Sunday, May 19, 2013

Black and white flowers?

click photo to enlarge
Of all the photographic subjects that might benefit from conversion to black and white flowers appear to be the least suitable. It's true that photographers find them an attractive subject because of the shapes of their blooms and leaves, their growth habits and locations, the way gardeners and arrangers plant and display them, etc. But it's surely the variety, strength and subtlety of their colours that is the main quality that draws us into pointing our cameras at them. Consequently, most of the photographs of flowers that we see are colour images and very few are monochrome.

And yet some of the secondary qualities beyond colour are reason enough to consider converting the right subject to black and white. In the past I've found the subtle gradations of grey that appear when a rose bloom is converted to black and white to be very appealing.

Today's photograph is of a flower that I wouldn't have thought of converting to black and white until I had processed the colour shot and was sitting in front of my computer reflecting on the finished image. I'd chosen my usual black background for the yellow flowers, green leaves and clear glass vase and that gave it a very strong silhouette. It was the overall compositional shape - a variant of Hogarth's serpentine "line of beauty" - that made me have a look at the shot in black and white. The conversion made the silhouette (reverse silhouette I suppose) stronger, and the yellow blooms retained their impact as greys and white. The final image, with a little judicious dodging of the individual flowers stands as a photograph every bit as strongly as the colour version but offers something different to the viewer. Of course, placing colour  and black and white versions of the same shot side by side tends to make the viewer choose which they prefer. However,the question about colour and black and white need not be one of "either" and "or" but can simply be about "also"!

Incidentally, the flower in question is one that I always call Kerria but I looked up the Royal Horticultural Society's "preferred common name" and found it to be Japanese Rose. That doesn't seem to me a particularly descriptive name because, though the plant is biologically part of the Rosaceae family, it has none of the most commonly understood characteristics of the rose. I'd have chosen one of the other charming and traditional English names that have been bestowed on the plant down the years - probably "Bachelor's Buttons"!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f11
Shutter Speed: 0.6 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off