Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

December 30, 2012

Shades of Paul Simon

Filed under: Birds, comparisons, digital benefits, favorite places, light, Veterans Oasis Park — richditch @ 1:17 pm
Mourning Dove (B&W)

Mourning Dove (B&W)

One of the many hit songs from Paul Simon was Kodachrome, in which he sang that “everything looks worse in black-and-white.” I didn’t agree with that sentiment then and I don’t agree with it now.

At the time of that song I still used two film cameras (both Nikons) so that I could keep color slide film in one (Kodachrome 64 at the time) and B&W in the other (Ilford HP5 most of the time). That allowed me to shoot any subject in either color or B&W, or both if I wasn’t sure. Yes, this was inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as having only one camera body and having the wrong film loaded when I needed something else and would have to note the frame number I was on, rewind the film without having the leader pulled back into the cassette, and mark the canister with the frame number to avoid thinking it was a fresh unused roll.

When the demands of birding on my free time ate into my darkroom time I eventually stopped shooting B&W since color slides were sent out for processing and I’d get a finished product back in the mail a week later.

Digital and photoshop has relegated the two camera solution to the same dustbin as all my carefully recorded audio cassette tapes. I now shoot everything as a color image even when I think the subject might look better in B&W. But I might make the decision to go B&W only after I’ve worked up the color version and had time to consider the possibilities. That’s the case for this Mourning Dove image – I liked the scene in color because of the wonderful side light, but when I viewed the results on my Mac monitor I liked the strong graphic lines in the image and decided to try a B&W version.

Mourning Dove (color)

Mourning Dove (color)

Don’t get me wrong – I like the color version too. But the color and brightness of the rock dominates the color version, and I couldn’t open up the shadows on the back of the dove without making it look fake in color.

In Photoshop CS3 that I use (and probably in all the later versions) one of the adjustment layer options is B&W. It does a nice job of turning the colors to shades of gray, but more importantly it provides sliders for many colors contained in the original image that can be adjusted to increase or decrease the brightness of the gray that represents that color in the grayscale version. SO all I needed to do to open up the shadows in the B&W version was to pul the blue slider to a brighter position (since shadows typically have a lot of blue in them). I also was able to tone down the red of the rock a bit with another slider.

Tell me your preferences on these two versions of a single image if you care to comment.

Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E III (2x), tripod, ISO 400, 1/250th second @ f/8, spot meter, 12/21/12 8:33 am, Veterans Oasis Park, Chandler, AZ





  1. I like the color image but the B & W really grabs my attention!

    Comment by Mia McPherson — December 30, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  2. This is one avian image that I’d prefer seeing in B&W. In that image I see more tonal range-with the greys seeming to accentuate the subtle textures of both the bird’s feathering and the rock perch. Very interesting photo essay well presented Rich.

    Comment by Chuck Gangas — December 30, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

  3. For me personally, I like the color image. I feel the color image best portrays the warmth of the sun which is what the dove is doing…absorbing the heat from the sun. Don’t get me wrong, the B&W is a keeper too, I just like the feel of the color image.

    Comment by Bruce Wolke — December 31, 2012 @ 7:57 am

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