Color or Black and White

One of my favorite pastimes is spending time with friends doing everyday activities. I’m thoroughly entertained by going to the grocery store, the gas station, and often, we’ll grab a bite to eat and have a cultural experience. On this particular day, we made a stop to see the architecturally-inspired gardens at Sunnylands, the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage, CA.


I have toMirage, SunnylandsMirage laugh because I have several friends who, immediately when they get in the car, see animals and birds. We may be on the same road I’ve driven down many times or even earlier that day – but I don’t see animals and birds, and I don’t see spirit animals. I take that back – I did stop in my tracks the first time I saw a murmuration of starlings and I do take notice when an animal or bird is out of place.

My friends who see animals and birds, think I am equally as strange when they hear me say, “Look, three houses in a row with different hues of yellow,” or “Did you see how the color of the front door was two shades deeper than the rhododendron in the front yard?” They didn’t even notice the front door, much less its relationship to the bush in the garden, nor did their mind automatically calculate the difference between the colors.

That said… it’s not surprising that I don’t see black and white. I’ve tried, but it does not come naturally. I asked my photographer friends who print in black and white, “What do you see? How do you translate the color seen through the viewfinder into black and white?” Like my friends who see animals and birds, and not color, the black and white photographers say they intuitively are able to translate. They know what the printed image will look like in black and white even before they shoot it. This seems like magic to me.

Of the cactus photo examples, my favorite is the first shot with the path, not because of how the sun falls over the barrel cactus, but because of the relationship of the grey-green shadow on the tree in the foreground to the illuminated trunk on the tree in the middle ground. And the crow, without the red of the No Parking sign, I think the image loses its punch. So at this point, I’m not ready to give up color, but I’ll keep exploring the topic of black and white because I crave an insight into the magic as seen by the great black and white photographers before they press the shutter button.