Way more than 50…

I’ve never read the book 50 Shades of Grey, nor seen the recent film version, and have no particular intention of doing so.   Still, it seemed a good excuse to get a pop-culture reference into the title of this post, which is actually about photography.

For a long time I’ve had a particular fondness for black & white photography.  Partly this is, no doubt, a matter of nostalgia as I used to be a member of my university photographic society and made quite extensive use of their darkroom (which was equipped for b&w work only) for a year or so (almost 15 years ago, at the tail-end of my pre-digital days).

Largely, though, it’s because I love the look of well-executed monochrome images and the moods they can evoke.  Granted, a well-executed colour photo can also be a joy to behold and there are many subjects that require colour to work well, but often I find that the colour can be a distraction and that the monochrome image reveals details that you would otherwise miss.

Here’s a not particularly great example from my own photo collection.  The original image was shot in colour (about 6 years ago).  This is how I tend to work most of the time in digital photography, since it’s possible to remove the colour later but not to add it back in:


It’s a nice enough picture but not especially gripping or memorable (and even the “in-focus” bits are slightly out-of-focus, which becomes more obvious at larger sizes).   Admittedly the same is true of the desaturated version below,  but I think the removal of the colour in this case makes for a slightly stronger image, as the shapes and (in this case especially) the tones are more apparent:

Moth (B&W)

Had the moth been a bit more colourful or the foliage a bit more varied, there might have been just as much lost as gained in the shift from colour to b&w.  As it is, I think much is gained and little lost here.

Sometimes it’s much harder to decide between colour or monochrome versions of an image.  Here’s a photo I took on a trip to Catalonia last August:

Campanario de Reus

And here it is in b&w (and slightly cropped):

Campanario de Reus #2

In this case I love the blue of the sky and the subtle colours in the stonework that are apparent in the colour version, but I also love the effect when the colour is removed and the tones are allowed to come to the fore.  Of these two images I definitely prefer the second one, but that’s more due to the (IMHO) stronger composition with the square crop than to the presence or absence of colour.

I recently came across a lovely discussion of the benefits of monochrome photography, which is largely what inspired this mini-essay of mine.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make a careful note of where I found it but I think it was on one of the Weekly Imogen videos on YouTube, which are created by a London-based photographer called Mark and his regular model, Imogen, who also post regularly on Flickr under the name of unexpectedtales. Here’s a picture of Imogen (by Mark), which also doubles as a link to their Flickr photostream, which in turn contains a link to the YouTube series (not, unfortunately, to the video I was after):

See Imogen's top 10 favourite shots on Flickr

(Incidentally, this particular image is one of the top 10 favourite pictures of herself that Imogen selected for the linked video and is also one of my favourites of her; many of their photos are in colour but I think that a lot of the strength of this particular image comes from the fact that it isn’t.)

Anyway, to paraphrase Mark or whoever else was making the statement about monochrome photography, he said something along the lines of: “The joy of black and white photography is precisely that it isn’t just black and white but thousands of shades of grey in between… the monochrome image invites the viewer to engage with it in a way that colour images don’t, requiring your imagination to fill in the missing colours.” I’m fairly sure he also made the point about colours sometimes being a distraction that I mentioned earlier, which is a view I’ve held for a long time. Monochrome photography (perhaps paradoxically, given that it’s been around for much longer than colour photography, which tends to lack this particular advantage – or at least doesn’t have it so intrinsically built in) offers us a new way of seeing the familiar.

Not Forever Young

I don’t, as a rule, tend to think of public toilets as good places to indulge in photography.

However, I was in a pub/restaurant this afternoon (the Fairy Glen in Dwygyfylchi, in case you were wondering – NB I recommend their roast duck in cherry sauce if you happen to be passing through and looking for a tasty, large and reasonably priced meal) and, when I nipped to the gents’, I saw a poster that amused me.  Since there was nobody else in there at the time and I happened to have my phone (with built-in camera) in my pocket, I decided to take a quick snapshot of it for posterity.

Here it is:
Young Once

In case for some reason the image doesn’t show up, it says:

You’re only young once but you can be immature for ever.

Now that’s not what I call music

I’ve just finished working on a new photo, called Ceci n’est pas la musique:

Ceci n'est pas la musique

I have written a fairly extensive commentary on the photo at Flickr, which you can reach by clicking on the picture, so I won’t say anything more about it here except to note that the titles (both of this blog post and of the photo itself) refer to sheet music in general and not to the extremely fine solo violin music of Johann Sebastian Mighty Bach!

Over by Christmas?

Last week I enjoyed a very pleasant holiday down in Devon. As usual on my trips down there, I went along to Rosemoor, an RHS botanical garden on the edge of Great Torrington. It was quite nice to go and see it in the middle of summer (even if the weather was decidedly unsummery), as most of my recent visits have been in the depths of winter. I noticed on this occasion there were far fewer sculptures on display but, as you would expect for the season, lots more flowers and things to be seen than on my winter excursions.

As usual, I took quite a few photos (over 200, I think, this time – although many of them will be discarded at the editing stage). Unfortunately, however, I’m still working through my backlog of photos from my Rosemoor visit last Christmas Eve, which I want to finish before I get started on the new lot (I’ve already put up a few photos from other bits of my holiday, as well as a couple of other ones, on my Flickr account, though there’s more of those to follow too).

I’m hoping to get through the rest of my Rosemoor Christmas photos fairly soon and I hope to be able to get all the new ones processed before next Christmas, when I’ll hopefully be visiting Rosemoor again.

For now, I’ll leave you in the company of Julia, the statue of a girl sitting on the edge of a fishpond at Rosemoor. Although this is the official name of the sculpture (and presumably the name of the model), as I discovered a year or two back, I always tend to think of her as Rose, the not very original name I gave her soon after our first encounter (probably at least 10 years ago).

Rose in the Rain

Reflections on a frosty morning


Although I no longer own my car, it is still on the drive waiting for the new owner to pick it up. On my way to work yesterday morning I noticed some nice frost patterns on the windscreen so I used my new camera’s phone to grab a picture or two.