I received an email from a reader who saw both the black and white and color versions of a photo that appeared with my Monday photo column last month. He assumed (correctly) that I take all my photos in color, but wondered if I ever think about how they will look in black and white.
The quick answer is “yes,” I do think about it, almost all the time. But I know that most of the pictures I produce will be viewed by more eyes online, in color.
Most of the time it doesn’t make much difference, as other elements — the location, people and what they are doing — are more important than the colors.
But with my weekly column, many of the pictures I use are scenes that catch my eye for their composition, juxtaposition, lighting, or color.
Like today’s image. It was the brightly painted Día de los Muertos skulls I noticed. I tried a few ways to photographically capture their vibrancy before deciding to do the zooming during my exposure (Nikon Z6 II; Z 24-70 2.8; 1/4 sec. @ f/16; ISO 250; at twilight). I knew it would not be as pretty in B&W, but I hoped the blurs would still work when seen by readers of our analog dead-tree print edition.
Sometimes it just doesn’t work. As photographers who used to shoot black and white will recall, monochrome photography doesn’t mean strictly black and white, but a continuous scale of shades of grey. Different shades of blues, reds, purples and greens can all end up blending together in B&W.
And sometimes it’s not the shades that make the difference. Imagine this Photo in black and white. And you’ll “see” why you’re only seeing it here - and not in my B&W newspaper column.
Finally, I mentioned earlier this year a project our photo staff has been working on - each of us shooting for one week with the same 35mm mechanical camera and lens with manual exposure and focus, using just one roll of B&W film. As promised then, I will link here when the story is eventually published about our experiment.
Since 1998, a black-and-white photo has appeared every Monday in staff photographer Tom Gralish’s “Scene Through the Lens” photo column in The Inquirer’s local news section. Here are the most recent, in color: