Alright kids, gather round! Bring it in! Take a knee! We’ve got some science to be talking about!
Yup, another episode of “Crazy stuff you never knew and probably didn’t want to”! This week, we talk about colors. It seems so easy and innocent at first huh? We all remember growing up and coloring in the books… green for grass, blue for sky, yellow for sun. A shame it’s all wrong though…
So this thing called color is some weird stuff. It’s not just what we see, but what we think we see. As a photographer, this is the hardest and most obnoxious thing in the universe to get right! The problem being, well, no light source is “white”. Think about that for a second… let it sink in… No light source is white. We see white right? Well, yes and no. We hardly ever see the actual colorless surface of white. Like a dress or a cloud or a piece of paper. The reality is this almost always saturated with the color of the source of light. But even so, something magical happens within our brains that automatically adjusts and filters out any excess color pollutants. Especially with things that we know. People and skin tones are almost always retooled as being, well, skin tone. Paper and such will turn white. Apples are good one too. They will almost always be red, regardless of the color of the light source (try it, pull out an apple in a room lit up with a blue or green light… see what your brain does!). And by far, the most magical and impressive illusion of them all… the sky!
Well, not so much the sky as the daylight around you. No, the sky isn’t a reflection of the oceans… That’s as archaic as blood being blue or the world being flat. No, the molecules in the sky diffract the light and diffuse the rich blue color more, thus we see a saturation of blue and the other colors get sent off into the great big yonder. But here’s the weird part… it isn’t just the sky that’s blue… it’s everything. We are bathed in a massive shower of the color blue. If you walk outside now, everything is blue. EVERYTHING! It’s hard to imagine. You can kind of do this by spending some time in an enclosed room lit by standard lights, then running outside. You should notice that there is thick saturation of blue before your eyes start to adjust. And adjust they will! It’s why a piece of paper looks white whether you’re inside or out. That paper is super blue outside and super yellow inside. You can kind of see this by using indoor or tungsten film outside (everything will be blue) or outside film in a room lit by incandescent lightbulbs (everything will be yellow/orange). Heck, you can even see things turning super blue at dusk while your eyes adjust to night. And it even goes beyond automatic color adjustment, your mind will adjust shades too! Why? Well, because your brain is stupid! Ok ok, your brain isn’t stupid, but your consciousness is. That part of your brain that gives it sentience and your basic heads up display… well… turns out that it can’t really deal with a lot of info. In order to facilitate this, your subconscious, the big super computer processing center, takes in info and makes judgements on what it “should” be. You know, to make things easier on it’s slower cousin, the consciousness. It can insert objects, shades, colors and even erase things completely, just because it wants to make things easier to process at the top most levels of brain functions. Basically the tl;dr cliff notes version told to you by your best friend’s cousin’s friend’s mechanic. Granted, life would be much more stressful if we had to process full raw data, but still… it makes us see things that aren’t natural.
Speaking of color correction… some fun facts about that… at some primal juncture in our evolution (or a bug in the programming if that’s your bag), our brains decided for us that red/orange/yellow spectrum of light was hot. We call these colors warm for a reason. I would assume this goes back to fire, but there could be some other reason for the association (maybe something to do with blood?). And you would logically assume that the blue part of the spectrum was, of course, colder. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While it is true, that fire produces a yellow/red color it’s relative hotness is fairly low. Fire is around 1700 kelvin, not very hot color wise and stuff like say, a bright day or the sun is nearer to the greenish end at 5500 kelvin (well, in space it’s more of a whitish very light pinkish sorta)… really hot stuff like 20000 kelvin blue dwarf stars that are, well, blue. So hot = blue!
So yeah guys… brain is bad… mixing up all our colors and stuff! So now you know! And knowledge is power! But power corrupts… Thus, you are now all evil! Mwahahahaha!