growing old, haiku, photography, tanka

Going Gray?

Some photos need color, some are better in grayscale (aka “black and white”), and many are good either way.  Here are some examples and a tanka that touches on the symbolism of color in general.  Visit the links to see more examples.
(BTW, the [Menu] button atop the vertical black bar reveals the widgets.)

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Bare Branches
|Some go to grayscale
|when form is “all” that matters.
|I keep azure skies.
|My world will gray soon enough.
|I keep color and press on.

If somebody chooses to emphasize form and texture in a photo of bare branches by going to grayscale, I am likely to disagree with (but respect) that choice.  So far, I have always wanted to keep color in my own photos, often with minor adjustments in my photo editor.  Here are some examples where grayscale would be goofy:

Click on a thumbnail to see the full image in another tab.

While I have no qualms about really needing color in most of my own photos, there is more to be said about the ways various photographers have used color or grayscale.  Some examples follow.

A somber poem with grayness as a metaphor has been illustrated by a photo of a mostly gray scene.  But it is a color photo, and rightly so.  The subtle color is a reminder that the grayness is there in the scene, not an artifact of how the image is displayed.

Of course, I admire the photographic pioneers whose images were compelling despite then-obligatory grayscale.  Some classic photos are best left in grayscale anyway, and contemporary photographers may choose partial desaturation.  There are even a few photos that benefit from going all the way to true black and white, where every pixel is either pitch black or stark white.  Scroll down from the header image in Choices to see an example.

history, humor, photography

Gourds, Peppers, and Progress

Unpacking groceries prompts me to salute a milestone in photographic history.  Really.  Nagging gourds and sexy peppers have a lot to say about kinds of progress and accepting responsibility for choices, in photography and beyond.
(BTW, the [Menu] button atop the vertical black bar reveals the widgets.)

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§1: 2019-09-23

“Buy me!” says the wonderfully colored gourd.  I refuse:

“No, I’ve already bought what I need for this year’s fall decorations.  There’s no room for another gourd.”

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“But I’m new and special.  Look at the feathering between my greens.”

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“OK.”

I put the gourd in the cart, check out, and drive home.  As I unpack the groceries, I happen to set the new gourd down in a way that is vaguely reminiscent of a reclining nude.  Then I recall a milestone in photographic history.

§2: 1927 — 1930

Edward Weston’s meticulous closeup photos of scores of common objects (notably bell peppers) are marvels of imagination and ingenuity.  They also prompt one critic to remark that Weston’s peppers look like nudes while his nudes look like peppers.

Pepper-1930-30P

Weston works in grayscale (aka “black and white”).  The color of a pepper would only be a distraction anyway.  While people have various skin colors, nobody’s skin is red or green.

§3: 2019-09-27

“Buy us!” say 3 colorful gourds.  I refuse:

“No, I’ve already bought an extra gourd that I will use to salute Edward Weston.”

“Last year, U bought a total of 10.  We’ll just bring it up to 8.”

“Last year’s gourds were smaller and came in bags of 5.”

“Weston bought more than 30 peppers.”

“But he could eat them when he was done shooting.”

“Puhleeze!”

“OK.”

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I’m a pushover.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

§4: Now and Forever

Remember when cameras used analog film, color darkroom work was sorcery, and color prints faded under museum lighting?  Artistic photographers had to work in grayscale.  Viewers did not pine for color in the masters’ photos.

Sadly, some photographers mistook a temporary necessity for a permanent virtue.  Wanna create a colorful image?  Buy some tubes of paint.  Stick with grayscale for artistic photography.

The sweeping general assertion of grayscale’s intrinsic superiority was a gross insult to Eliot Porter (and to all who hiked the trails he blazed in color photography).

Some photos do look better in grayscale than in color.  Maybe something with interesting contours and textures happens to have distracting colors.  Grayscale is great for Weston’s peppers.

Sometimes progress replaces an old thing with a new one that is all-around better, as in the transition from analog film to digital pixels.  The transition from obligatory grayscale to color (in varying degress of saturation) is a subtler kind of progress that adds choices.  Lots of choices.

Photo editing software supports having some color classes or parts of an image be more saturated than others.  Done casually and obtrusively, it can be gimmicky.  Done carefully and subtly, it can work with other edits to greatly improve a photo.  One of the contemporary photographers I admire steps thru instructive examples:

What I Am Working On: Building Blocks

What I Am Working On: Fiddling

If U choose to desaturate a photo (either partially or all the way to grayscale), I may disagree with that choice.  I will still respect it, but only as a specific choice.  What I won’t respect is a blanket assertion that photos “should” be in grayscale.  Or in color.  Or have shallow depth of focus.  Or have everything in focus. Or whatever.

Here is one blanket pronouncement that I do respect, in photography and beyond:

Don’t hide behind sweeping generalities.
Own your choices.