Color and Patterns

By Clare Shumway Back to


My understanding of the photographic process began 75 years ago when I dropped my Kodak Brownie into a creek. A kindly man helped me by removing the film and hanging it on a clothesline. After it was dry, he rewound it back onto the spool and reinserted into the camera. After the resulting solid white prints were returned from the drugstore, it took me a few days to figure out why they looked that way.

Over the next few years, my choice of cameras progressed to a Kodak folding camera, a National Graflex, and a Miniature Speed Graphic. By then I had begun to work in the darkroom. My initial photographs were well exposed and processed, but then their quality began to deteriorate. That was when I learned that the same one-quart bottle of Kodak D-76 could not be reused indefinitely.

Then the time came for me to be educated and to earn a living. Photography during this period of 50 years consisted primarily of 35mm snapshots of the family and our vacations using a Kodak 35 camera and, later, a Nikon F.

Retirement allowed me to return to the darkroom. My wife, who is an avid bird watcher, introduced me to photographing winged species. My output increased and the quality improved, but I was never really able to turn out the color enlargements that I longed for.

A few years ago, I purchased my first computer, a Macintosh Plus, not for photography but for word processing. It soon became apparent that a color monitor might be useful for viewing images; that led to the purchase of a new computer and Adobe Photoshop.

That opened a new world to me. I had always found color and patterns appealing. For many years I had admired the photographs of Elliot Porter, Freeman Patterson, and Art Wolfe. Photoshop offered me control that I previously had never had. I began to experiment and found that by manipulating my photographs, I could create images that appealed to me. Some have called this “pseudo-artsy,” but I still like them.

I found that by using the Flaming Pear filters Swerve and Twist, I could manipulate an image until it appealed to me. Usually I try not to alter it so much that one can’t recognize the original subject (such as in Beach Stones and Fall Leaves), but occasionally I’m carried away by vibrant colors (as in Fall Colors).

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