Did you ever see something in a movie and think, “I wonder if that would really work?”

It’s been a while since I had any of the bright paint I use on the metallic targets at Ian’s range. Without regular painting, they quickly fade into the background and can be hard for these old eyes to put sights on.

Normally I paint them bright orange, a color that works just fine. But a couple of weeks ago I was in the hardware looking at paint for the range, and I thought about that Matt Damon movie where they wanted a flag with a strongly contrasting color, and being on Mars at the time of course they chose…

Radiation Biohazard Flag from the Martian 2015 with Matt Damon
…bright green. And I thought, I wonder if that would work here? The dirt is mostly reddish, what green there is is pretty muted. I wonder if green would stand out as strongly as orange?

On the evidence…

…no, not really.

I ventured out on the first sunny day we’ve had since last week’s chicken slaughter. We’re promised full sun today and tomorrow, which the batteries really need, and maybe it will dry off a little of the mud. The mud is as bad as I’ve ever seen it; a person trying to use the roads without a 4X4 is just asking to visit a ditch or a gully or a cliff. Two days of sun might dry a little of it, but the weekend is supposed to be wet again. Nights are dipping just slightly below freezing, enough to bring some of the humidity down in impressive frost but it melts again the moment the sun touches it. Landlady’s due this weekend, and if she really comes we’ll have to ferry her in from the county road as has been such a common practice lately.

My big question, of course, after all those years of driving on bald tires was will the new tires help at all? I think on balance yes, they probably help a lot but when you’re sloshing around in mud halfway to the axles a half-inch of new tread is really gonna be of limited value. The big benefit of the new tires is that I don’t have to sweat every sharp rock the tread encounters. I’ve gotten very tentative about taking the Jeep certain places, because one torn tire and I’m done. I had no way of repairing the Jeep, I didn’t even have a plan for rescuing it. Now, with some decent tread, I have a little more maneuvering room.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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9 Responses to Did you ever see something in a movie and think, “I wonder if that would really work?”

  1. anonymous says:

    Careful with the extra confidence with new tires. More people get themselves stuck because that four wheel drive makes them think they can go places that ordinary cars can’t. Not really – just gives them more ‘self extraction ability’ IN CASE they get themselves stuck. Learned that one the hard way, driving over a small road hump crossing at an angle which had slick clay on both sides.

    Tried to ease it over, then found myself trapped because the hump AND clay did not allow me any traction. Driver side front tire on far side of hump – Passenger side tire on near side. Dumb kid move – yup.

  2. Robert says:

    Bright green in the Mars photo kinda looks like mustard yellow to me. Any optical readers out there that would know what color to contrast with what background for max viz?

  3. Ben says:

    You might find that the green paint doesn’t fade as fast as that hi-viz orange, which might be reason enough to make the switch.

  4. Joel says:

    Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m testing at the moment. Bugs me to have to renew the paint every time I want to shoot at some range further than ten or twenty yards.

  5. Unclezip says:

    The bright green is visible not only because of contrast, but because it does not belong to the environment, which will draw predatory eyes (ours) directly to it.

  6. Malatrope says:

    It seems like the white paper on the ground is the most contrasty thing out there! Just paint the target with the brightest white you can find.

  7. Tierlieb says:

    Take any colour wheel, there’s hundreds on the web. Search for “complementary harmony”. The tricky part is nailing down the background colour on the photo. You can either use a colour histogram or simply blend colours (using some kind of blur or unsharpen filter) until you end up with one.

    But you should also consider the colourfulness/saturation. Most natural background colours are not very saturated, so for your contrast, you should crank that up. Highly saturated colours are usually used for that (on the RAL chart for paints, look for anything with “luminous” or “signal” in its name).

    The reason why Malantrope notices the white paper (or whatever that is) on the ground is because it is comparatively saturated, independent of whether it is of a complement colour to the background.

    Long story short: Eyeballing does not always help. For example, the background Joel picked is reddish with a bit of dirty white, so, the complementary color is somewhere around blue and turquoise, not exactly green.The color he picked is also not very colourful (=saturated), which also makes it blend in more, not pop as expected.

    Sadly with colours, getting both color and saturation 50% right is not as helpful as getting one of them 100% right. A highly saturated red paint in front of this kind of red background would work better, as would the right shade of blue.

  8. Robert says:


    Cool. Thanks for a clear explanation; very informative. I consider myself accomplished because I memorized Roy G. Biv. :-)

  9. Andrew says:

    Next time, try UN babyshit blue, with maybe some sparkles added in if you can find them.

    There’s a reason that craptastic blue is the color of UN Targets…

To the stake with the heretic!