Click to view larger

Click to view larger

Sometimes I find that the choice between color and black and white is straight-forward, while other times it’s a lot harder for me to figure out which I prefer.  The beauty of shooting RAW is having the ability to make that decision after the fact, or even to make a duplicate and try both edits.  Seeing them side-by-side, I can usually see which I prefer.  But in some cases, it’s still not clear.For these wild iris I photographed from the kayak a couple of weeks back, the color version is the natural choice.  After all, the intense purple isn’t a common color in nature.  But the b&w conversion simplifies the scene, reduces it to a matter of shape and form without the “distraction” of color.  I was surprised at how different it appeared, how the purple became lighter and different details appeared.

So I kept both versions.  After all, what’s another file on the hard drive?

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Click to view larger

I ran into the same circumstance a few weeks later, again while kayaking and came across a Great Blue Heron hunting in the marsh at Lackawanna State Park.  When I made the image, I assumed that color was the way to go.  But viewing it on the computer, I thought that b&w might work better, so I made a copy.  And I like the copy – again, without the color, the photo is more about the shape of the grass, and how the heron mimics it to an extent, how it fits into the scene.

I’ll keep both versions since I still can’t decide which is better.  Really neither is probably “better,” it’s just a matter of taste.  And I suppose that I could use the color version in some instances and the b&w in others.  But it’s an interesting experiment to try sometime, to see how an image may change in its character or impact with a simple b&w conversion.

(Just as a final point on b&w images: I use VSCO film presets for my b&w conversions.  Before buying the VSCO plugin, I generally made the adjustments manually via color tab in ACR.  But I think the plugins do a great job of offering not only an attractive conversion, but in giving several options for its strength and contrast.  I may still adjust the various exposure sliders on the main tab afterwards, but generally find that VSCO gets me into the ballpark quickly.)

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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