More playing around

We humans with our superb color vision seem inordinately fond of bright, colorful images.  Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes the color tones in a multi-hued bright image almost distract from the message, and other times the colors are so monochromatic, the scene is almost monotonous instead of dramatic.  In these instances, sometimes conversion to black and white format is useful to keep the viewer’s eye focused on image content.

I thought the New Mexican landscapes were stunning and spectacular, but I didn’t feel the color version of my photos did justice to the drama of those scenes, so I played around with some of the images to see whether B&W conveyed the message any better.  What do you think?

chimney rock-Ghost Ranch-

This is the famous and frequently photographed Chimney Rock, viewed from the trail at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, NM.  With scenes like this shot at mid-day, the landscape gets flat and even highly sculpted rocks lack detail.

chimney rock-Ghost Ranch-

The same scene converted first to B&W using a red filter, and then with a sepia tone added.

red rocks-Ghost Ranch-

There are a lot of objects drawing viewer attention here — perhaps away from the cleaved rock in the foreground.  The purpose of the photo was to showcase this dramatic split rock standing alone among the shrubs in this grassy plain.

red rock-Ghost Ranch-

Does this version work better?

Mt. Pedernal-Ghost Ranch

Often photographed from this and other angles, Mt. Perdernal, a flat-topped mesa of chert in the background, was one of Georgia O’Keefe’s favorite landscape subjects.  Lake Abiquiu is remarkably high, due to recent monsooon rainstorms here.  In this case, I really like the contrast of the purple mountains in the background and the red rocks in the foreground in the color version.

georgia-okeeffe-lake abiquiu and pedernal peak

One of many landscapes of Pedernal Mountain painted by Georgia O’Keefe — this one from roughly the same vantage point as my photograph.

Mt. Pedernal-Ghost Ranch

I’m not sure the B&W conversion adds to this scene. What do you think?

Note added:  This is the 900th post on Backyard Biology!

15 thoughts on “More playing around

  1. Congratulations on all your wonderful posts! I like both the color and the b/w photos for different reasons. The first picture has nice complementary colors. The black and white pictures

    • Thanks for your comments, Margaret. I do like both the color and the B&W, but for different reasons. More experimentation is needed, to bring out the best, though.

  2. It’s a great idea to compare the picture with the painting. I prefer the colour version of the last picture but agree that black and white is generally bolder.

  3. I think the black and white conversion works best with the first image–it gives it a timeless sense, a kind of old-fashioned beauty. In the other two shots, the images are a bit “busy” and it’s hard in black and white to keep us focused on the red rocks. In particular, the contrast between the purple mountains and the red rocks in the color version is much more apparent. My general feeling is that black and white landscapes work best when the compositional elements are as simple as possible, allowing the lines and shapes and textures to dominate (though that is often easier said than done).

    • I think I agree with your assessment. I’m still trying to find out when the monochromatic conversion works best. Thanks for your comments, Mike.

      • You’re welcome, Sue. My mind this week has been on black and white and I even shot and developed a 35mm roll of black and white film. I am still waiting to scan it to see how I did though I am happy that I can see the individual frames on the the film strips, so I didn’t totally mess it up.

        • Whoa, you’ve gone “old school”, going back to film. Some of the folks in my Arcanum cohort have gone that way for B&W photography. At this point, I couldn’t stand the suspense, but I will be anxious to see your results. Did you shoot digital along with the film camera to compare?

        • I did shoot digital of similar shots without intending to a direct comparison (in part because I was using my digital camera as a light meter). I’ll probably do a posting about the experience and the initial results soon.

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