Travel Photo Thursday: Is Black & White “The New Color”?

Travel Photo Thursday: Is Black & White “The New Color”?

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Orange Is The New Black is a popular TV series.

But except for the phrasing of its name and the title of this story, the show has nothing to do with photography.

When photographers used film cameras they had to make an important decision before going on a “shoot”: Load the camera with color or black and white film?

But in the age of digital photography, the question of whether to take (or “print”) a photo in black and white instead of color is more or less moot: You can do both with a single image.

One of America’s most renowned landscape photographers, Ansel Adams is best known for his black and white photographs of the American West. But even he shot in color from time to time.

If you had choose between photographing “nature” in black and white or color, which would you prefer?

The following series of matching black and white and color versions of photographs I took this past May in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks lets you decide which bests fit the scene depicted.

Granite Cliffs CollageWhere contrasts, lines, and shapes define the image, black and white seems to work best, as in this shot of granite cliffs above the Kings River in Kings Canyon National Park.

Moonrise CollageThe same is true of this shot in which the moon is seen rising over a cliff line angling upward from right to left.

Moro Rock Top CollageThis shot taken at the top of Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park incorporates a line of clouds intersecting the line of safety railings atop the rock, which itself is a line intersecting the ridge of mountains in the background. Color works fine for this shot, but black and white creates a more dramatic image.

Clouds Over Mts CollageThis shot of a thick layer of clouds overlaying clouds swirling above a mountain peak doesn’t work all that well in either color or black and white, but the contrast seems better in the color photo.

Gathering Clouds CollageThe color shot of clouds gathering over the mountains in Kings Canyon National Park in the late afternoon is softer and conveys a better sense of time of day, white the black and white image suggests that a strong storm may be approaching.

Snowy Trees CollageThe shape of the trees and the fact that they are snow-covered is what is important in this shot taken near Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park. Black and white seems best here.

Kings River Rapids CollageWarm tones in the color version of this photo of water flowing rapidly over boulders in the Kings River tell the viewer that it’s a sunny day. But the black and white version better emphasizes the flow of the river from bottom left to upper right of the image.

Muir Rock CollageJohn Muir allegedly sat on this rock along the edge of the Kings River near Road’s End in Kings Canyon National Park, and in a film shown in the park’s visitor center, an actor playing the role of Muir poses atop the rock.

The black and white version of the photo does a good job of replicating that pose, and leaves the viewer to ponder what the woman perched on the rock is thinking about as she gazes at the river flowing by. The color version diverts the viewer’s attention away from her and toward the rock and river.

Blazing Star CollageThe color shot of Blazing Star flowers blooming in Kings Canyon National Park as clouds accumulate over the mountains in the background wins out here. The black and white version does a better job of highlighting the clouds and mountains, but the flowers in the foreground need color to stand out.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots. Click here for more about the recent visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks by Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan.)

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3 Replies to “Travel Photo Thursday: Is Black & White “The New Color”?”

  1. I must admit that the only time I consider B & W is when I can’t get the photo to work for me in colour. Of the times I have used the end result B & W in a blog post they have received lots of positive comments. I like nature shots to be in colour and find B & W best for urban scenes that look too chaotic.

  2. Great study in contrasts, Dick. Side by side, these tell such different and interesting stories. I love B&W photos (usually other people’s) – they do make you ‘read’ more into the photo than color, I think.

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