Color or Shades of Gray?

Many times when I’m out making images I come across something that just begs for me to really take notice. Not that I’m not taking notice of most everything around me all the time, but I love those moments when something really stands out. That happened yesterday, at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, in a stairwell. If you visit the museum be sure to go up to the third floor so you don’t miss a very enjoyable view of the Great Hall. You will also want to see the stairwell.

Green Coaster
Stairwell, National Building Museum
US Capitol at Dawn
Stairwell, National Building Museum

From my time studying Architectural History, I remember that the architect Mies van der Rohe said that “God is in the details” when talking about the idea of “Less is more.” I have often thought that is an interesting point of view. With the advent of smoked glass skyscrapers less really did become more and the details became more important that ever but I’m getting way off track!

I took notice of the ceiling of the stairwell when I was walking around on the third floor. The light coming in through the large windows that face north bathing the vaulted ceiling and all its warn tones in an almost magical light. When I got home and started looking at the images from the day this one immediately stood out. After processing the image, one question came to mind “How would this look in black and white?” I remember when I was shooting film and had only one camera, I whished for the day when it was easy to go from color to black and white or to have two cameras, one for black and white and the other for color. Now we can make one image and process that images so we have both.

Once we have both we are left with an important choice, which one should we show? Sometimes it’s a no brainer, one obviously looks better than the other, problem solved. Unfortunately that is not the case in this instance so I have chosen to show them both.  Sometimes not being able to make a decision is a good thing!

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1 Comment

  1. You hit the nail on the head Vincent! As a rule of thumb I usually say; If the scene has only one color or minimal colors, it will make a good B&W as a no-brainer. Where it gets difficult is when you have many colors and texture to which my rule of thumb is; If you are splitting hairs between them, they are both good but each has it’s own application.

    Think about it; if you have a color and a B&W version of one image and you can’t decide which is better, why would you hide one away? Find an application for it like a color series or B&W series and let it sing baby!

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