Emotional Impact of Color in Landscape Photography – Part 2

Continued from Emotional Impact of Color in Landscape Photography – Part 1

Color psychology is a topic well understood by interior designers, graphic artists and fine artists alike. They understand the secret language of color that can communicate, inspire, evoke, and stimulate emotional responses. So, as a landscape photographer, how can you use the language of color to make more inspiring images? In Part One of this article, I discussed the impact of primary colors. Now let’s take a look at the powerful symbology of secondary colors.

Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors, for example, blue + yellow = green. So, consequently secondary colors can contain some of the emotional energy of each of the parent colors. For instance, green has some of the soothing, peaceful qualities of blue and also some of the energy and optimism of yellow.

Our eyes are particularly sensitive to green, and we can distinguish between more subtle shade of green than any other color.

Our eyes are particularly sensitive to the color green, and we can distinguish between more subtle shades of green than any other color. This is probably due to the fact that green is such a dominant color in our environment and is particularly important when it comes to finding and identifying food.

Green

Ever-present and an important color in landscape photography, green is the color we associate with nature, growth, hope and harmony.  It carries a strong symbolism of fertility and rebirth as well. Some believe green to have healing powers as it is the most restful color in the spectrum. Because green is such a dominant color in our environment, our eyes have developed sensitivity to all of its variety of hues. In fact, green has more shades than any other color, ranging from lime green to aqua.

  • Green symbolizes life. Water is also a powerful symbol of life, and by combining these two powerful elements with almost equal weight in one image, the result is a feeling of birth and rebirth.

    Green symbolizes life. Water is also a powerful symbol of life, and by combining these two powerful elements with almost equal weight in one image, the result is a feeling of birth and rebirth.

  • Orange

    Orange is a predominant color in the Southwest United States. Indeed, the Earth itself there has shades ranging from pale apricot to bright, red-orange. Orange is an energetic color, so in this image, I used the moving water and diagonal lines to accentuate the feel of energy.

Orange
A mixture of yellow and red, Orange shares some of the characteristics of each. The love, passion, desire, and heat of red, is tempered by the youthful energy of yellow. Orange therefore represents balance, enthusiasm, and vibrancy. It is flamboyant and vibrant. Orange is often used to represent change, because it is often associated with autumn leaves and the changing of seasons. That is why we get a little misty eyed when we see Aspens and Maples with their cloaks of Fall foliage. It reminds us of the ever-changing nature of life.

  • Orange, a "secondary" color, is a combination of red and yellow, so it shares some of the qualities of each. It carries less of the aggression of red because it is calmed by yellow. The dominate color of this image is a vibrant orange, which is associated with feelings of compassion and happiness.

    Orange, a “secondary” color, is a combination of red and yellow, so it shares some of the qualities of each. It carries less of the aggression of red because it is calmed by yellow. The dominate color of this image is a vibrant orange, which is associated with feelings of compassion and happiness.

  • Purple is the color of royalty, and what could be more noble than Half Dome, shrouded in a purple cloak of dusk? Purple is also associated with the cosmos and the supernatural because of it contains powerful electromagnetic energy.

    Purple is the color of royalty, and what could be more noble than Half Dome, shrouded in a purple cloak of dusk? Purple is also associated with the cosmos and the supernatural because of it contains powerful electromagnetic energy.

Purple

Purple is rarely found in nature. As such, dyes historically were very expensive, so only the rich and powerful could afford such rare, expensive dyes. Hence, purple is the color of royalty, wealth and power. Purple is also the strongest wavelength in the rainbow, lending it a supernatural quality with powerful meaning. Purple (or violet) is the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy.  It’s just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays. Perhaps this scientific fact explains why purple is associated with supernatural energy and the cosmos than with the physical world as we know it.

Man, Mobius, and the Universe

Purple is rare in nature and is associated with spirituality and the sacred. Some believe that the color purple helps align oneself with the whole of the universe, making this image mean more than just a picture of a man holding a flashlight.

Despite universal reactions to specific colors, we still each bring our own life experiences that cause us to interpret color and color combinations from our own unique perspectives. What biases do you bring to your interpretation of color?

Do you have any images that showcase the secondary colors found in nature? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

My next article will discuss the emotive properties of some other key colors of the spectrum, including black and white. Stay tuned! — To be continued Emotional Impact of Color in Landscape Photography – Part 3

About Author Charlotte Gibb

Charlotte Gibb is a contemporary fine art photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area specializing in landscapes of the Western United States. Her images are often taken in familiar places for the well-versed landscape photographer, but she prides herself on her keen an eye toward the subtle and sometimes overlooked beauty of the natural world. Charlotte earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and has exhibited her work in several solo shows throughout California. Her darkroom, long gone now, has been replaced with digital darkroom tools, and her style has evolved from a somewhat journalistic approach, to one that pays tribute to the natural world.