Monday, February 28, 2011

Everyone is Colorblind

A shocking fact: we cannot perceive color. Really. We can only perceive color differences. That’s one of the reasons the eye constantly makes tiny little movements called saccades. So that the eye can register the differences between one view and the next.
So what does that teach us?  It’s always about the relationship between colors, never about one single color.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The World is Upside Down

Our eyes are just part of a complex visual system. How complex becomes clear when you realize that we see the world upside down. Seriously. We do. 
This implies that we never see what we think we see. Obviously, that includes the colors that we (think) we see.

Monday, February 21, 2011

White is not White

While I'm on the subject of white, there's more to it than meets the eye. Which color is a white wall in a photo? White you say? No, not exactly. A white wall is in fact never white. You might be able to spot all the colors of the rainbow in a white wall, except perhaps white.
Does that sound confusing? That's because it is. Here's an example of a photo with white walls. The walls do look white, don't they?

But if you isolate a few spots of the wall, you'll see which color they really have, when measured in the photo.
This illustrates the complexities of rendering new colors in photos. Which explains why Colorjive uses a unique algorithm to account for these effects. Because if it doesn't, your photo would look very artificial and the colors wouldn't look nearly as 'rich' as they should.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Black is White

Did you ever see this picture by Edward Adelson?

The squares marked A and B are the same shade of grey. Want to see proof?

It kind of illustrates my point about the significance of the observer, doesn't it? After all, it is our brain that leads us to believe we're seeing black and white.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Color is an Event

Here's a definition of color that has proven to be quite usefull to me:
‘Color is an event that occurs among three participants: a lightsource, an object and an observer.’
This definition was introduced in the book Real World Color Management by Chris Murphy, Fred Bunting and the late Bruce Fraser
I once asked Fred Bunting about the origin of this definition. He pointed at several philosophers, but also particularly at Pixar Studios, where he used to work. I very much like this definition because it involves all elements of color that are important to the designer:
The lightsource is obviously important because without light, there’s no color. At least not in my eyes. Moreover, the lightsource very much determines the quality of the color. See my recent blogpost about the Taj Mahal.
The object, or rather the surface of the object, is what most people associate with color. So that would be the layer of paint, the cladding of a building.
And finally, much underestimated, the importance of the observer. Who is looking at the color? How is the color perceived? After all, our eyes are only the outer parts of our visual system. All the processing and interpretation, all the actual ‘seeing’ if you like, is performed under the skull.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ET's distant cousin?

If you want to see some amazing colors, check out the fascinating macro photos of Thomas Shahan. He photographs spiders mostly, but also flies and other insects. The photo above is not ET's distant cousin. It is an adult male 'Bold Jumper', spider going by the name of 'Phidippus Audax' in the scientific world. When magnified, the shapes and colors of insects are amazing.

See also my recent blogpost on insect wings.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Powerfull Graffiti in Black and White

Sam3 is a graffiti artist from Murcia, Spain. He's not exactly your average graffiti artist. His paintings are in black and white mostly, but stunningly powerful nonetheless. This is the power of color (yes, that includes black and white) to transform architecture.
This painting is in Tudela, Spain:
This one in Porto, Portugal:
Check out his website and Flickr page.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Colors of the Taj Mahal

Who would have thought the 'white' Taj Mahal has so many colors?

This is the series of pictures of the Taj Mahal in India that I promised in my previous blogpost. I choose this location because you can find thousands of snapshots of the Taj Mahal online. This way I Googled a series of photos taken on different times of the day from the exact same angle. Not only you see the light shift during the day, the color of the Taj Mahal also shifts dramatically.
No, this is not due to the different cameras. While we have the illusion that colors always remain the same, in fact they most certainly do not. The light, and therefor all colors, depend on the angle of view, the moment of day, the location, etc. We tend to always see the Taj Mahal as white, due to a very powerful psychological feature called 'color constancy'. Only when you actually compare photos you can see the difference.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Colors of the Skies

This is quite cool, an image that consists of the colors of the skies. It illustrates in a spectaculair way how much difference there is in daylight. Great work, Dominic Kamp. You can even download a wallpaper of the image here.

I made a similar point recently, in a whole different way, with a series of photos of the Taj Mahal in India. I will post it on this blog next thursday.