Colour Me Blue

From Melchett MereThink of the word ‘sky’ and what colour springs to mind? Unless you’re being awkward, your answer will be blue, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

The colour of ‘sky’ ranges from a light, fluffy grey to freshly bruised black, because ‘sky’ doesn’t refer to the bright blue bits at all, but to the layer in between, at least in its original meaning.

Our word for sky comes from 13th century Norse meaning ‘cloud’ which in turn came from the Proto-Germanic ‘skeujam’ for ‘cloud cover’.

Melchett MereBefore that, the English had to make do with the word ‘heofan’ to describe the out of reach firmament above their heads, so when the Norse came along with their ‘sky’ it was heofan sent because if you live in England and glance heofanward cloud cover is pretty much what you’re guaranteed to see.

But this isn’t meant to be an etymology lesson, but rather an explanation of the frustrations of photography in this country – it is almost invariable cloudy, at least this summer, and unless they’re dramatic storm clouds, a lack of blue sky tends to make your photos look rather dull.

Crash-landed flying saucerThe two photo above help to illustrate my point. We took a leaf out of John Gray’s book and visited Tatton Park in Cheshire yesterday and I went with my camera in the hope of some blue sky, but what we mainly got was ‘skeujam’ as you can see from the view taken around Melchett Mere.

We’d gone for the Flights of Fancy contemporary arts commissions to celebrate Tatton’s 2012 binennial. That’s one of them above left – a crashed-landed flying saucer named VEX.

VEXThe artwork contains video messages from Che Guevara who in the artist’s imagination exists in at least parallel universes, although in my photo taken inside, the Che on the screen looks remarkably like Mrs P.

But where I really, really needed the blue sky was as a backdrop to the Pont de Singe exhibit in the Japanese Garden, a sort of rope bridge affair held up by three enormous helium balloons. It wasn’t to be.

I did get a photo and you can see it, along with others on my Flickr page, but we have promised ourselves another visit to try again on the next clear, sunny day. Which would be the biennial 2014 I think.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • David Bailey-Pudding 25th August 2012

    Cloudy days can produce interesting light and interesting effects but on the whole I’m in your corner – clear skies and sunshine bring out colours and really define the sights in front of us. As my walking and photography are interconnected, there have been many days when I have stayed home simply because of the light out there. It will be interesting if – when you return to Tatton – you take fresh pictures from identical positions to compare the results. That is your homework my lad now STOP TALKING and get on with your work!

  • Roger Green 25th August 2012

    I like cloudy days. Less sun to burn me and irritate my eyes.

  • Katherine 26th August 2012

    Up the contrast and tweak the color balance towards the yellow and it does wonders.

    Have you ever been to NZ, Ian? Here I’ve found that the bright summer sun is a real exposure problem. On a sunny day, colours in the sunshine are bleached, and colors in the shadows are so dark they are almost black. For example if I was taking wedding photos, I’d pray for a bright, but overcast day.


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