I cannot imagine what a world without colorful trees, mountains, flowers, animals
and even buildings would look like.
On this blog, I have tried to stress texture and tone in our photographs. That
having been said, I have certainly also wrote much about color. Not just the color
of birds, butterflies, flowers or rock, but the color of light. High color is exciting.
Still, there is value in not only tone and texture, but in the art of eliminating
color in order to ‘see” what we are missing. What the color is covering up. So to
Black and white photography was born out of necessity. We did not yet know how to record color. When color finally hit the scene, bit by bit monotone images became old fashioned. It was all about the color.
Eventually, some began to return to black and white. We realized, that it can be an art form in and of itself.
I spent years creating black and white images. Mostly for car racing newspapers, but also for art type images of old farm machinery, old cars, old buildings and on. Notice a theme there? I developed my own film, and printed my own images. I realized via some Ansell Adams and Dorthea Lange photos, there was a different sort of art in black and white, but art just the same.
The images you see below, were mostly digital color originals with a few born as color transparencies.
Robbing an image of the color of a flower, or the red colors of Navaho Sandstone, or sunrise and sunset, or crisp blue skies, actually takes some nerve. Of course, I can just go back to the original file and show them in full color.
Still, there is art in shape, texture and tone. If there is art in obvious color, can there not be art in less obvious, colorless black and white?
Removing the colors not only of the red rock you would see below in this Native American ruin, but also the colors of an early sun, and a contrasting clear blue sky, seems a horrible thing to do.
There is something to be gained by reducing this ruin to texture, light and shadow.
Something’s lost but something’s gained.
This ancient American Indian ceremonial Kiva, has not only a warm color of rock, but that sun shining down provided some warm tones too. Still, in some respects reducing this scene to colorless detail actually helps make for an “old feeling” to the image. Much like an old movie western, or one with the castles of jolly old England, sometimes black and white provides us with a more stark and antiquated mood and atmosphere.
Age, is in many ways a “feeling” we get. This 19th Century workshop is in reality pretty much gray tones to begin with. A black and white rendition seemed appropriate.
The older the building, and the more stark the scene, the more the grayscale feels right.
I have walked over and photographed this now long gone old footbridge many times. I have rendered my images in both color and monotone gray scale. In my opinion, this twisted, creaky bridge lived and will live forever in black and white. Color images of this subject seem almost blasphemous.
Turning an extremely colorful landscape into black and white is not something every photographer would do. I of course always retain a full color file but art comes in many forms and I have never seen a reason to limit myself.
Texture and/or dramatic clouds are synonymous with these next four photos. Being void of color does not mean there need be a lack of contrasts. Gray in different shades, and contrasts which live in photographs as dark against light, bring drama while the lack of color can mean fewer distractions.
The picture below is admittedly a sort of strange landscape. Our perspective which is way above the river that runs through the valley, causes us to care less about things like warm or cool colors. I actually like this colorless version better than the original. It keeps our attention on things like angle and distance.
The only real color that is in the original file of this waterfall, is a little from those fallen leaves. The rock is near black and the water is either white or black, depending on where you look. This image is mainly about angles and white water and black rock.
The full color original of this image did show some subtle but beautiful color in the clouds above those mountains. I liked it but this is a worthwhile black and white just the same. Very subtle but moody.
I will admit, a colorful flower rendered in black and white is a bit strange. There is very little change in tone anywhere in this scene. That’s why I changed the image to black and white. The continuous tonal values are unique and I do like unique. Only the texture differences between the flower and background bring to us separation, which then adds dimension.
Do you like the conversion to black and white in this next scene?
There is a secret about this snow image. It is not a conversion. You might think that I mean that I shot the photo in black and white but the truth us, this is a full color image. As you see it.
It was a cool and overcast day. The subject is snow on the ground, snow on the trees, and dark tree trunks. If you look carefully at the second tree trunk you can see some brown tones. That’s the only color you can find in this color image.
So sometimes full color images are made up only of the tones of black and white. I mean, white in a color image, if it does not reflect any colors from other objects, is white. The same for black.
It would surely be sad to go back to a photographic world without color. I have banked much of my own photography on vivid, eye-popping color.
However, the absence of one thing, in this case color, does not mean an absence of being interesting or of value.
True in photography, true in life.
Off and on over the years I have commented on my support for the free enterprise system. I have also criticized and even made fun of some businesses. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.
It has been said by some over the years, that democracy as a form of government, is a very poor one. Then they add, it’s too bad all the others are so much worse. I agree. Free enterprise is very similar.
Free enterprise is to some degree, an adversarial concept between business and customer. They may say they are doing this for your good, or they make that product to make your life easier, but they are not telling the truth. They are doing what they do, to enrich themselves, and to become a success.
That does not mean that what they are selling is no good, only that it exists largely for selfish motives. Which is not necessarily bad either. When we buy their goods or services, we do not do it to help them, we do it for our own selfish motives. We want or need that. Or we will be entertained or enlightened by that.
How much do you and I really care abut that business? How much do they really care about making our lives better or more fun?
It’s not about warm fuzzy feelings, it is about each of us getting what we want and/or need. They have to be diligent and tough, and so do we.
It works, flaws and all, when we are both aware of the truth, and we accept it and each play our roles well.
In this generation of business, like in all that came before, there are often poor ideas being put forth under the smoke of it being good for us, or at least better than before. That’s not new except that many of those ideas come forth minus common sense. In the past, we have had many, maybe more dishonest businesses than today, but also more simple common sense. That is not a surprise, because while some common sense is inherent, some is taught. Many, not all, but many, of those who teach, are lacking in common sense themselves and therefore they cannot pass it along.
One new feature to businesses that few had before, is employees who are paid only to come up with new ideas. I did not say that it is bad to encourage and enrich employees who come up with new ideas. If that is your fulltime job, and it is all you do to earn your living, what happens when you haven’t come up with an idea in a week? If you are packing boxes for a living, as long as you have boxes to pack, you are earning your wages. You are going to correctly think that your bosses are going to wonder what they are paying you for. So, you come up with a bad idea, or any sort of idea, to make it okay. Your boss wants to please his/hers boss, so they say look, we have got a new plan. In the end, too many of those bad ideas wind up in the market place.
Free enterprise both works and does not work, because of the human element and the desire for taking care of our self and our own first, whether we be the maker or the buyer.
Buyer beware, and seller too.
If my life is fruitless, it doesn’t matter who praises me, and if my life is fruitful, it doesn’t matter who criticizes me.