I suppose my love of black and white imagery stems from the darkroom. I was never really interested in colour printing, then once I became a portrait and wedding photographer I was forced into it. I used to print much of my own work, this was a dark period of my life, not only printing colour but photographing people!
My output for over thirty years has been predominantly black and white. I am working on a series called ‘Urban Forest Nation’ which looks at trees in the man made environment. This was supposed to run along side the Forest Nation series, which was exhibited and publish in 2015. It is still not finished.
One of my students once accused me of not seeing the world in colour. The exploratory shooting trip I am currently on in Spain and Portugal is making me see things in a different way. The light is so different to the light in Britain, it is sharper and colours are less muted. This trip is serving its purpose, I am changing my shooting style. Our next visit, which will be to specific areas, will mean that I will be able to start with a preconceived plan, a concept to work to.
This is the image that started the doubt, thanks to comments from my friend, and fellow photographer, Kevin. The black and white has all of the characteristics that I look for in my subjects. The pools of light, the range of tones, the atmosphere. I remember getting quite excited by the image while I was editing it. I do not edit a great deal, manly the actions that I would carry out in the darkroom. I edge the image, tweak the contrast, add some local contrast control, a bit of burning and dodging, some dust removal, but no editing of the subject, no removing items. I also try and work full frame, sometimes it is essential to rotate the image slightly, but I try to limit the cropping to that.
I am increasingly favouring the colour version. It is certainly has a less harsh feel, the tones welcome the viewer rather than intimidate slightly. The lighter greens appeal, while the dark black areas in the first version add a barrier, a area of uncertainty. The definition in the tree canopies seems to be better in colour, shades of green and brown being defined, rather than similar greys merging.
Taken in the same area as the previous image I was aiming at a similar result. I saw tis image as black and white from conception. I was worried that the graffiti on the wall would distract. I feel that the viewers gaze is taken straight to the wall, but it doesn't linger. The movement of light through the image means that the eye explores, being drawn back to the patches of sunlight in the foreground. The graffiti on the tree is more pronounced in the colour, which adds a balance between foreground and background.
One of the aspects of this composition that initially attracted me was the pool of diffused light in the foreground. This is lost, to a certain extent, in the monotone version. The warmth of the ground cover contrasts with the cooler green of the background and emphasises the depth, without the reliance on dark tones.
The eucalyptus seems to stand out more in the colour version of this image. There seems to be more depth as the tones of the tree are close to the tones of the undergrowth in the black and white.
Im still unsure about this image, I still prefer the black and white. I feel the colour distracts from the textures, which was my prime reasoning behind the composition. the light pool looses too much in the colour, it looks as if, which it was, over exposed. This does not seems as distracting in the black and white version.
After reflection I believe that the way to progress this project could well be to use colour. I will have to see how I react to future locations, that of course is the advantage of digital. I would still like to shoot in film, if I could afford the cost and the time.