Posted by: kerryl29 | January 17, 2018

Thematic Interruption: Black and White Images in a Color-Filled Landscape

I’ve written about this subject before:  producing black and white images in the colorful world of autumn foliage can be challenging.  While most of us see in color all the time, some natural environments are more colorful than others.  Honesty compels me to report that, when in especially color-rich fall locations–the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and New England come to mind–I have traditionally produced relatively few images in black and white.  When the main point of the visit is color, monochrome treatments are rarely easily recognized.

Bear Creek Black & White, Bear Creek Trail, Uncompahgre River, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

This largely describes my time in Colorado.  While I wasn’t treated to the rainbow of hues that are part of the North Woods autumn experience–the vast majority of the deciduous trees turn yellow in Colorado–it’s still a highly colorful landscape in the fall.  And, accordingly, the vast majority of the images I made during my (approximately) two weeks in the mountains of Colorado are of the color variety.

Molas Pass Black & White, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

But a surprisingly–to me, anyway–percentage of the photographs I ended up making are black and white images.  Why is that?

Little Molas Lake Black & White, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

There are a variety of reasons, I think, and many of them are presaged by an entry I posted six years ago.  Despite the prevalence of fall foliage, there were places I visited, definitely worth of image-making in my estimation, that were relatively light on color.

Ohio Pass Black & White, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Red Mountain Creek Black & White, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Other places were rich with patterns and graphic appeal (and, sometimes, also relatively colorless).

Snowy Conifers Black & White, Red Mountain Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Fern Forest Black & White, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Lines and textures were the principal appeal in other settings.

Aspens Black & White, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Box Elders Black & White, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado

And some scenes, without a classic explanation, just seemed to work better in monochrome.  Perhaps a combination of factors are at work with these images.

Plains Black & White, Gunnison County, Colorado

Lost Lake Slough Black & White, Three Lakes Trail, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Gunnison River Black & White, Montrose County, Colorado

Dark Canyon Loop Black & White, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The moral of the story?  There are always monochrome image-making opportunities, but sometimes a form of sensory deprivation may be helpful in order to discover them.  For those of us who naturally see in color, it’s always comparatively difficult to recognize scenes that work best in black and white and it’s even harder when rich color is such a predominant element.  But the opportunities are there; you may simply have to work harder to find them.


  1. […] via Thematic Interruption: Black and White Images in a Color-Filled Landscape — Lightscapes Nature Pho… […]

  2. Some very nice black and whites, Kerry. I especially like Molas Pass, Little Molas Lake, Red Mountain Creek, Fern Forest, Lost Lake Slough and Gunnison River. But all were nice. Thx.

    • Thanks, Mike!

  3. I like your eye on photos. You really pull the detail out in your photos! Nice.

    • Thanks very much!

  4. like the black and white, it brings out a quality that you don’t necessarily see in a colour image.

    • Thanks, Jane!

  5. Nice work here, Kerry. And bold, to go B&W with such colourful subjects. Well done. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Frank!

  6. The “Ansel Adams” effect. In seeing scenes in B&W, it improves seeing them in color. You see a lot more detail in B&W than one normally sees in color. But, I also like how B&W can change perception – best example is the little shack on Molas Pass in B&W. It gives the perception of the mining days. The same also for the meadow with the solitary tree and fence line in Gunnison County – old west days.

    • Thanks very much!

      That shot with the solitary tree is, for some reason, a personal favorite.

  7. It has good shots and beautiful nature.

  8. Some really great work! Well done …best Mark

    • Thanks very much!

  9. […] mentioned, via sporadic blog posts in the past, about the growing tendency for me to “see” in monochrome, when conditions […]

  10. […] written about black and white photography on several occasions in the past in this space, and I’m going to ask you to indulge me one more […]

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