01/03/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3.    Midges



Matching The Color Of Natural Insects With Flies From Pictures (And
Some Good Tips On Taking Pictures)
I wrote an article recently regarding A. K. Best flies in which I mentioned that he blew
up the images of the natural insects he captured and photographed on a large area
of a wall so that he could match the colors accurately. I was really criticizing the
effort he went to get colors correct, yet ignore other physical characteristics of the
naturals. It turns out that A. K.'s method of matching colors may not be as accurate
as he thinks it is.

The article inspired Mr. Randy Frank, a friend of mine,
professional
photographer, and fly fisherman, to send me some information on how to go about
getting the color of images to match the naturals. I have produced videos and
television shows for many years and I'm a little familiar with white balancing video
cameras but I really never understood all there is to know about it. I also have little
knowledge of still photography. After years of reading various articles on color,
lighting for photography, etc., I found that Randy's information made far better
sense and was easier for me to understand than anything I have ever read on the
subject.  I feel like this will help any of you that tie flies and/or enjoy capturing good
images of insects as well as other things.

Part of Randy's email:
I just read your article about A.K. Best's flies, and want to share some thoughts with
you as a professional photographer about the accuracy of using photographs to
match insect color.  You may or may not find the thoughts useful.

First, light has color that is measured in degrees of Kelvin from cool
(bluish/greenish) to warm (reddish/orangeish).  The color of the light in which a
subject is being photographed influences the color of the subject.  

To our eyes white is white, but only because our brains are wired to tell us that.  So,
for example, when looking at a piece of "white" copy paper in direct sunlight
(daylight), in shade, under a typical household lamp (tungsten/incandescent) light,
and/or fluorescent tubes, the paper will look white because our brains know that it is
"supposed" to be white.

However, if you look at photographs of the same piece of paper made under all
three lighting conditions you will see very different results.  The photograph made in
the sunlight will be "white," the photograph made in the shade will have a cool cast,
and the one made with light from a typical household light bulb will have a warm cast.

When we were all shooting film, we corrected as much as possible for color cast by
1) buying color specific film, such as Tungsten, or 2) using color correcting warm or
blue filters on the lens.  Both got us closer to true color, but never dead on.

Secondly, when light is reflected it carries with it the colors of the environment.  
Thus, when photographing in the mountains the light is coming through and
bouncing off of tree leaves.  The photographs will have a green cast - every time.

Most modern pro-sumer level digital cameras have come a long way in giving us
"white balance" settings to correct for color temperature.  They have settings for
shooting in daylight as well as overcast, shade, fluorescent, and tungsten lighting.  
As with filters for film, they only get us closer to accurate color.  They do not give us
dead accurate color.

I see color casts every time I photograph a model using only the white balance
presets on my digital cameras, all of which are professional grade.  

I can get the color relatively close by putting a professional "gray card" in a
photograph.  The gray card serves to give me something in a photograph that I
know to be a true neutral color.  When processing the digital files in Photoshop, I
use the white balance in Photoshop to measure the gray card, and set the color so
that white is white, black is black, and gray is gray.  If measured in terms of Red,
Green, and Blue (RGB), then absolute white will be 255 (Red) - 255 (Blue) - 255
(Green); absolute black will be 0-0-0, and absolute neutral gray will be 128-128-128.

Even using a gray card, I still see subtle color shifts in both the pupils and whites of
eyes, and skin tone.

The most accurate method of establishing true color with a digital camera is to use
the custom white balance function in a camera.  A custom white balance is made by
photographing photographically correct devices that are true white, black, or gray,
or a combination of all three, and then setting the camera accordingly.  

However, getting the color temperature correct when a photograph is being made is
only half the story.  After that is done, then the color temperature of the viewing
environment have to be taken into consideration.  The color of a photograph will
appear very differently depending on whether it is being viewed in daylight,
fluorescent, and/or incandescent lighting.

If the photograph is being viewed on a computer monitor, the colors we see are only
as accurate as the monitor itself.  We recalibrate our monitors every week to correct
for "color drift."  

If, as in the case of Mr. Best, the photographs are being viewed on a wall, then the
color is only as accurate as the wall itself is absolute white.  There are many shades
of "white" paint: Navajo White, Eggshell White, Cool White, Warm White, and so on
and on ad infinitum.  A photograph being projected onto a wall will be influenced by
the color of the wall itself.

Moreover, the light in the projecting device can and does influence color.  In all but
the best professional projectors, the projector light changes temperature with
usage.  

Please forgive me for writing a tome that takes so long to read.  I wanted to share
this info with you because I am hearing, and being asked more and more about
people using the projecting method in hopes of recreating the natural color of an
insect.  

If one wants to use the method, then by all means do so.  However, unless one has
spent thousands of dollars on camera, white balance tools, a monitor, projector,
and/or a projection screen, then the method is simply not doing what it is being
hyped to do.

Copyright 2010 James Marsh