Picture of the Month – January 2022


COLOURS OF WINTER STEAM by JOHN COOPER-SMITH

This was in interesting gallery with not too many images to choose from. As usual it was not a case of choosing the ‘best’ picture but the picture which, to me, best conveys the title ‘colour’. I like bright primary colours so eliminating the lovely subtle images that had softer, more complex shades or a limited palette, was easy. I was left with several colourful possibilities which I eliminated on composition, clarity and finally, personal appeal.
I was left with John Cooper-Smith’s ‘Winter Steam’. Although it shows very little yellow, the striking blocks of red, green and blue ensure it cannot be disputed that this is a colourful picture. The colour is presented in large blocks suggesting a simplicity which belies the brilliant composition and total clarity, which are not simple to achieve. The red and green train is cleverly framed and highlighted in white, by snow and steam (exhaust?), leaving two reverse triangles of blue through which the train is streaking.
The train is beautifully positioned in the frame. It lies within the centre horizontal triangle which compresses all the interest in the image into the same area. The descending top line of the steam merges with the slope of the hillside brilliantly. This has the effect of creating a strong arrow which propels the steam train across the photograph. This movement is underlined by the dark bottom of the wall which projects right beyond the train itself. This further urges the left/right movement and takes the eye, and with it the train, speeding across the page.
The focussing is impeccable with the shadows enhancing both brightness and contrast within the composition as the light falls along the visible side of the train. Distant soft clouds break up the otherwise flawless blue sky balancing the white steam and providing a sense of perspective.
A remarkable depiction of ‘colour’.

Elaine Newington-Ward

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