Nature’s Colors


Rushing Water

I’m a color oriented person. I rarely create black and white images.

I know that many people consider black and white the only way to take real fine art type photographs and I agree that a well done black and white image is a wonderful thing.  I love black and white images and admire photographers that are able to do it well – I’m just not cut out for it.

When I’m in the woods, color is what catches my eye before anything else. I’m constantly looking for splashes of color and variations of color and blendings of color all the time that I’m walking. I see color everywhere.

There is so much color in the forest. More than most people realize. We think of the forest and we think of green and brown and black; maybe a few blue or white wildflowers cross our minds. Nothing is too exciting. Everything is very muted and dull. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The summer leaves on the trees are all green, but not all the same. Some are a dark blackish green and some are a bright yellow green and some are in between with a silvery sheen to them. Did you ever notice how many colors fungus comes in? We think they are all pasty grey, but I’ve seen red, purple, yellow, orange, and white. The sky shifts from light powdery blue at midday to deep purple blue in the evening. The stones in the stream may at first glance look just grey and black, but a closer look at them as individuals reveals blues greens oranges browns pinks. I love the iridescent green of the hummingbird and the incredibly bright red of the scarlet tanager. The forest colors are far from muted and dull. It’s no wonder that they figure prominently in my photographs.

Now color is an odd thing. It isn’t the same for everyone. Did you know that it is estimated that up to 8% of men have some form of color blindness? That’s like 12 million people in the U.S. alone. All these people could look at my photos and see a completely different set of colors than I do. Weird.

Color vision differences go beyond just crude measurments of what is considered color blindness. My wife and I often disagree on colors. The house we had in Indiana was grey – she told people it was blue. The kitchen cabinets were blue – she described them as green. It is possible that women in general see color better than men:

It’s long been known that color blindness is caused, usually in men, by changes in the red and green opsin genes, the genes that enable humans to perceive color. But a new study of randomly selected people from geographically diverse populations shows that normal variation in the red opsin gene may have been maintained by natural selection to give humans, especially women, a better perception of color. splash

Most human geneticists have traditionally searched for genetic variations that have large effects on color vision, such as the difference between individuals who are color-blind or not. However, says Verrelli, “Genetic variation can have very subtle effects that are difficult to measure with even the most precise equipment. For example, when looking for big differences in perception, scientists find people who distinguish between greens and reds, but may be missing the subtle variations among people who can distinguish between reds and red-oranges.”  PsycPort

…estimated that 2 percent to 3 percent of the world’s women may have the kind of fourth cone that lies smack between the standard red and green cones, which could give them a colossal range. Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Just for fun here are a couple of online tests of color vision: Farnsworth Arrangement and City University

For some more food for thought: I used an odd feature in my photo editing software that counts the number of colors in an image to analyse the photos in this post. The top photo of the water splashing over the rocks has 674,528 colors as a TIFF file. The JPG on this page only has 15,857. The moss that would seem to have very few colors actually has more; 714,823 and 34,636 respectively. Even the seemingly monochrome photo of the frozen water splash has 590,097 and 10,095.



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3 Responses to “Nature’s Colors”

  1. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Good post and good pics, as well!
    I wonder what the count would be if the picture were essentially light tones, near white.

    Signing in from the Koots after a long day’s drive yesterday.

  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    I went back to have a second look at the photos.
    I was amused to see that the mossy middle one looks like a new kind of creature something like an alligator but covered in green moss with two bushy-browed eyes at the top and the long left paw coming forward in a purposeful stride.


  3. forestrat Says:


    I also saw a bit of a creature in that mossy log picture. The way I see it though there is a person sort of a thing face down on the ground with one arm reaching forward above the head. Weird.


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