinking how you can use color to tell your own stories and to communicate the emotions, sensations or moods that you want the viewers of your photographs to feel.

About the Author: Mitchell Kanashkevich is a travel/documentary photographer who’s passionate about color. His photographs have appeared on TV, billboards, on book covers, travel and inflight publications as well as in most of the world’s top photography magazines. Prints of his work hang in private photo collections around the world.

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Bokeh tree…..what is ‘Bokeh’ mean to you?

30 01 2011

My Flickr gallery will reach 200 photos soon, I really need PRO account to continue posting photos to Flickr! Is theresomeones sincere enough to give a Flickr-PRO account as a gift?

This photos was shot at Pantai Chenang, Langkawi…….it’s been long enough never attach the ‘nifty-fifty’ since the Tokina sealed to my camera….


Bokeh Tree...
Some technicality:ISO 200, 50mm f1.8, 1/50sec Manual!

A Simple Rose

31 03 2010

A Simple Rose, originally uploaded by dinbrasco.

A simple rose I have found
It’s not the flower that grows from the ground,
Its beauty is one of such delight …
This rose is soft to the touch in all its perfection.

The envy for all the flowers in this garden
Its fragrance will consume your every obsession.
This rose must be a gift, a gift from above
A gift from Heaven to show us love.

Every morning I wake to see its petals glisten
Its easy to see how one could be so smitten
If love was a rose it would shine so bright
Because all I need is this rose in my life.

Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque (Floating Mosque), Kuala Ibai, Kuala Terengganu

17 03 2010

Floating Mosque II, originally uploaded by Nasey.

“One of Terengganu’s beautiful mosques, the Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque, which is also referred to as the Floating Mosque (Masjid Terapung), draws in not only local residents, but also visitors who stop by in their journey to perform their prayers.”

Tea Roller….

16 03 2010

Tea Roller…., originally uploaded by dinbrasco.

Cameron Highlands (or Tanah Tinggi Cameron in Malay) is located in the state of Pahang. Currently, there are two main roads that connect major towns in west coast of Peninsula Malaysia (such as Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang) to this popular highland resort town. The older access point is the Tapah – Ringlet route while the newer access has since been built from Simpang Pulai – Kg Raja.

The tea centre is accessible from a small road turn a few kilometres north of Brinchang town. To be exact, as you head north, Kea’s Farm to your right should be a good landmark to indicate that a left-turn into Sg Palas Tea Plantation. Boh Tea Centre is located at the end of this small road.

When I first visited the tea centre back in 2002, it only featured an old tea house adjacent to the tea-making factory. Recently, Boh has opened a new tea centre at the same site with superbly designed interiors and exteriors, plus a tea café with a view to die for!

I really loved the new tea centre. It is very fashionable with modern-cum-Zen designs all around along with freshly painted walls and decors. Narrative posters are arranged along the pathway to tell a story or two about the history of Boh tea company and the natural environment of Cameron Highlands. There is also a video room where visitors can view short documentaries about tea processing and the history behind it.

The actual tea factory is still left intact in its old condition – white painted brick walls with red window. Inside, while most of the machines are of modern design, you can subtly feel the old world’s era of tea making. It is as though you were being transported to the day where the smell freshly picked tea leaves were interspersed with the vitriolic smell of the fermented ones. While the whole process is rather intricate, it is can best be summarised in a five-step process:

Tea process....

  1. Withering
    To remove the moisture content of fresh tea leaves by blowing dry air onto them. This is done for two reasons. First, to enable the leaves to be twisted and rolled without shattering into flakes, and second, to allow certain natural chemical process to take place inside the leaves to improvise the actual taste of the tea as the end product.

  2. Rolling
    To release and to expose the leave juices to oxygen. Back in the old days, leave rolling was done by hand. Now, the factory features a rolling machine called Rotovanes.

  3. Fermentation
    To facilitate natural reaction within the leaf cells as they are exposed to oxygen. To be a bit more technical, natural enzymatic action converts catechins into thearubigins and theaflavins within two hours of exposure. This is when the leaves turn coppery in colour as opposed to the initial light or dark green. Fermentation, while done in a short span of a few hours, is the most crucial process to improvise the taste of the end products.

  4. Drying
    To stop the fermentation process. Somewhat similar to the withering stage of the leaves, except that a blast of hot air is blown through the fermented leaves. At the end of this process, the leaves will appear crispy black as we normally see in our homes.

  5. Sorting
    To remove stalks and fibres from the end product. Tea grading is also done to characterise the tea leaves by their sizes.

Enough about the world of tea making. The best feature of this new tea centre definitely goes to the tea café that juts out from the hill into the open air. Like I said, the view is absolutely magical. The café is partitioned into an indoor and outdoor area. Naturally, the strategic spots outside on the balcony are normally hard to obtain. The chance of floating on air with a superb view whilst sipping on exquisite cups of tea is probably everyone’s cup of tea, pun intended. The view from inside the café is just as splendid as there are glass walls all around for the equally breathtaking view.

The café sells a big selection of teas, unlike the tea house at Bharat Tea Plantation. Exquisitely named tea blends like Gunung Chantik, Palas Supreme and Bukit Cheeding are featured on the menu, along with Boh alternative range such as Jasmine Green Tea, Chamomile, Peppermint, Lemon Myrtle, Passionfruit Orange, Strawberry Raspberry as well as the Seri Songket flavoured teas like Vanilla, Passion Fruit, Clove & Cardamom, Cinnamon, Earl Grey with Tangerine, Lemon with Mandarin, Lychee with Rose, Lime & Ginger and Mango. Indeed, the choices are yours.

Last but not least, there is a great gift shop inside the tea centre where wonderfully packaged tea products are sold and they do make great gifts for the ones back home.

A Cup of tea....