« Color Pictures vs. Pictures in Color vs. Pictures of Colors | Main | Color and Black and White »

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Comments

Most but not all B&W shots of flowers strike me roughly the way the B&W version of your extended back yard strikes you (and me, in fact). Some shots actually do require color. This is certainly true for record shots, and I think it's true for art as well.

One problem is that most of us, I believe, have accepted that what constitutes "good art" is a matter of personal opinion, subjective. And in fact people clearly disagree a lot. This makes it hard to exhibit examples to good effect—lots of people will disagree with the categorization of the examples. Not exhibiting examples leaves it very likely that we're not talking about the same things. (And the potential hurt of using anything as a bad example, of course. If it's an accepted classic by an artist long dead it's probably okay though.)

Is this a trick?

The B&W image is not any better or worse than the purple one, only a bit different.

[I don't think so at all. But maybe you think so because you can't see the original. There are a lot of colors in the top shot. The earth and sky are different blues, and there's a horizontal band of more reddish blue at about the level of the moon. --Mike]

Interesting dilemma. I am doing something a little different. I am carrying my fuji x100s everywhere. I have it set to B+W jpg + RAW. I like looking at the composition in the black and white and then thinking about what color I want in the scene. Back in Lightroom I have been flagging photos to work on later. Some I will work on in color and some in black and white. I don't have a printer or the time to print right now. However, I prefer to let the "negatives" sit for awhile before I go to the next step.
I may start printing some images on my office printer to get a sense of them on paper.
The nice thing about doing your own work is that you can follow your own rules. And you can change those rules.

Re: colour vs black and white

Let the picture decide. That's a great feature digital gives us - we can shoot everything with one camera, and then later let the picture tell us it it will be better in black and white or colour.

Mike, I like the B&W version. To me two elements make this an intriguing picture.
The curve of the top of the hill and the moon. Without the moon it is a less interesting shot. Your eye can wander the landscape but that moon keeps pulling you back.

Hey Mike, I think you are falling into the starting-sentences-with-the-word-"so" trap. Maybe it's intentional, but as you are likely aware this is one of the banes of our times. (It is making NPR almost unlistenable.) See here:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3029762/how-a-popular-two-letter-word-is-undermining-your-credibility

http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/7360278/its-so-annoying/

The scourge started in Silicon Valley many years ago and has since infested the whole nation, if not the whole English-speaking world. As I said, you may be doing it for a reason but I just wanted to point it out in a friendly way, just in case you aren't but are falling into the dreaded trap.

Thanks very much and best regards.

It seems to me that the one camera and one lens is already about discarding all possible photographs that cannot be made with that one lens and camera. Further restricting to just B&W is not throwing out half of good photographs you might make in a year, but forcing you to make more and better B&W photographs. Maybe by concentrating, you will actually make more good photographs than if you try to do both color and B&W. This is just like restricting to one lens will force you to make more and better photographs with that one lens.

Around Christmas last year, I decided to only make B&W photos for a while (I haven't really done that since switching to digital from B&W film a few years ago). I've looked at a few photos in their color version and some look more life-like and richer in color, but I can't say that any are good photographs in color and not in B&W. A good photograph is a good photograph. A boring one is a boring one.

Maybe it is my color vision limitations talking, but I don't see your color and B&W versions of your photograph as being very different. I like the tones of the B&W version just at well as the color one. I also think both are a bit boring, sorry.

If we start with the world as it is and agree that a photograph is a very small subset of that world – a representation that comes from excluding most of the “information” available to the photographer. Cameras are very limited. Limited field of view. Limited depth of focus. Limited resolution. Limited dynamic range. Limited sensitivity.

Photographers work within these limitations to create representations of the world by selecting what will be shown or more correctly what will be excluded. It is this act of exclusion or editing that directs or bends or focuses or creates a point of view that the viewer may find pleasing or informative or disturbing or interesting or disgusting. Including or excluding color is one of the photographer’s tools.

Taking one of the photographer’s tools away may lead to many fine color-free photographs and some will be better that way. But many color photographs will never be made. They will be forever unseen. And we’ll never know what we missed.

I think that the photographer should put into the camera the best picture his skills allow and decide later, sitting at the computer, how best to finish it.

Two cameras, one for colour, one for black and white.

In days of old where "we" of a certain age wanted both; a common platform, a pair of cameras with the same lenses, mounted side by side, one common shutter release, each took the same/similar image. One in black and white, one on Kodachrome slide film. Then wind both cameras and set up for the next image.

Now with digital recording device,
two cameras/similar lenses, one colour, one black and white. One shutter release both shutters fire together, voila, two images one in colour one in black and white.
Quite simple, really.

By picking one lens, you're giving up on some pictures, with the hope you'll see others you might have missed. That's the nature of constraints. Perhaps committing to colour or B&W will similarly encourage you to see more opportunities that way. You won't miss photographs, you'll take different ones.

You can have your cake and eat it too, you know. Unless you are using a modified camera or a Leica Monochrome, the RAW files it captures will be in color.

So for the next year, you process them as B&W photos and once your project is over, you go back and process them again as color photos.

If some of the photos you care about really need to be in color, then they'll likely be good enough that they can wait a year for their chance to shine with no harm done...

"I don't take very many good pictures. Good pictures are rare gifts, and only come along every once in a while."

I am SO glad you said that. So, it's not just me.

Good pictures not only are rare gifts - they come often as a total surprise, when I thought I was just "documenting."

"So anyway, one thing I really do hate is mixing up B&W and color pictures in the same portfolio."

Perhaps your challenge isn't to shoot OC/OL/OY, but to challenge your notions about what should be in a portfolio?

Doing a project like this seems to be for naught if you are going to break it out into different groups solely based on the color data.

According to your preferences, most of your picks will be B&W, but the ones that need to be color should be in color. Let them stand side-by-side each other.

I think that wholesale limitations of gear (one lens, one camera, only color or BW) can be fine short-term exercises for photography students and occasionally for more experienced photographers. However, once you get to a certain point — a point at which you have undoubtedly reached and surpasses — giving up the ability to make photographs you want to make in the way you want to make them for a full year seems to offer more gains than losses.

Take care,


Dan

Your color versus bw preference: sometimes your have to accept what reality is giving you.

'As in,
"You're a really good bass player."
"I know but I prefer guitar." '

See what I mean?

It is that which everyone criticizes about the Leica M Monochrom that makes it such a great camera: it only shoots black and white. Color photographs don't exist, so you are intentionally looking for black and white photographs. This is an enormous amount of distraction taken off your mind.

Oh and also, I firmly believe that mixing black and white and color will water down the original idea of OC/OL/OY. It needs to be OC/OL/OY/One "Film Stock."

Personally, I've always found the choice between color or black and white to be pretty straightforward in my photography.

I would estimate that 95% of the time I know if a photograph will end up as B&W or color at the time I press the shutter; the photograph will work in one or the other, and the vast majority of the time I know that at the time of capture. I don't have a bias or a preference for one or the other, it strictly depends on the scene/subject being photographed.

And the decision is pretty simple, based on "process" (for the most part, although there always exceptions):

Street and architectural photography: B&W

Landscape, urbex, and motor racing photography: color

Editorial/product: Estimated 50/50, even more dependent on subject/content. These also may be toned or desaturated/grunged up. Again, driven by content.

Perhaps this all comes from early influences from cinema; I have two "Ten Best Films of All Time" lists: one for B&W films, and one for color films. Those directors also knew before shooting started if the film would be in color or B&W.

While I agree that most portfolios work best most often in either in color or in B&W, I don't see it as a limitation for OC/OL/OY. Just separate the images from that time frame into two separate portfolios. I see OC/OL/OY as a "project", but that project can be realized as two distinct portfolios. In fact, it lends an interesting twist to the concept: in what ways do the portfolios differ in subject matter/sensibility depending on whether it is the B&W or color portfolio from the OC/OL/OY project?

Lastly, I absolutely love Julie's idea of setting up her Fuji X100S for B&W Jpegs and (color) RAW files. I am going to set up my X100T for that mode straightaway. Thanks, Julie!


@ Joe Holmes- Agreed, a hodgepodge of B&W and color does neither justice. And although I can see square and rectangular compositions more or less simultaneously, I really struggle to visualize the latter and panoramics with such relative ease.

Interesting how most people have an aversion for mixing colour/BW in a portfolio and still everybody seemed to love the Caponigro father/son print...

Regarding whether you work best in colour or B&W... don't listen to what others say. Maybe they're right in some "popular appeal" way, but everyone has to shoot the way they prefer if they have any pretensions to having their own vision. Don't pander to other people, don't follow the crowd or what gets more thumbs up, satisfy only your own aesthetic needs. There will always be an audience , it might just be a bit smaller, but you'll be true to yourself.

Working in b+w means working in b+w all the time, including the seeing (before raising and pointing the camera). Probably you would not have seen an image in that situation, and nothing was lost.

Every picture tells a story, and every good story needs a hero. In this landscape the hero is the beautiful deep blue colour, that even gets more interesting by the addition of the black of the forrest and tiny pale yellow spot of the moon. Taking out the blue is a Robin movie without Batman.

In the portrait of Liszt by Nadar (10 February) the hero is obviously the endearing look in the eyes. You can reduce the warts in his face and skilfully ad colours but it does not get any better.

---

Here is a nice exercise. Search images on the web by using the following criteria:
1. Photography. Your browser will show mainly photographs with shallow depth of field in unnatural colours.
3. Colour. A high score of abstract images in primary colours.
2. Colour photography. Mainly photos of M&M's, balloons and colour pencils here.
4. Creativity. Drawings (no photographs) of clouds, inkblots and M&M's, in many cases pooring out of brains.
5. Creative photography. Obviously done by surrealists. Mostly ghostly.
6. Art. Here you will get only kitsch in fluorescent paint.
7. Art photography. Now, that's really interesting. According to a vast mojority art photographers are surrealists who prefer black and white.

got a working setup with oly em10

red chan. sunny day setup esp metering lower contrast

green chan. dull day average metering
saved in myset

with manual lenses

see kirk tuck's effort

saved jpg & raw

my 5cents

john gee

For me, maybe the answer is simple. Try try try to do one (color for me) and accept that sometimes the other way just screams "use me".
People able to religiously stick to one way (at anything) are productive, undistracted, but being able to block out any doubt maybe cuts off options?

Ironic as a colour photographer that you turned me on to the excellent B&W abilities of the Fuji.

I still shoot in colour mostly, but I can at least delve into B&W now when it seems appropriate and produce something that doesn't look like a pencil sketch.

Just a thought on mixing color & B&W - peoples' reluctance to do so has created a weird phenomena on photographers' home pages where you have, for example, categories like Nature, Cars, People and then B&W (with B&W photos on the same topics, but mixed). I'd actually prefer mixing color with B&W in this case.

Your color/black & white example reminds me of when I was working at a portrait studio that had it's own color lab back in the 70's. We used to experiment with printing black & white negs that seemed drab, in color, with a color hue. While there may be a lot of color subtleties I'm not seeing on my computer screen in your examples, a person certainly could have printed that black & white neg (in the olden days) with a blue hue for a more striking effect!

I think it's curious how we, or at least some of us, are prone to what can be termed "hang ups". From what I've gleaned from your past posts, I think I share your reluctance to convert color to b&w unless I've gone out with the intent of shooting b&w (I'll do it, but it feels wrong). And I don't really like mixing up b&w and color work together, but at the same time, color versus b&w is an overly simple/trivial differentiation (I much prefer to look at work by photographers who present themed portfolios in which everything in a given portfolio is one or the other). Same with books. I don't care for books that mix the two. In modern portfolios, particularly by amateurs, I'm inclined to think that the b&w conversions were done to save lousy color photos.

FWIW, I agree entirely with your assessment of the two versions of the photo you posted.

Reading the comments, I work much differently than some of the others. I almost never make a really successful photo unless I am thinking "in" color or black and white while I'm shooting. Aside from the huge issue of color, my thinking on light, tonal scale and overall composition are much different.

Through my years in film I thought of myself as a black and white photographer, but once Photoshop and home printers gave me full control over color I switched. There was no conscious thought involved - I just looked at my photos one day and realized they were almost all in color.

These days the only consistent monochrome I do is people - portraits and figure work - where I usually find color distracting. So I leave out the color unless the picture needs it - say for the subject's environment or clothing.

As to the idea of shooting and deciding later about color, it just doesn't work for me. I need to visualize the end result while I'm working (thank you Ansel) to be at the top of my game. I almost never change my mind about a color photo after it's in the computer, but will admit there are a few times a year I use color in an image I planned in black and white.

By the way, I'm with you on your example photo. The color version is, for me, an interesting photo. I like it. The monochrome just lies there.

OC/OL/OY is a set of arbitrary parameters. They're well-chosen to focus your photographic attention and filter extraneous noise. Want a sharper focus? — go with one "film stock" as Bernd Reinhardt suggests. Want a little more bokeh to the project? — allow colour. You're the arbiter — choose.

I think you've created an artificial problem for yourself by bringing in the question of creating a one portfolio or two. (On the whole I agree with you about the disturbing nature of mixing colour with monochrome, though sometimes a very limited section of colour images in a collection of monochromes can be like having a sweet dessert after three weeks of only "main course" meals.) But why limit yourself to two portfolios? If you have 100 good photographs you can mix and match five different portfolios…or twenty.

Grouping your photographs into collections is a different exercise from making the photographs in the first place. If you want to group them before you make them — "I will only photograph urban landscapes, or redheads, or twins, or…" — your photographic focus is going to be razor-thin.

Your game — you make the rules.

Hmmm...when I look at the color picture I agree with you that the image HAS to be in color. When I see the B&W version, I'm drawn to the curve of the trees...so the bland, snowy foreground is wasted space (so to speak). What to do? Since I seem to see shapes before color, my B&W conversion would create a panorama, losing 80% or so of the snowy foreground, to emphasize the tree line. In the color version, the snowy foreground has real interesting information: the colors. In the original B&W version, there's little interesting information. Try it, please, and let us know what you think. I find this issue/problem fascinating ever since I figured out how I see: shapes and lines, then color, unless the color is the dominant feature. I often find that color is a distraction in an image, unless the specific color(s) are important to the content of the image. But that's me.

Mike, if you were really going to challenge yourself, you'd put a nice, consumer-grade, narrow-aperture superzoom on the camera...

Once again, Kenneth Tanaka "nailed it".

Thanks, Ken!

One has to *think* in black and white before shooting black and white. That doesn't mean one has to have a special mindset for monochromatic, but one needs to judge very carefully whether a scene will work in black and white. The reason your 'scenic' doesn't work is because one doesn't associate the foreground with snow; were it brighter and it might have worked, because it's nicely composed and the theme lends itself to a black and white reading.
That said I hold nothing against colour. Quite the opposite. Yet in order for a colour picture to work, colour has to be the main subject of interest in the scene. There's no point in photographing a sunset in black and white because people who like sunset pictures (count me out: they're cheesy...) expect to see that big, lovely orange glow. Some pictures just don't work without colour.
If one's really into colour, however, he/she must be aware that no digital camera can get even close to Fuji colour positives. Especially if it comes from 120 rolls. (Sorry, couldn't help the film propaganda.) And no amount of post-processing can replicate the greens from Fuji slides. They're just inimitable.

So, my wife started a sentence with "so" tonight (here I'm referring to PacNW's comment above), and it seemed appropriate. To my ears, it was like, "get ready, here comes a story." Which is the way you seemed to use it.
So (aka, therefore), a blanket indictment of its use might have just so-so validity.

And so on.

Dear Erik,

You can certainly put black and white and color together when the photographs have something to say to each other or they're part of a larger narrative. The thing is, there should be an artistic purpose to it, as with the Caponigro pairing or the series of collaborations I did with Laurie Toby Edison ( http://ctein.com/collaborations.htm ). The problem with simply tossing them together in a portfolio with no such message is that it makes the portfolio look even more incoherent, and that's not the way to make a good impression.

It's another matter when it serves a specific purpose. For instance, if you were going for certain kinds of commercial assignments, I can imagine building a portfolio where you photographed the same subjects effectively in both black-and-white and color and present paired photographs, to demonstrate to the client that you are adept in both media. Of course, your work better be equally good in black-and-white and color…


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
======================================

I would shoot only B&W for the OC/OL/OY project, but save the Raw files (with color) that could be revisited after the year was up.
Working for a year with B&W should be a powerful learning experience.

'I'm sorry the phrase "separate but equal" has such unavoidable political connotations and associations. It's not a phrase you can use.'

I’d say the phrase has denotations rather than connotations. Plessy vs. Ferguson, Brown vs. Board of Education. These Supreme Court decisions are why people know the phrase at all. They are important moments in our country’s history. It’s a little bit like saying I”m sorry I can’t refer to the 4th of July as just another day in summer. :-)

The comments to this entry are closed.