Saturday, January 10, 2009

Decisions, decisions. Color or Black & White?


Reading another photo blog yesterday inspired this post.  Back in the film days, I used to shoot only black and white because I have always liked to do my own printing and I just didn't have the equipment or knowhow in those days to print color.  These days, of course, that's all changed and it's just as easy to print in color as in B&W.  In fact, you could make the argument that printing nice B&Ws digitally is actually more tricky than color; getting nice deep blacks and neutral grays requires some real care and an intimate knowledge of your printing process. I replied to that other person's entry that if I am going to present an image in color, it is because the color is truly adding something important, not just because I happened to capture it in color. Many times taking the color out is actually a huge improvement. I think most would agree that the original image seen here (pretty much untouched, right out of the camera) is nothing special, but I liked the pose of the egret and the reflections in the water; so I decided to work it up as a monochrome, getting rid of the awful green water and the drab colors and turning it into a pretty effective image by concentrating on the mirrored reflections, then playing with the curves and contrast adjustments until I got the desired effect.
My first influences in photography were some of the greats who never touched color, so I still have a strong attraction for beautiful monochrome even though I have kind of moved away from it in my own work. Check out Lenswork Magazine to see some really nice contemporary B&W work.   

15 comments:

Mook said...

Spooky I just posted an "old" B&W as a tribute then visited here to find you discussing the subject.

Anyway both your pics are great each in there own right, the Heron is not an easy bird to get close enough to photograph well done.

Barbara said...

beautiful !

roentarre said...

Your work can teach photography with so many inspiration. The contrast is great in this one and I could not help myself from staring at the black and white for quite some time.

Beautiful.

Nancy said...

Oh wow - what an amazing difference!!

They're both beautiful shots, and what's facinating to me is how much the character changes from colour to black and white (unlike the ones in my post where the difference was more subtle). Yours tell two completely different stories. Very nice :-)

I like them both, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be your black and white - it's gorgeous.

Jenera said...

For this particular shot I think the black and white is more striking. In general, I shoot about half and half depending on the subject.

Patrick said...

Hello Mark

The 2 versions are beautiful but i think i prefer the color one. I think it really shows the bird in it's natural environment and the colors are beautiful.
Note that i'm really not attached to the natural look of a photo but i think that this one is perfect in color.

storybeader said...

I work with B&W images all day long, as an archivist. I'm not a photographer, but sometimes I'll "fix" prints for clients, bec of tears and other bad conditions.

I like the color myself - it gives the viewer the chance to see the actual habitat, with that awful green. The B&W (to me) looks more like a piece of art - and that's what you may be after! {:-Deb

Lenox Knits said...

They are such different pieces. I love the B & W and would hang it on my wall. The color is more real and would be a better representation of the moment but I guess it's just what you are wanting to capture.

Mark Alan Meader said...

Thanks to all for the input. I have to admit I didn't expect to get any preferences for the color version, but as I was commenting to Patrick, I'm not always on point when it comes to guessing what other people are going to go for. I also generally do color these days but there are times of day/situations when a color shot is (to me) just a "picture" because of the poor quality of light or the colors of the subject being bland. However, there often could be a really nice B&W alternative hiding in there. So, yes, I am more concerned with finding the "art" in a scene rather that just recording a view.

Strawberry Anarchy said...

i love the colour one!

Sheila said...

In this instance, I prefer the B&W. It seems to bring more of the focus onto the bird and the light/dark contrasts are great!

secludedhabitat said...

I have to agree, that the monochrome one really brings out the reflection and improves the image 10 fold.
Stuart

D. Hawks said...

Mark, the picture is fascinating. And, as you mentioned in an earlier post, photography such as yours is not a spectator sport; you are in constant risk of being swept away by a flash flood when "in" the Virgin river.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

OH... we all have pics of blue herons, but the B&W is stunning!

DhoyM said...

both are beautiful but I prefer the B&W.