What Color Do You See?

What Color Do You See?

As those who follow me on Instagram know, I was recently out on the Gemfield Gem Claims near Goldfield, Nevada. I picked up a few pieces of chalcedony showing a nice, soft blue.

I later had lunch at the Dinky Diner in Goldfield with the claim owner, Sharon Artlip. I commented on the blue tinged material I collected. She said she would describe that color as gray, not blue, certainly nothing like a Robin’s egg blue. I agreed with that but thought the pieces still displayed a nice color. I went out to my truck and brought back in what I collected. 

Putting them down on the dining table, I had to agree with Sharon. They were showing a light or pale battleship gray. No blue. We talked this over. She said she was extremely reluctant to call anything at Gemfield blue. She later said, “I am one of those people who try to err on the side of caution because I know we all see things a little differently.  It is amazing how two people can take a picture of the same thing at the same time and both pictures come out totally different because of angle, lighting or whatever.”

Or whatever. At the time I collected I was working in harsh, direct sunlight. With sunglasses on. Sunglasses have distorted my color perception before and it was certainly possible they could be doing so this time. Yet they still showed slightly blue in Las Vegas when I got them home, this time without my sunglasses on.

What we saw inside the Dinky Diner was the result of indoor, artificial lighting. It took away the subtle color. I don’t photograph indoors because it renders flesh tones incorrectly and does not give a true portrayal. We all know how badly we look in a bathroom mirror depending on what kind of bulb is used. This leads to a deep subject called the temperature of color.

I think jewelers use a standard light setup to judge gemstone color but I don’t know much about that.

What else could contribute to people differently perceiving color?

A persons’ slight or major color blindness.

As stated, artificial light or even a difference in the light outdoors from the time something was collected.

The angle of view.

The background.

On a computer, a difference in monitors might change what is perceived in person.

In print, the printing process may poorly represent what one saw in person. Within the printing world, different paper will give different results.

Cameras. Different digital cameras show colors differently. The same with print film. Digital files are usually manipulated or processed. Depending on the work done in “post,” this may contribute to the problem. A filter on a lens will certainly change the color. Any camera on automatic will fight to brighten or darken an image without any signal to the photographer.

I thought about showing those pieces of chalcedony to you, but my photos aren’t correctly displaying what I see in person. In fluorescent mineral photography, this is an accepted problem. You take your best photograph, and then you fuss endlessly with it in post, trying to adjust the controls until the image on the screen finally represents what you saw under the UV light. Or, most often, _close_ to what you saw.

Update: Here are two unprocessed photos taken on an iPhone. The first photo  was taken indoors ten feet away from a window. The second was taken at the window.  Note especially how the upper third of the rock in the first photo was faded in the first photo but comes into prominence in the second photo. Same rock, different light, different angle, different results. Does either look blue to you?

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