Seeing things in Black and White

The light was good at the farm on Friday.

I had Lia and Ané, along with their friend Mikhe, with me for a photoshoot. It was late afternoon and we were heading into the ‘golden hour’, that time of day when the shadows get long and the light warms, giving everything a golden glow.


It’s a time of day that is much favoured by photographers, not only because of the colour of the light but because the light also becomes ‘softer’ (the sun castes less-hard-edged shadows).  The photos worked really well: gorgeous colours and soft transitions from shadow to light. The perfect combination for great portraits.


I like playing with my photos though and I was soon experimenting with converting them to monochrome. I’ve always loved black and white photos and these just seemed to be begging for the treatment. Taking away colour allows all the other aspects of a photograph to show off. The shadows, the textures and the shapes all get their chance to grab our attention.  Just look how black and white brings out the beautiful forms of Ané’s face and neck when the colour is gone.


Taking the colours away allows us to see the details and enjoy other aspects of an image. Simplifying changes what is important and allows the viewer to appreciate different aspects of an image. We live in a world where colour is used to grab our attention. Just look at the difference between these next two photos of Ané with a backdrop of dead creeper branches. Suddenly, it’s all about the similar texture of her hair and the creepers. When there was colour, her hair was separate because of its colour.



We can get very philosophical about this because it applies to so many things in life. I find myself focussing on the most obvious aspects of a problem, person, object or event at the expense of other characteristics. I know I lose perspective and understanding by doing this but it’s how my mind works. It takes effort to prune back the layers and appreciate them for what they are, individually.

When things get complicated and we feel overwhelmed, it helps to peel the layers back so we can see what each layer is contributing. Getting rid of the obvious and the brightest gets us in touch with the structure of the thing.

Good luck and enjoy. Let me know in the comments how this applies to you.



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