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  • Betty Girardeau

Seeing Things Differently


Generally speaking, unless we have a camera that takes infrared images or use old film cameras, all of the pictures that we take these days are in color. While the first color photograph was produced by Thomas Sutton in 1861, color photography did not become the dominant form until 1970. George Eastman introduced the first color film for cameras in 1935, but the expense as well as the difficulty of using it with indoor lighting delayed its widespread adoption. For those who use photography as an art form there has always been a difference of opinion as to the merits of black and white versus color. Ansel Adams, famous for his black and white landscapes of the American West, thought that color could be a distracting element. And Henri-Cartier Bresson was quoted as saying "...color is bullshit." Several years ago when I was just beginning my apprenticeship program, I was watching a video about post processing where it was suggested that before making any corrections to your digital image, you should first temporarily change it to black and white and study the image in its simplest form before adjusting it as a color image. While I remember that suggestion, I must admit that I almost never do that. But I do often think about whether an image might be better if it was not rendered in color. The image from earlier in the week of the sunstar and the tree is a good example. As I have learned more about making composited images where two or more images are layered together (there are many examples of these in my music video), I have learned to love something called blending modes. These are wonderful tools for color or black and white layered images. There are twenty-seven of modes grouped into seven different categories dealing with such things as normal, darken, lighten, contrast, inversion, cancelation, and component. Most of the time in photography you only deal with options in the first four categories. But I like to experiment with what can happen to a layered image when you play around with effects created by modes in the other categories as well. The results can be interesting and sometimes surprising. The image above is the result of my having done that, resulting in a final image that more closely resembles a photographic negative. I had already determined that this image was better in black and white since the tree had been silhouetted against the sky, but I believe it became even stronger when what had been black became white. The tiniest little branches take on a feathery quality and the one area where there are still leaves draws the eye and adds, I think, to the overall message of the composition. Photography has from the beginning been an amazing way to allow us to look at the world. How we process some of these images, provides an often eye opening way to look at it differently.

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