My typical workflow when processing photographs is rather minimal; some cropping for them that needs it, a few presets adjusting contrast, saturation, brightness, sharpness, and maybe adding a frame. I have a couple of presets for Lightroom that will take the photo to neutral settings, and then run a macro in either onOne or DxO. I then look at the output, and I have a few more presets specifically for post-DxO or post-onOne processing. It sounds complicated and time consuming, but it’s not.
Occasionally I get an itch to travel different paths. For them who feel the same, here be some thoughts on my off-color travels.
Let me start by saying color photography is my overwhelming favorite. I am not colorblind, and I enjoy the variety of hues associated with, for instance, flowers.
That said, of the subjects that lend themselves to B&W processing, flowers rank high in my list. That’s because the architecture of flowers are nearly as interesting as the colors. Some might scold me for using the word “architecture” to describe the spatial relationship of flower parts. It’s my blog . . . amo take some liberties.
This next one is an example of a flower that is very striking in its color but that, in my opinion, also works in B&W.
Are you noticing something? I call them B&W but they are not B&W; some have a tint to them. For that matter, to be exact, B&W is not that either; it’s shades of gray. True B&W would be look a lot like an ink stamp.
Not only that, I call the next shot B&W even though its obviously not limited to shade of gray. Off-color processing is more involved and takes a lot longer specifically because different colors react differently in conversions to shades of gray. What works for one photo might not work for another.
Someone with a degree in art and visual presentation can give you the technical term for what I did there. My take on it is as follows; the photo looked a little flat. No drama, nothing to draw the eyes, nothing that grabs you by the short ha . . . er . . . grabs you by the shirt collar and tells you to look.
The splash of tepid yellow grabs your awareness and makes you take note of the picture; it forces the mind to characterize what its looking at, and it does so by introducing a surprise into the expected.
You can do something similar by the use of shadows and blacks . . . in this case, I’m trying to add drama to the mini story presented by the photo.
Tell me you look at the above and immediately don’t think of the following:
It knew its days were numbered. It knew its existence was fleeting, but with all its soulless being it struggled to make something of itself. No, it would not go quietly into the night, but rather face the scorching sun full-on, and live to the fullest. It’s better to burn out than to fade away! It would be the best flower it could be!
The secondary drama is that eventually it will fade away, shrivel up, drop to the ground, and rot. Now, ain’t that a powerful metaphor for human existence? No siree, you cain’t get there using colors; too festive, don’t you see?
Does B&W work for everything?
Photos with lots of details don’t seem to lend themselves to B&W treatments, at least not by me. That’s why I tried different things with the previous two photos.
Don’t believe me? OK, I’ll show you.
Take the following . . .
Striking, ain’t it?
Not as much, don’t you agree?
You can play with filters, changing the way some colors show up, but still, not as striking.
Sure, the lilies now draw the eyes, but you lose the cohesiveness of the original.
You could try going the other way; adding color that was not there to begin with . . .
Some people like that, but I prefer another tact . . .
Desaturate some colors, mute others, add a little glow, and voila! Something semi-interesting.
By the way, you can click on the pictures to get a larger view, otherwise it all looks bland (WP still don’t have the hang of treating in-line photos with respect). You can also go to the SmugMug gallery HERE, and really look at stuff in great detail.
Now, there are techniques one can use to enhance the blandness of the grayscale photo, but they typically involve dodging, burning, layering, masking . . . all terms that have to do with post-processing software.
BUT . . . what if you are old like me, and every minute spent processing is one less minute spent eating?
Here’s a trick that sometimes works. Let’s start with a photo converted to B&W from the original file.
Not awful, but your short hairs are in no way going to feel threatened by the above.
Here’s what I do. I take the original, and crank it up. I have a few presets for doing just this, and the exact preset depends on the colors and subject. For the above, I did this.
Saturation, contrast, exposure, vignetting, color temperature and more all modified to give me a somewhat interesting, but not stellar color photo.
. . . but look what happens when I convert to B&W.
Compared to the original B&W, and you might agree with me that the above has more drama, more punch. Or, you might not agree with me, but in my book you would be wrong.
One of the bigger conflicts in the history of mankind involves disagreement between straight up gray-scale photos and tinting. OK, I’m indulging in a slight exaggeration; the conflict between people who like Nutella and people who don’t care for it is a much bigger, and more important to the wellbeing of the human race, but tinted photos are somewhere in there in the list of strife-causing stuff.
For example . . .
I’m hard-pressed to choose between these two. But what if I would have just presented one version? Like, for instance . . .
Without seeing the alternative, the above is probably fine as is.
This next one is also presented in only one version, and people are happy to accept either the photo above or the one below on their merit. It’s only when we are asked to compare two different treatments of the same photo that things come to blows.
The silly part is that the brain has no preference. You might as well flip a coin; but once that coin is flipped, watch out. Hell hath no fury like a brain challenged about an arbitrary decision.
“What about bugs?”
“What about bugs, Bob?”
“Well, how do they fare?”
“Well, Bob, they are generally not welcomed in most places. Most people think nothing of taking a rolled newspaper (or flat Kindle) and smash the gooey stuffing from any bug they encounter. Not me, by the way. My home has strategically placed Bug Transport Vehicles specifically to escort bugs to the great outdoor.”
That fly would stand out quite well in a color photograph. But what about here? Which version shows the bug best?
Well, Bob, they all work. The reason? there’s not much in way of background for the bug to get lost in.
But, what do you think of this one?
By the way, the fly is now on a weed . . . this weed.
See, that’s borderline being too busy. But, back to bugs. What if the coloring of the bug and the coloring of the background are not that different?
Well, we are pretty good at distinguishing shapes, but it becomes more difficult for some subjects like, for example, this spider wrapping up its latest catch.
I mean, you can see the dang thing, but some details (the spider’s eyes and the prey itself) get lost, blending into the background.
Oh, by the way, here’s another treatment of the weed.
Anyway, sometimes that lack of a clearly defined boundary can be used as an advantage. Especially when, as I am about to claim, creating art.
It almost looks like the orderly pattern is borne out of the rock. That works for this fallen pine cone, but it works less for the pine cone still on the tree.
The first, pretentious art. The second, meh!
Here’s another fly . . .
That fly is fairly visible, but you can do a few tricks with contrast and tinting that will make it jump out a bit more.
Sometimes color is the only choice. This next fly has a black body . . . I tried to make it work in a B&W photo, but it would have none of it.
Still, these photos were tweaked to differentiate the rock from the fly. The brightness is increased to bring out the details of the fly, but the rock has been dulled, thus providing a decent canvas for showcasing the fly.
It’s a neat fly, isn’t it? Here’s a few more shots.
Worth looking at in a larger format.
Salsify . . . I’ve been letting them grow in a few places in the yard in the hopes of being able to photograph one of the seed balls. No such luck! I keep missing them, even as I’m on the lookout for them.
At first I thought it might be due to the winds we’ve been having, but then . . .
There are the seeds, just under what would have been the seed ball, now devoid of seeds. What the heck! They just fell off and laid there!
Well, at least it gave me a chance to stretch my artistic wings. By the way, none of these photos are posed. What you see is what I saw.
I call it “Life and Death“!
Why, if I had a recognizable name, or had done something terrible or wonderful to another human being, and if I were dead, the above shot would sell for thousands – or possibly, millions – of dollars. As it is, maybe five people will see it, and maybe as many as two of them will really look at it, and one of them is me.
Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of money to buy it, especially if I were dead.
That is yet another Robber Fly. After the initial sighting, I see them all over the place. I thought that was an interesting contrast to the rock, but this next one . . . this next one required a special treatment. Not only is it feasting on a victim, but the body of a previous victim nearby lends pathos to the scene. Wait . . . was Pathos one of the Three Musketeers? Or was it Four? Ah, who cares; here’s the next shot.
This would make a good Games of Thrones scene if the book were about bugs.
This next fly was difficult to process because it was on one of the blocks I used for the flowerbed edging, and I could not make it ‘pop’. The best I could do was to highlight the eyes, and let the viewer’s own eyes flow from there.
Ah, but then it moved to the mulch, and I got one of my favorite shots of this series.
I call it “Fly Taking a Dump”. I mean, it wasn’t, but I claim artistic license.
Flowers, like I said, are a bit easier to render in grays . . . Here’s two different, if similar flowers treated in two different, if similar ways.
Aahh . . . we come to the Pond Damsel. I think it’s a female Familiar Bluet, but I could be wrong.
This also posed a challenge as both the Russian Sage flowers and the Damsel are well-defined in the photo. I hope my choice does it justice.
I played with a number of filters before I was satisfied . . . and I then forgot to save the preset. There is a high probability this particular combination of grays is unique in the history of mankind since even I can’t be sure of the settings I used.
Yes, that is a dead Robber Fly.
. . . it still looks fierce, though. I could not figure out if it died of natural or unnatural causes. What I found interesting was the position of the legs. They were drawn up so that the feet all touched each other.
Still, few things beat a live Robber fly feasting on a live prey . . .
I could not be sure, but it looked like some kind of wasp.
But there is not just death in my yard . . . here’s a closeup of an aspen runner bursting out of the ground.
Perhaps that’s worth seeing with some color . . .
For them interested in that sort of thing, the SmugMug gallery is HERE.
By the way . . . it’s a little late, but fair warning . . . this is a long post.
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.