Monday, August 10, 2015

The black and white vs. color quandary

The Black and White vs. Color Quandary
It was a magical moment. Twilight was falling, the lake was as still as a mirror, the women doing yoga on their paddle boards were serenely quiet, and Lake Wingra was bathed in muted pastels, with a layer of ground fog in the distance. I snapped the shutter.

Then my problems began. I was shooting for a mood of calm serenity, but what best expressed it -- black and white, or color? Usually when I take a photo I know pretty clearly which will best portray the subject -- color if the color is an integral part of the image, black and white if things like form, line and/or concept seem more important. This time I really wasn't sure.

Paddleboard Yoga

On the one hand, the muted pastels are lovely and seem to support the mood of serenity. On the other hand, the colors would be just as pretty if the women weren't in the picture. I worried that it might be dismissed as just another pretty picture of the lake at twilight.

The black and white seems to focus more on the meditating women and the repetition of the forms of the paddle boards. To my eye, it communicates serenity without the distraction of the pretty pastels. But compared to the color version, it seems a bit somber (though I'd be happy with it if I hadn't seen the color image -- not an issue with film, where you make the decision to shoot black and white before taking the picture).

I still can't make up my mind. What do you think? Which do you like the most? Why?


Chris Williams said...

In the black & white, I see the details of clothing, the reflections, the heads (one woman looking at the far shore), the mist on the shore, the sun through the clouds.

The color reveals different things: the orange floats, the sun's reflection in the water, the summer colors. If i'd only seen this version, I would have looked for a moment and found it a pleasant image.

The B&W draws me back for a deeper viewing that goes below what the colors hide, into the shapes and tones where I can feel the serenity you sensed when you captured this photograph.

Peter Patau said...

Chris, thanks for your thoughtful, nuanced comments. You articulated some things I felt but couldn't quite express.