Stephen Kirkpatrick

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Color Is Light

As a photographer, my medium is light. The use of that medium can make or break a photograph. 
The word “photography” literally means “to write with light.”
Photography is the capturing of light (color), transporting it through glass (the lens), and placing it onto a receptor (film or a sensor) to produce an image for people to see. Studying a few simple aspects of light can help any photographer better understand the process and in turn, become a better photographer and communicator.
White light, or the light from the sun, contains all possible color variations, each recognized by its own wavelength. These colors are identified as the spectrum of light –  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Red has the longest wavelength; violet has the shortest.  

Rainbow over Amazonia, Peru
June 1996

Light moves in straight lines, but there are three things that can happen to alter a lightwave. Materials may block all of the light (opaque), some of the light (translucent), or none of the light (transparent). These things alter the light and determine its color. Simply put, changing light changes color. 

Sunrays at Dawn
June 2010
from the book

SANCTUARY: Mississippi's Coastal Plain

The two photos below illustrate how altering the lighting can dramatically change a photo. I had found a blue green frog (the actual species of frog is a "green frog;" finding a blue one is an aberration of nature, like an albino) and wanted to show the unusual color. In the first photo, straight sunlight did not illustrate the blue correctly. So, I waited for a cloud to pass over. The cloud absorbed the long wavelength, yellow light, revealing the frog’s true color. Those few minutes of waiting made a massive amount of difference in the final result.

Green Frog (Rana clamitans)
July 1996
from the book

Fall Colors 
November 1992

Fall colors are drastically changed by clouds, turning bright reds and yellows (above) into softer pastels (below).
Fall Colors
October 1992
from the book


Water is naturally blue because it absorbs the long wavelength of red. 

Fish in Shallows
Grand Cayman B.W.I.
May 2008

The sunlit sky is blue because air scatters the short wavelength of blue. That’s why the human eye perceives blue when looking toward parts of the sky other than the sun. 
In contrast, red sunsets and sunrises are caused by the low angle of the sun to the earth’s surface. This causes the path of light to travel a long distance through the earth’s atmosphere, allowing the long wavelength of red to make it to our eyes. When looking at the sunset and sunrise, we see the color red more than any of the other colors.

Wood Ducks at Dawn
November 1988
from the book

When light is captured with a camera, the image is saved until it is ready to be displayed. There are two primary ways to view the photographic image – with light or with pigment (ink). 
1) Light or Additive Color - the primary colors in light are red, green, and blue. They occur in the additive color, or RGB, model. These are the colors seen on your computer screen, television, or out in nature. Black (no light) is the base and the image appears as light is added. If all colors were added, the image would go totally white. 
2) Ink or Subtractive Color - the secondary colors in light are cyan, magenta, and yellow. They occur in the subtractive color or CMYK model. These are the colors seen in printed materials like magazines and posters. These colors are light reflected off a surface that the surface doesn't absorb. There are four colors in the printing process. Pure black is added to cyan, magenta, and yellow. Mixing pigment (subtractive) and mixing light (additive) are very different in their properties and applications.
So, the next time you’re asked to save a file as RGB or CMYK, you’ll know that the method relates to how the image will be viewed.

Evening Rainstorm over Lake
September 1998

The photo above allows different colors and qualities of of light to assemble. Clouds, openings in the clouds, and rain all contribute to this powerfully lit scene.

Color and its many combinations affect us tremendously. Complementing colors are powerful tools in photography, whether used in the image itself or later on a wall. Complementary colors, like red and green; orange and blue; and yellow and purple, enhance and work in contrast with each other. These colors are found on opposite sides of the color wheel. 

Sunset Colors
Big Bend N.P., Texas
March 2001

In the sunset photo above, compare the clockwise progression of color on the color wheel from yellow to blue to the same progression in the sky.

Each color has its own properties and affects the viewer in different ways. Red stimulates us, blue lessens appetite, and green calms the senses. The most bothersome or irritating color is bright yellow. Bright colors reflect more light and can stimulate to the point of irritability.   
Colors, along with angles of light and composition, can enhance the message you want to get across in a photo. Just as certain compositions in a photograph might create a specific reaction, colors can also do the trick. 

Below is the slow progression of sunrise on a tree and rock formation. While the composition and color of light stay relatively the same, the angle of light dramatically changes the scene.

Sunrise on Rock Formation
Joshua Tree N.P., California
March 1998

I hope all of this helps you understand the power of light.

Again, happy shooting,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mississippi Wildlife Federation

Guests look over silent auction items

Stephen Kirkpatrick - Banquet Speaker

Awards Table

Brittany VanDyke (left) receives one of the 
Outstanding Volunteer Awards
MWF President Rick Dillard and Past President Kris Godwin

Marlo Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick Wildlife Photography table

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Times They Are A Changin'

Working on my current project, On A Roll, has revealed a lot of things to me, one being the fact that “film” is a dinosaur. But then, people are intrigued by dinosaurs, right? 
Film brings about the same reaction as viewing dinosaur bones, mostly from the younger generation. Some colleges and universities now teach black-and-white photography with full darkroom experiences. Recently, I met a college student who described this “amazing process” to me. 

Series of common loon black and white negatives taken in Quebec, Canada
June 1994

“You expose the paper to light, then you put it into chemicals, and this image begins to appear. It’s awesome.”

As long as people are intrigued by dinosaurs, perhaps they will never completely go away.

Common Loon (penguin dancing)
June 1994
from the book

Even those of us who appreciate things from the past can still take advantage of technology. For instance, I use a Nikon P7000 digital compact camera to record my work and progress on this blog. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to post up to-the-minute photos of what I am experiencing. I like the fact that I can instantly show you what I’m doing even though I won’t see the processed film from my On A Roll photos for months. 

I say all of this as I study more change in the photographic world, including the new Nikon D800 and the new, mirrorless cameras now in use, including the Nikon J1 and V1.
The D800 is built for today’s multimedia photographer with full HD 1080p video at 30/25/24p with stereo sound, class leading ISO range of 100-6400, expandable to 25,600, 4 fps burst rate and advanced scene recognition system with 91,000-pixel RGB sensor. The D800 features a groundbreaking 36.3 megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor, making it the highest resolution full-frame camera in the world. Simply put, technology has exploded in this single camera.

In a quite different way, the mirrorless revolution is upon us. This new camera system is the offspring of the marriage of the small point-and-shoot and the bulky DSLR. The mirror systems in DSLRs are what makes these cameras so large, so by removing the mirrors, the camera is downsized. The result is a camera much like a point-and-shoot but large enough to contain a larger sensor, thus making it a far superior, yet almost pocket-sized camera.
In October 2011, Nikon released their first mirrorless cameras, part of the Nikon 1 line. The two first models in this new line of Nikon cameras are the J1 (geared toward consumers) and the V1 (geared toward professionals). These are compact cameras with large sensors, 10.1 megapixels to be exact. These larger sensors capture higher-quality images. The one thing they do not have is an optical viewfinder, and some professionals and amateurs alike may not like this. Another consideration is the fact that mirrorless cameras only use special lithium-ion rechargeable batteries.  

So, if you want a camera that's sophisticated yet portable, then a mirrorless DSLR is the better choice. If you still want all the bells and whistles, the D800 is your best bet.

Bottom line, times they are (constantly) a changin’.

Happy shooting,


Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Difference Is Clear

Our new camouflage, Muddy Water Camo, was unveiled at last week's Nation's Best Sports buyers' show. Judging by the comments and reaction of the show attendees, it was a big hit. Look for me to be sporting this new camo (look close or you might miss me, ha ha), especially when I'm working around water. Muddy Water Camo is the ultimate concealment for shooting in swamps, marshes, and other watery environs. (Did you really expect me to say anything else?) 

Muddy Water Camo will hit the stores in August and September 2012. Visit our website to locate a retailer near you. You'll up your chances of capturing that special shot if you're wearing the most realistic camo available.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Plum Crazy

These shots were taken on January 31st. The plum trees are in every stage, even leafing out, and yes this is very early in the season.

Nothing for On A Roll, waiting for shot #6.

Plum Tree Buds

Plum Tree - New Blooms

Plum Tree Blooms & New Leaves

(photos taken with Nikon P7000)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pearl Of A Morning

The cool morning air was refreshing and the morning light, warming. I saw a bald eagle and a myriad of other birds, but no mammals or reptiles. The morning certainly showed promise but provided no shots for On A Roll. Maybe tomorrow, or as I have posted before, maybe it all happened yesterday.

"I have often thought my autobiography should be titled, Should've Been Here Yesterday. I arrived in Alaska’s Denali National Park the day after a grizzly bear took down a moose in front of a bus full of tourists. I dove in the waters of Utila, Honduras, three days after a sighting of two 30-foot whale sharks. And I was once awakened in the Amazon rain forest by an unearthly screaming, which turned out to have been a jaguar killing chickens a few feet from where I slept. I missed that shot by a few seconds."  (From blog post - August 18, 2011, "Should've Been Here Yesterday")

Sunrise in Pearl River Swamp

Cattails at Sunrise

(photos taken with Nikon P7000)

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