35mm Film Photography and Color

Search for the Color

There was an evening recently, that I’d made the decision to travel downtown to make images. It was an easy decision: The light was nice and it’d been a while since I’d last photographed. There was something about this trip though that was different from the many others. After making a quick assessment of my images, I found that so many of my images lacked color. I should say, so many of my images lacked a variety of color. There was no shortage of browns and greys. But wow, can that become boring quick. My pictures needed life. They needed reds and oranges and color.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Why bother shooting color film if it’s not going to be a priority.

While photographing, I’m primarily paying attention to the quality of light and the composition of the image. Whether an image is a certain color or combination of colors would often be a bonus, but not a priority.

Take some time to look at images from some of the legendary color photographers out there and you may be inspired and amazed as I was. Saul Leiter is the first name that comes to mind. He was an American photographer and his work is phenomenal. His ability to capture imaginative scenes and his creativity to harness combinations of color will forever influence me. He worked in some big cities, mostly New York City, but color exists everywhere so everywhere there are possibilities.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Another photographer to study, who I’ve mentioned many times before is pioneering color photographer William Eggleston. Not only were his colors amazing, but he was ORIGINAL and he didn’t create most of his work in New York City or Paris, but in Memphis, TN and the surrounding area. Let this be an example that bigger cities aren’t required for great art.

While we’re on the subect of photographers and their influence, it’s important to create work that means something to YOU. Be inspired by other photographers, influenced too, but the outcome of your efforts should be uniquely and distinctly you. This is something I’m trying to improve upon all the time. The great photographers followed and follow their own artistic vision. The way to develop a signature and authorship through your work is through LOTS of practice.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Be Inspired with a Fresh Perspective

With ideas and excitement for color captures brewing, I was ready to trek to some neighborhoods and streets with camera in hand. It was refreshing to look for images using my newfound color inspiration. Areas I’d walked numerous times before were now new as I viewed them through different “glasses”. The first scene that popped into my field of vision was an old orange pickup truck. It was really old. And it was really orange. It was perfect.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

After capturing some pictures of the circa 1970s Jeep pickup, I was on my way again. Colors were drawing me in from all over. There were steps covered in vibrant green vegetation; a green exercise bike bathed in evening sun; a simple sign with red letters on a local pub; and a mostly-blue automotive service station, to name a few.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

It was invigorating to photograph a familiar spot in a new way. Sometimes we get so used to what we’re photographing, we don’t stop to try and do something different. It’s easy to get into a habit but it’s important to reevaluate every once in a while, try something different even if it’s for a short time and most important, make work that speaks to you.

There are the things that are out in the open, and there are the things that are hidden. The real world has more to do with what is hidden.

~Saul Leiter

2 thoughts on “35mm Film Photography and Color

  1. The way you describe the absence of color, the dull greens and browns reminds me of the period of early spring and late fall when natures colors have either yet to reveal themselves or have gone dormant. Yet I often find this period of time easier to isolate a subject as you have done in many of these images. Part of the reason I picked up film again was because I was frustrated by my digital camera’s colors. They always felt wrong. You don’t have to worry about that as much with film.

    Liked by 1 person

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