Travel The World

Photos of Colour – You Don’t See What You Think You See

photos of colour yellow

Colour has always made me feel like a fraud. It looks so simple, so obvious, so…colourful. Yet a moment spent thinking about where it comes from and my mind feels faint: wave theory, the electromagnetic spectrum, those migraine-inducing squiggly lines I used to draw in school.

It hardly seems credible that squeezing or stretching a wiggly line manages to give us radio, cancer treatment and microwave meals. Let alone that peculiar white-purple effect under the UV lights of dodgy night clubs.

And then there’s colour. A whole world of colour.

Your Brain Lies

Weirder still, every colour you see and file away in your memory, your mind has made up from a palette of three: red, green and blue according to neuroscience research. That’s all your retina can detect, everything else is conjecture.

And let’s not forget that around 5% of the population is colourblind and can’t even stretch to three.


Colour’s been creeping around my mind since I first heard about the “Capture the Colour” competition led by Travel Supermarket. They’re asking bloggers to post photos from their travels along the themes of red, white, yellow, green and blue. They, in their own way, wanted to know more about colour and hence this blog post was born.

Capture the Colour – Win £2000

“Capture the Colour” is a photography competition that will run until the 29th August, with iPads and a £2000 prize available for those the judges like. I’m one of them, so if you can manage to bribe me with gifts like earplugs that don’t fall out of my misshapen ears, an iPhone battery that lasts all week or a guarantee that there won’t be a toddler next to me on my next flight then please get in touch and I’ll see what I can do.

For everyone else, you’ll simply have to dazzle me with your photography I’m afraid ;)

You can find the full terms and conditions here plus a step by step guide on how to enter at the bottom of the page.

For those who just came here for the photos, though, let me walk you through the ones I’ve chosen. (And don’t worry. The words electromagnetic spectrum will not darken this blog post again.)

Photos of colour blue

Photos of Colour, Blue: An Igloo Festival in Tohoku, Japan

Japan has cold air that bites, bites, bites but it makes the most of its northern snow with a flurry of igloo festivals throughout the winter. Wrapped up warm with nothing but hot sake to soothe my frostbite, I walked inside this snow church and saw puffs of frozen air appear before me. Outside it looked like a church. Inside, I found an altar with a makeshift cross and a figure that probably stood for Mary. But I also found relics from Shinto shrines and the curling gold leaves from Buddhist offerings.

A colleague read my surprise. “Japan is more relaxed about monotheism than the rest of the world. Once you’ve reached a thousand or so gods, what difference does another one make?”

Striking words, a striking image. Both linger with me.

Photos of colour white

Photos of Colour, White: Sossusvlei in Namibia

On a computer screen, white may not be the colour that first jumps out at you. After hiking through the world’s oldest desert, it’s the only colour you can see. Sossusvlei, which translates to mean the dead place or dead valley, lies deep in the Namib desert, surrounded by swollen red dunes. One of the driest places on earth, the trees gave up on life hundreds of years ago yet the place is too dry for them to rot.

Humans can’t live in Sossusvlei, but oryx and spiders can – and the natural colours attract roaming photographers from across the world.

Desroches Lizard - photos in green

Photos of Colour, Green: A Lizard in the Seychelles

This fellow crept up on me. I’d been stalking barefoot along the sand, chasing after a brighter hermit crab with freckled apricot legs. Then I turned to see a flash of green.

The Seychelles have something of a jetset reputation yet their natural habitats remain their finest riches by far. The brochures may indulge themselves in coral blues and white, but it was this splash of green that grabbed by attention.

Photos of colour red

Photos of Colour, Red: Formula One in Valencia, Spain

Colour. Sometimes that’s all you feel you see at the Formula One Grand Prix. Scarlet baseball caps bobbing in the air. Smduges of olive green and yellow, showy red and white, vibrant blue and orange, each blazing away in a shapeless blur surrounded by deafening noise.

If colour messes with my mind, that’s nothing compared to the illusion of speed. Fascinating, scary, mesmerizing stuff.

Photos of Colour, Yellow: Malaysia during Ramadan

And finally: the explanation behind the top photo. Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, was observing the fast of Ramadan when I visited last year. As sundown approached, towns sprang alive in their haste to reach the dinners that celebrated the end of that day’s fast. This woman was racing against the sun as I took this photograph – but I remember it for much more than just the yellows and blues.

The lines, just like the colours, make my head swirl in this one. Where is the horizon, the faithful straight line. Is it the curb of the pavement? The concrete step of the shop? The bottom of the shopfront? The top? It’s an image that just keeps on asking questions…

How to Enter the Capture the Colour Competition Yourself

The short version is to post travel photos on your blog in any or all of the five colour categories displayed right here (green, blue, red, white and yellow,) link to the competition details and nominate five other bloggers to splash about with colour after you. You then need to let Travel Supermarket know you’ve entered, which you can do by either Facebook, Twitter or stone age email. (Details are in the Terms & Conditions - there’s a reason why I keep mentioning them!)

Er, that’s it.

The deadline is August 29th and the winner of each category will receive a shiny new iPad, the overall winner receives £2000 to spend however they like.

Check Out These Colourful Blogs

My nominations are as follows:

Wild Junket

Fearless adventurers and the brains and brilliance behind  the aptly named Wild Junket magazine.

Budget Traveller

A blog that does what it says on the tin. Check out Kash’s guide to low-cost travel around Europe – and increasingly the world.

Scribbler in Seville

Another well-named blog (perhaps I’m jealous) – Scribbler in Seville tells the tales of  a journalist who fell in love and moved to Spain. Or perhaps it was the other way around…

The Hairy Chef

Never tasted his food so couldn’t really say…The Hairy Chef brings you stories from around the world but he’s principally based in Bogota right now.

Wild About Travel

Simon travels the world simply because she loves to. Yet she never forgets the importance of good olive oil, wine and bruschetta from her home country of Italy.

Aviators & A Camera

A pioneer in iphoneography, Kirsten carries a charming New York sass and can be seen prowling around the world with, you guessed it, aviators and a camera.

Man, I wish I’d chosen a better name for my blog!

So there y’are, check out their lovely blogs, start a blog and enter yourself or at the very least hop on in to the comment sections below and let me know which photo you like the best.

Or…explain to me again the electromagnetic spectrum. The choice, as they say, is yours…

Disclosure: I’m earning a fee for my work as a judge in this competition. But I’m told I don’t have to wear a white wig.

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31 Responses to Photos of Colour – You Don’t See What You Think You See

  1. Fiona Flores Watson July 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Thanks for nominating me, though I’m not sure I’m up to it!! I will be especially vigilant about the quality of my green photo, obviously…

    • Abi July 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

      Well, quite!

  2. Laurence July 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Hey Abi :) I’m going to be biased and say I love the photo of the gecko the most, but only because it’s from my home country and I don’t often see photos from there! I really like the blue shot though, so if I wasn’t biased I may have picked that one instead ;) Great competition, I’ve put my post together over on my site and looking forward to seeing what folks put together as well!

    • Abi July 9, 2012 at 10:51 am #

      Ah…I just love the way the gecko’s looking at me! Off to check out your photos…

  3. Vi July 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Well…I am not sure I can compete with such shots like yours, but here is my submission

    • Abi July 9, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Thank you for the compliment but you don’t need to compete with me ;) As one of the judges, I can’t enter. I love your shots – especially the one with the person in the water…

  4. Maria Richardson July 6, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    I would like to enter but I am not going to do a single post on my blog for a photo competition – it is just not logical for my blog I’m afraid – pity…

    • Abi July 9, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      How about five colours of Brittany?

  5. Simon July 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Thank you for nominating me, Abi. Although I’m afraid there’s no chance for me to win, I love to participate and can’t wait to see how many amazing shots will be submitted.
    I guess you’ll have a hard time at being a judge in the competition :-)

    Love all your 5 pics but that little green frog… is superb!

    • Abi July 12, 2012 at 6:02 am #

      Thank you for joining in! And don’t sell yourself short – why shouldn’t you win? Yes, it’s going to be tough to pick a winner but I’m not thinking about that right now. And I can just relax and enjoy the other colours :)

  6. Bret @ Green Global Travel July 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Great pics, Abi, and thanks for sharing info about the contest. Here’s a link to our submission:

    • Abi July 12, 2012 at 6:11 am #

      Off to check them out…

  7. Hogga July 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    I really like the white sand picture…. such a crazy spot!

    • Abi July 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

      And so much fun to photograph!

  8. Lindsay Anne Williams July 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Your ‘white’ is my fav.

    • Abi July 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      Thanks – it’s growing on me. But I still like the frog ;)

  9. The Wonders of Wandering July 31, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    I love your green photo of your lizard. Living in Costa Rica I had some great shots of green reptiles but I opted for another adorable little creature. Check out my entry at

    • Abi October 13, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      He’s cheeky, isn’t he? Off to check out yours…

      • The Wonders of Wandering October 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

        What a fun contest!! I am going to have to check out a few more of these!! I love seeing what everyone comes up with!

  10. island traveler August 19, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    I felt like I traveled the world in vivid and moving colors. Beautiful. I’m glad Jo of Restlessjo gave me this link. Beautiful!

    • Abi October 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  11. Bhushavali August 23, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    Loving the GREEN Lizard!!!
    Just completed my post for the contest! Now, fingers crossed!!!
    Here’s it:Colors of INDIA!!!

    • Abi October 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Thanks so much for taking part!

  12. Lash August 24, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    I think I like the glowing blue igloo the best. I just LOVE bright colors. The more intense and/or neon, the more excited I become.
    The green lizard is a close second, though. Such a green!

    Wow, I’ve never felt anything but pure excitement and joy when viewing bright colors… certainly not a fraud. Though now that you explain it, I get what you mean. I think I’ll just keep feeling high on colors and forget the other bits. :)

    Thanks for your time judging the contest. Here’s my submission:

    cheers, Lash

    • Abi October 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      As you know, I love your salt ice cream one :)

  13. Michel August 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    I’ve been looking around at last minute entries and all I can say is…… I’m glad I don’t have to do the judging!

    • Abi October 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

      So many good ones to choose from, weren’t there…

  14. Fiona Flores Watson August 29, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Finally did mine, just in the nick of time: – bit of a rush job! Need to go on a photography course, big time – decent camera, but no idea how to use it… PS Just to set the record straight, I went to Spain and found love there!

    • Abi October 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

      I’m told that you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story ;-)

  15. Paul Akpomukai December 28, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    In life, we see the things our mind is programmed to see- yet the fact is that there is always more going on around us than we can perceive.

    • Abi January 11, 2013 at 1:35 am #

      Yep. And we’d drive ourselves crazy if we could process it all at once…Too much going on.