Monday, April 30, 2012

Tulips, viewpoints and black and white

click photo to enlarge
The red and yellow tulips in our garden look better than ever this year. I put that down to the much higher than usual rainfall that we've experienced during April, precipitation that began straight after drought conditions and restrictions were announced. In fact, thus far, as many wits have noted, this drought is the wettest drought on record! But drought or deluge, the tulips have liked it, though they haven't been so keen on the accompanying winds.

I photograph these flowers every year, and the low viewpoint I adopted with this shot is one I've tried before. I've shot them from directly above too, as well as from the side. Flowers are co-operative photographic subjects. In fact, the only two conditions that stop me photographing them at my convenience are wind and insect infestations, and even those circumstances are capable of producing interesting images. But the truth is, because we are so familiar with flowers, they do benefit from a variety of approaches to sustain the viewer's interest.

Periodically I like to try a black and white conversion of a flower photograph. It seems counter-intuitive that a subject that leans so heavily on colour can be improved in any way by being shown in black and white. However, some flowers display an entirely different character when seen this way, as this rose (and this one) demonstrate. So too with the tulips above. In colour the red and yellow combine with the blue of the sky to make three primary colours that impact strongly on the eye. The patches of colour that are the flower heads catch the eye first and give the viewer a lift: the shot has an upbeat feel to it, proclaiming "spring has sprung!" However, in black and white the eye tends to range across the whole of the image with the flower heads assuming less immediate importance. The mood of the shot is very different too, more subdued, even a touch sombre. The flowers look like they might have been photographed in bright moonlight, and the shadows of the knife-like leaves assume a greater importance. The texture of the petals and their subtle shading eventually draw the eye and give a quieter, subtler viewing experience than they exhibit in colour. I have a preference for one photograph over the other, but I think both, in their own way, have something to offer.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 26mm
F No: f16
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On