Why My Trees are Yellow

By Friday, January 13, 2012grafphoto
Yellow aspens Alaska photo

Yellow Aspens and Alaskan hillsides, Cantwell, Alaska

The new year has found me keeping to myself inside for these first couple of weeks, doing some reading, playing some games, and not a lot of new photography to contribute.   It has me sometimes perusing some of my archives in search of trying something new, something different, something to inspire me.  I suppose I have entered 2012 taking a breather before charging ahead.

Selective coloring on images really hasn’t been my cup of tea in the digital age, and it certainly isn’t anything new and adventurous.    I actually enjoyed doing this in the “old days” with a set of Marshall’s Oils and a black and white print.   Since then, I have read people call it irritating and trite.  For some, I tend to agree.   The black and white kid photo with a red strawberry, the urban street scene with a neon sign, or any number of things that have been done ad nauseam.

The labels and stigmas that we put on things seem to demotivate people from actually trying something that actually might work.   Thou shalt be damned if you actually enjoy it.   Then if you do cross that line, you are left with wondering if people are going to judge it solely because you have wandered into this forbidden territory.   Well, let it be known I have wandered.

I came across this landscape in my archives and remembered how much I liked this line of yellow Aspens.   I had the darndest time moving around this area trying to compose them into something I felt communicated that.  In post review, they just didn’t hit me the way I remembered.  The full color version is a nice scenic, with red hillsides and beautiful spruce to surround the area, but it wasn’t what I was really after.  As such, I put the image aside.

I stopped on this image again recently and happened to be thinking back about those days with Marshall’s Oils.  If this were a black and white print, I would take out a cotton swab and make those trees yellow.  So I thought I would give it a try with selectively bringing the aspens through and I started liking where it was headed.   Modern technology has made this a little easier than the days of hand painting such detail.

So there, I have done it.   Damn me if you wish, banish me to the dungeons of been there, done that.  But sometimes just like putting something in the center of the frame just feels right, this time, there is no question why my trees are yellow.

Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • like the it very much and for me this is totally great work !!

  • Well, I’m not one “banish you to the dungeons”, unless you have your computer and archives with you and instructions to work on more images. Our visions differ among each of us. It is important and vital to that which is inside each of us to pursue these nudges. Glad you listened to voice inside and took those steps. This is very well done, Mark!!!

  • Tom Whelan says:

    Nevermind the lines (cross ’em) or the labels (chuck ’em). This edit clarifies what you saw – and it’s a handsome image.

  • Greg Russell says:

    I think Roberta really nailed it on the head; you followed your vision, rather than following a fad or trend. I can respect that quite a lot, and I really do like the result quite a lot…its a beautiful result!

  • Paul Grecian says:

    I find myself not liking many of the current trends in photography, but what works visually is timeless. This works.

  • Roberta says:

    I still have my Marshall’s and I’ve still been known to use them. It’s about artistic vision. If you did every single image this way, it would be trite, but to use it as you have here to emphasize the main point of the image is why these techniques exist in the first place.

    • Mark says:

      I haven’t picked them up in many, many years Roberta. Sometimes I miss the tactile interaction that isn’t quite the same working through a computer. I don’t think I could be as exact and detailed as I was with this image though.

  • Paul says:

    There are far too many labels being bandied about. Labels be damned! Do what you want. I, for one, love the photo. It fits right in with your other images. Have fun. Keep experimenting.

  • Earl says:

    Selective color can be a very powerful method to emphasize or express certain parts, points or meanings of an image. Yes, we often see it abused but I’m not sure we should always cave-in to the public record of something being cliché to determine if we should do it or not. Were you processing this image for yourself or for someone else who you were seeking to please? 🙂

    It’s always best go go with what we personally feel and wish to express, in whatever manner we decide to do so. For me, the warm tones of the black and white collaborate well with the yellow trees — here, your expression is clear and it works.

  • Ove says:

    I see now that I didn’t express myself clear. I meant to write “Obeying others visual boundaries seems like counter-productive, to me”. 🙂

  • Ove says:

    Well done, Mark. I very much like the result. It seems many of us have the same experiences regarding hand-colourisation of b/w images, including me. Obeying others visual boundaries seems like counter-productive, to me. Of course, the clichés can be rather tiresome, sometimes. It’s personal, of course. I enjoy your yellow aspens so much more than for instance, the yellow cabs in an otherwise b/w street scene from NY, another well-known cliché. As long as it’s your visual voice we get to see, everything is okay.

  • Anita Jesse says:

    I love that you didn’t just “wander” into this. You marched in, took this on, and had your say! I think that is how it should be. I have given up worrying about what’s verboten and what qualifies as real photography. That is a hot and arid climate. I prefer the wide open, fresh air feel of experimentation and risk taking—even when I am “discovering ” what was already discovered decades ago Rather than spending my time studying rule-books, I will leave it to folks with time to devote to such pursuits.

    I enjoy this because it is more than a photo of fall color. It is what you wanted to say about the scene you saw. The best part if that is that I think I know your work well enough by now to say, with confidence, that you might just as well have come up with alternate ways to make a statement just as powerful.

    • Mark says:

      I year ya Anita. I have just read several things lately that really seem to condemn what has been done before. So that has been on my mind lately, and led to some indecision whether to go down this path or not. Thank you, I appreciate your kind words in your comment.

  • Yes, people are doing this kind of thing, but I’m with you, so what, I say to those who don’t like it. I like images that are all BW and highlight an area of color. It is a product of what can be done now. Sure it could be done in the film era with paints, but it was much more rare. I feel it is the art of the times, what is new and good and even hip, gasp!. Of course it has to be done well and with taste to be properly appreciated. You sure have that here. So I say, say don’t worry about what the naysayers say. They sound more like some kind of farm animal anyway, regularly saying “nay.”

    • Mark says:

      Thanks David. It is a line I have given much thought to lately. Like you have written about tripod holes, I just didn’t want to be doing something that someone else has done so many times before. At the same time, it just felt right. So you can’t go wrong in just going with your gut right?

  • Damn, Mark, this is great! The photo has great dramatic atmosphere and it would be beautiful even only in BW but the selective golden colour makes it something extra. Great work.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Tomas. It was OK in B&W, but the area of the spruce and the aspens tended to get a bit muddled together. I could have spent more time in bringing out the individual tones in a fully B&W image, and that may have helped, but I would have lost the yellow that was in my mind.

  • ken bello says:

    Like you, I used Marshall’s Oil colors as well as photo dyes and water colors to color photos entirely or selectively. Anyone who dismisses it doesn’t know that this has been a time honored tradition in photography for 150 years. It’s neither new, trendy or trite (although it can be trite if not done well). This particular shot is much more striking with the small addition of color. Well done.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Ken. I think the dismissal is largely the result of many “plugins” that somewhat just automated selective coloring, and people labeled it as “pushbutton art” because there wasn’t a lot of thought or intention behind it. I know with Marshall’s Oils, it was a highly decisive process, which I used in doing what I did here.

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