Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chroma in the Shadows

Often the shadow side of the form seems to have duller chroma than the light side, but not always. It all depends on the circumstances. 

In the case of this rock formation in Sedona, Arizona, the downfacing planes in the shadow were picking up warm reflected light from the ground.

The warm reflected light bouncing into the orange local color multiplied the effect, and increased the chroma. By comparison, the light side was distinctly grayer, because it was lit by both the white light of the sun and the blue light of the sky.


Anonymous said...

It always baffles me how you manage to be so spot-on with the colors and values.

I still have a lot to learn. :(

John Brian Guernsey said...

it indeed looks correct... but a question: if the rock surfaces in the sunlight are quite light and washed out , presumably also on the surfaces below and adjacent to the intense red shadow area, why would their (reflection) into the shadow areas cause intense red, instead of a washed out red? Perhaps it's because whatever red they carry is enough to dramatically enliven the deep shadow? Not sure.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Hi James - As a person who paints in Sedona a great deal, you are right on with the way light and shadow appear on those rocks!

John Brian Guernsey said...

just figured out the assumed answer to my earlier question ....the reflected light, washed out as it may be, is enough 'light' to bring out more of the local color (more intense red) in that shadow area. So I was just thinking about it incorrectly earlier.

Denman Rooke said...

You are a fantastic wealth of knowledge, sir.

Gally said...


James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody. Yes, John, you have it. Blue light on orange form = gray mixtures. Orange (reflected) light on orange local color = intensification of chroma.

You often see the same effect in the folds of colored fabric in sunshine. On the shadow side, the folds facing down toward other illuminated folds often have the highest chroma.

Michael Syrigos said...

I found myself wondering the opposite the other day, presuming I was looking at a scene during a "gray" rainy day.

I was imagining a scene under jungle shrubbery and was wondering what the shadow area would look like and what the lit area, or spots of light shining (as much as possible) through the foliage, would look like. I can estimate how it would under a sunny sky, and at points, quite like here, chroma would raise, shadows would be warm and lit areas warmer and more washed out, but I'm not really sure how it would look in such a case, all I have is a vague guess.

daylily fan said...


I was in Sedona a year ago and went back and looked at some of the photos I took. You are dead on when the rocks are overhanging at all it seems.

I wonder is the lower humidity makes any difference? There is a different look to those images, a sharper edge, increased contrast and clarity.

I'll be shooting on Prince Edward Island again this summer and the way light works there is different too.

Have you done research at all into the way light affects colors at different latitudes?

My art history teachers talked about the differences between the light on the Mediterranean coast and that shown in works by the Dutch masters and painters in Germany. Although they demonstrated this in the paintings they showed, I wonder just how much is based on fact, or on how these different artists chose their palettes.

I know I returned to an area I'd vacationed in frequently as a child and when I got up the first morning and walked outside, I instantly knew I was back in that area. This was just because of the light on things. I can't explain it in words, but it was totally evident to me that I was back just in the way the light struck the buildings and foliage.

This was along the southern shore of the UP of Michigan.

I'll send along a photo from Sedona that shows just what you were describing. It is evident once it's pointed out.

Jesse said...

I see the same effect with the figure. Studio lighting bounces off the chest, and under the chin/neck area, making for a very chromatic orange (depending on models color).

Seeing it, and capturing it are two different things. It's hard to paint reflected light, and still keep it in shadow.

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