As an addendum to my last post on the virtues of black and white images, I offer this “simple” comparison. Below are two photographs: the first is the original color version of an area in Lower Antelope Canyon (one of my favorite places). The second is the black and white conversion of the same image.
In color, it’s a good picture, I think. And I’d be the first to say that the color here is not in any way “distracting”. In fact, it could be argued that this image is about color and the way it changes in an environment like this. (Remember – the sandstone in this slot canyon is structurally pretty much the same throughout. The color changes that the camera “sees” are the result of its interpretation of white balance across the frame.) The left side of the frame is a reddish orange while the right side and center (as you move along the path) is a purplish magenta. Color is the first thing you see here, I think, and if you remember the image at all, it will probably be because of the color.
Again, this is the same image in black and white. I like this version as well, and I’ll tell you why. When I took this picture, it was because of the unique structure in front of me. There are two openings in the path shown here, one more or less embedded in the other (pictorially). The first and closest one is an egg-shaped opening going from the floor of the slot canyon to its roof at that point. The second opening is a smaller one a few feet up the path. To continue walking here, you have to bend down to get through it (especially if you’re 6′ 6″ tall).
In any case, it was this formation that I was photographing. At that moment in time, capturing color was not my intent. In my opinion, the formation is far more visible in the black and white image. Perhaps that’s because your mind isn’t reacting immediately to the reds and the purples. Or maybe the striations in the sandstone are more tonally obvious. I don’t know. Given my original “intent”, however, the black and white version might be the better choice.
Potential viewers, of course, most likely know nothing about what I was thinking when I made this photograph. What they might see in this image lies strictly in their own interpretation. I have nothing to say about it.
So which one is better? In this case, I simply don’t know. Or maybe they both suck. That’s always a possibility, right? For now, maybe I’ll just flip a coin…………