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naturally unnatural color

naturally unnatural color
Photo Information
Copyright: Bob Harrison (BobH) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 40 W: 8 N: 192] (650)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2003-12-28
Categories: Ocean
Camera: Olympus 700C UZ
Exposure: f/8, 1/100 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Colors of Nature [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2009-03-21 19:32
Viewed: 6726
Points: 10
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
What is a "natural" color? What is it that makes a color "unnatural"? Does our brain somehow protest when we see a color in nature that does not seem to belong or does not match the thing which is displaying it?

This image may be one of those cases.

The unusual color shown here has an unusual explanation which is entirely natural. This shot was taken on the same beach as my recent posts "natural sand sculpture", "worm holes", and "frozen sand cliffs". Behind one end of the beach is a boggy pond which drains down the beach directly into the ocean. Because it is in a state park, this pond is mostly free of contamination from human sources. But it is so high in natural tannins and other dissolved organic matter that it appears very dark. Tourists visiting the beach routinely ask the rangers if the stream water is contaminated with sewage.

At low tide, this dark water runs down the wide strip of beach, creating a mini-river with miniature versions of many of the features of a river. The movement of sand creates ripples in the mini-river bed, resulting in shifting trains of standing waves. This image captures a portion of one of those trains.

From the starting point of this tannin stained water, two other factors affect the color of the water in the waves. First, the waves are backlit by the sun, so transmitted light rather than reflected light determines the color of the wave peaks. Two examples of unusual effects from transmitted light can be seen in my previous posts "sweet maple light" and "berry strange".

Second, since this image was captured just after sunrise on a clear and cold winter day, the light is filtered by the atmosphere before it reaches the waves. The effect is the same as shown by the reddish rocks in my last post "bridge to nowhere".

So when you add these three factors together- the tannins, the backlighting, and the filtration of the incident light, the result is a quite unusual, but totally natural color.

tech note- slight cropping, two step PS sharpening, increased brightness and matching increase in contrast, no color modification of any kind

paromitadey, nagraj, NinaM, LordPotty has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To LordPotty: thanksBobH 1 04-11 09:12
To NinaM: unknown beautiful placesBobH 1 03-22 15:27
To paromitadey: thanksBobH 1 03-21 21:06
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Critiques [Translate]

Hi Bob,
This is amazing. Your note describes the photograph so well I could almost see and feel the stream. Truly, when God paints we are mere spectators.


  • Great 
  • nagraj Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1618 W: 106 N: 3208] (15166)
  • [2009-03-22 0:02]

very good approach and notes of this natural colors. tfs.

  • Great 
  • roges Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 957 W: 0 N: 1329] (6264)
  • [2009-03-22 0:42]

Hi Bob !
Splendid view of water.
Have a nice day,

  • Great 
  • NinaM Gold Star Critiquer [C: 773 W: 3 N: 1157] (4077)
  • [2009-03-22 13:53]
  • [+]

it almost looks like flames, Bob, what a fantastic effect of light and chemistry and water! Thank you for your explanations, the picture is stunning and so original. I just love to have someone explain nature the way you do, it's like a small lesson everytime. The Maine coast is such a beautiful place and so unknown to me at the same time.


What a great image Bob.
I imagined at first that this must just be the effect of late evening sun on murky water,but your note explains it so very well.
I've seen simlar phenomena here on the West Coast.
Cheers & thanks for sharing i.

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