Interpretation

November 17, 2019

Colour photograph of the sun setting in Frederick, MD.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There really is a fundamental choice between working in colour and working in BW.  One of those points worth considering is how the viewer will interpret the image.  For example, in the photograph above, it is readily apparent that this is light at the extreme of a day-it happens to be a sunset, although it could have been a sunrise.  (This scene, though, is looking west, so that would be a giveaway that this is a sunset.)  The tell-tale colours make the point.  The hues provide a sense of “warmth”, which may then produce a feeling of comfort.

BW photograph of the sun setting in Frederick, MD.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

If, however, you take the same scene, but create a BW image, the visual clue of the colour is eliminated.  The tonal qualities of the clouds could now be signifying incoming weather.  This is a much starker rendition and creates a very different “feel” to the scene.  To me, it is still beautiful, though.  I like the purity that comes with BW.

It is important to know that neither photograph presents the “reality” of the moment.  The colour photograph was made using the Velvia emulation, which produces very saturated colours-they were not quite this rich.  The BW version was made using the Acros emulation with a green filter to darken the clouds a bit.  Most see in colour, so a BW photograph automatically changes the perception of the viewer.  The focal length used also provided a narrower field of view than would the human eye.  In both cases, to avoid over-exposing the sky, the foreground elements were allowed to record as deep shadows/silhouettes-the eye has a much broader dynamic range and could therefore present much greater detail in those darker areas.  I am fine with the silhouettes.  There are a number of techniques that could be used to hold detail in both the sky and the foreground, but I do not like to do so.  These images are more dramatic.

At this point in my career, I tend to immediately think about the BW version of any scene.  My cameras are configured to align with that preference.  Therefore, it takes a conscious effort to make the changes necessary to create a colour image.  (Sometimes, I neglect to do so as it does not occur to me.)  That is one of the advantages of shooting digital-one camera provides all of the options.  When shooting film, I often carried two bodies-one with colour slide film (Velvia, when photographing the natural world), and one with BW film (usually, TMAX 100).  That system was useful, but sometimes created a problem with the lens I wanted being paired with the film I didn’t.

It is helpful for the photographer to have a clear intent in mind for the final image.  That may, or may not, include the interpretations of the view.

Take care.

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