Blue is moody, blue is subtle and blue is contemplative. Blue is a color closely tied to emotion, in fact it’s the only color that can be used to describe one’s mood. Blues has its own genre of music, and some of the most legendary jazz musicians recorded under the legendary Blue Note label. For landscape photographers however, blue seems to often loose much of it’s appeal.
I often hear landscape photographers quipping that they need to spend more time adding subjects of blue to their portfolio. Landscape photographers even have a term used to describe the hour or so before and after sunrise and sunset as ‘the blue hour’. This is the time when the sky and landscape are still illuminated enough to cloak ones surrounding in a slight but perceptible blue cast.
There is good reason for our inclination to avoid and ignore photographing in blue light. Much like auto white balance on our cameras, our brain performs much the same function when the lighting conditions favor the blue end of the spectrum. Our brain and eyes will adjust for the heavy blue lighting cast making the landscape appear more neutral or bland.
Many times while photographing late in the evening or early in the morning I’ll return to review my images wondering why there is such as strong blue color cast present. My recollection of the light is of a more neutral scene. This is because my cameras sensor is capturing the blue present in the atmosphere while my brain and eyes are making adjustments lessening the amount of blue light perceived .
There is another reason that one tends to see fewer photographic images that trend towards the blue end of the spectrum. Our brain is wired and conditioned to be attracted to or fixated towards images that contain vibrant colors like reds and oranges. It’s a fact that the majority of my best selling images are colorful, with images containing vibrant reds being some of my most popular images.
So with our brains wired to reduce and compensate for the amount of blue we perceive early in the morning and late in the day, combined with our propensity to seek and be attracted to vibrant reds and oranges it’s no wonder we see fewer photographs depicting blues. My suggestion is to stay mindful when in the field during the ‘blue hours’ of morning and evening. While your waiting for the sun to rise and set the sky ablaze in reds and oranges, pay attention to the light prior to sunrise and don’t be afraid to experiment with your camera. As always, photograph early, late and often.