The impact of color


If you take a look at my last post, you’ll notice that the color on this particular morning was pretty intense. In fact, it was probably one of the most impressive sunrises I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing in Acadia National Park. The reds, oranges and yellows absolutely lit up the morning sky, and needless to say, I was totally mesmerized by the incredible sight. The explosion of color seemed to last for ages, and as the vibrant light reflected off the ocean and the round rocks at Otter Cliffs, I worked quickly to try and capture the scene with my camera.

Although I am the first to enjoy a good sunrise, I have to admit I was already thinking about how this scene might translate into a black and white photograph. I hoped that the distinct shape of the round rocks would provide a strong anchor for the foreground, that the iconic outline of Otter Cliffs would hold the viewer’s attention in the middle of the scene, and that the light and patterns in the pre-dawn sky would add an interesting backdrop. With the color, I think this is an interesting photograph, but without the color – I personally – find it even more interesting. I’d be curious to hear your opinion.


23 thoughts on “The impact of color

  1. David, I agree that the black and white is a more powerful image. It could be because I am minimalist when it comes to colour, though.
    Black and white makes the landscape more majestic somehow, and the tonal ranges really stand out. The colour does have an intimacy to it; they evoke different feelings, I think.

    • David Patterson

      Karen… I appreciate the very thoughtful comment. I agree that the black and white and the color versions both provide a different feeling. I like them both, but do find myself looking at the black and white more closely.

  2. I find that I don’t notice the details of the image when I’m admiring the colors…and now, discussing a sunset in black and white, I’m curious how my recent desert sunset might look in black and white….

  3. justinmbutler

    For me, colour is everything. I believe the universe was made so that the colour of stars and galaxies and nebula could fill it. It’s the same here. To me, if you pull the colours out, all thats left is the canvas.

    I see things pretty “black and white” in life( excuse the pun), so my view on the shots are — go with the colour.

    Or, on the other hand, perhaps the black and white shot is a colourful depiction of what was going on in the photographer’s imagination??

    • David Patterson

      Justin… thanks for the comment. I too enjoy the colors of nature, especially when they come together like they did on this particular morning. However, I also enjoy the shapes, lines and textures that can be found in different scenes, and a good black and white rendition can definitely – at least for me – heighten the focus on those elements.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks for the comment… I’m hooked on deep blacks at the moment, and I just love the contrast in the foreground rocks.

  4. I like the B&W’s ability to focus on shapes, patterns and texture. The color photo triggers a reaction to the warmth of the intense reds and oranges. The first builds a desire to search and explore; the second to just feel. As a Myers-Briggs “Thinker” vs. a “Feeler”, I must say I like the B&W.

  5. Thanks for the side-by-side. The B & W is so compelling, and it is so interesting to observe the differences in detail with the color. It makes the color photo – in contrast – seem almost “colorized” – that technique from an earlier age of photography to add color to monochrome photos: they had that unreal “Disney” quality about them. But I don’t think I would have thought of that without the contrasting photo beside it.

    Also reminiscent of dawns when the cloud cover is thick enough to render the scene almost entirely in values of grey – naturally. Or, it reminds me of a B & W scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie – there is a stark, chilling nature about the scene in B & W, and just the sort of shot Hitchcock would use to evoke a sense of empty dread.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Rick… the colors seemed almost unreal on this particular morning, and I understand what you mean about the feeling you get when you see the black and white.

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