Wednesday, August 6, 2014


WARNING:  The following aren't great shots, but I thought I would illustrate some of my thinking when deciding whether an image is better in color or in black & white.

Two weekends ago I spent some time wandering around Milwaukee's Third Ward with my camera.  Later, in sorting through the photos I took, I felt that some worked better as black & whites, others as color, and still others might work (or not work) as either.

The first seems pretty obvious.

The orange panelling on the side of this unattractive building seems to be one of the primary reasons for the shot (if there is one).  The black & white version has even less to offer, I think.  Although, thinking about it, perhaps the black & white image at least spares the viewer from having to look at the orange panels, which simply don't seem to have a purpose.

I feel the same about the following detail from a wrought iron security gate, but for different reasons.

In this case, the color version brings out the green patina of the bronze oak leaf detail.  The contrast between the brown of the background and green of the bronze also helps to distinguish object from background.  I cropped the otherwise vertical bars on a diagonal hoping to make this just a bit more interesting.

The same could probably be said for the following sign painted on the window of a cafe.

There's just not enough going on to give the black & white any interest.

I feel differently about the mural in the window shown below.  On the one hand, the color of the globe and, especially, the eye adds something to the image.

On the other, the main "story" in the shot is the drawing of the hand and face in the context of the commercial setting, and I thought the black & white was able to convey that sense better than the color version.

I don't think the choice was as close in the following sign painted on the side of a building.

I thought the color shot did a better job of bringing out the texture of the brick facade.  Also the inclusion of some greenery works in the color version but not in the black & white.

I'm not sure what I was thinking in the following shot.  I wanted to convey a sense of the general feel of the Third Ward, with its mix of older buildings, some of which have had make-overs while others seem unashamed of their industrial origins.

Here the color shot does a better job of distinguishing among the buildings and styles, but perhaps the black & white is better at conveying the Third Ward's overall gritty feel.

The following, I think, demonstrates a situation where black & white clearly works better.

I liked that the sunlight had put the windows of the building on the left into deep shadow, and I wanted to emphasize that in the image.  I think the black & white does a better job in this case.

Finally, here is a shot of a railroad underpass (technically in the Walker's Point area, but close enough to the Third Ward).

Both versions do a good job, I think, of bringing out the no-nonsense, working-class feel of this structure.  But I think the black & white does a slightly better job of showing off the stolid, rectilinear style. It also brings out a bit of the gloom I felt when I took the shot.


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