Red Buoy Thumbnail

As my 30 days of thumbnails wind to a close, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve only scratched the surface of what they will teach me. The more of them I do, the more I will learn. Take today’s photo of the dock scene on the index page for my blogs as an example. I love the colorful fishing buoys you can find in any harbor on Cape Cod, especially the red ones, so you can see why I’ve been stuck on this Woods Hole scene. It’s complex, though, and I didn’t grow up on the water, so I put it off…until the Great Thumbnail Challenge.

First off, I cropped it, and recorded it, and cropped it again until I found this vertical format full of great shapes. And, of course, the red buoy. In this first thumbnail, I’ve discovered several things:

  • The shapes of the pilings in the upper right corner are way more important than I’ve made them.
  • Two mooring ropes may be plenty.
  • Bright sky reflections in water are not always light values. Hey. It was water. And sky, you know? So I left them white at first Because I Just Assumed they were light values. And the composition shattered and scattered into chaos right there in the thumbnail. Instant feedback. I figured out the problem real fast and made them a medium value. Voilá! Instant improvement. If I had made that mistake with paint, I don’t know how long it would have taken to figure it out.
  • In black and white, my red buoy does Not stand out as the focal point. Because—you guessed it—even the sunlit portion of the red buoy Is Not A Light Value! It’s medium gray against black, so you don’t even really see that wonderful round shape up there amidst all the angles and lines.

That’s a lot to learn from one thumbnail, and I’m not even done yet. In my next Red Buoy Thumbnail I will have to figure out how to adjust the values so that the pilings lead the eye down to the buoy, and the round buoy becomes The Focal Point. Once I have a Wow! thumbnail, I can use it to tell me how light or dark to paint things, and I will (God willing and the creek don’t rise) have a Wow! painting.

Everyone in our 30-day Thumbnail Challenge is glad they took it on. So give those 3-value thumbnails a try, and start saying, “Wow!”.

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