1198 – Under The Bridge

Carinthia is covered in fog. Yesterday a look at the webcams made it clear: Italy was the place to go.

We started out late, and although we certainly enjoyed the sun, I didn’t make many usable images. I have some more, but definitely not of the “Sunny Italy” kind.

This particular image was taken under a highway bridge. The challenge was to both contain the tonal range and, on the other hand, to convey the sense of being blinded by the light. I finally ended up using black and white, with a combination of Photoshop’s “High Contrast Blue” filter for most of the scene, and “High Contrast Red” for some highlight regions, and I really like the result. It combines both the texture in the concrete (via the blue filter) and the dramatic contrast (via the red).

The color version is definitely more cheerful though, and because it better reflects yesterday’s mood, this time I leave you the choice.

The Song of the Day is “Under The Bridge” from the 1997 self-titled All Saints album. See a video on Dailymotion.

5 thoughts on “1198 – Under The Bridge”

  1. I believe the B&W works much better for this image. The B&W brings out the textures and geometry of the wall. Which is what makes it work, not so much in the color version.

  2. After a half century of overwhelmingly monochrome photography, the liberation into a full color palette which digital permits enervates me. Which is why I have created no more than a half dozen B&W images in the past decade. However, there’s something else that discourages me from further exploring the two color world.

    Monochrome has an inherent melancholy bias. Yes it can be overcome, but it’s as if the artist starts up a hill with a bag filled with lead. Recently I began reading a large retrospective on the works of the great photographic artists of the first six decades of the last century. Most of them were struggling to communicate political feelings, almost entirely in B&W. In fact Cartier Bresson was an arch opponent to color photography under any circumstances.

    It’s one thing to intend to communicate a grim feeling, or an idea grimly. It is another to carry a message within an unintended shell of gloom. Perhaps this scene you represent does speak to the excretions and detritus – the negative bi-products of culture, or the human condition. And perhaps that message is best conveyed by surgically removing any romanticism carried by a hint of colored light.

    Perhaps… But perhaps it is the easy way out? After all, color is dimension of the human condition, right? There is still much to be discovered in monochrome, but I wonder if there would be much enthusiasm to seek it out if the photographic magazines did not have a major economic incentive to print monochrome as opposed to full dimensional color? Is a lot of the enthusiasm for monochrome determined by economic necessity, or is it driven by either a nostalgia, or desire to seek the quickest way to assert an edgy grittiness?

    In the words of Yule Brenner…. “It is a puzzlement.”

  3. I like both images for different reasons The colour one has an interesting contrast between the warm glow from the sun and the cool blue while the b&w highlights the shadows and tones nicely.

    I’m equally fascinated with Ted Byrne’s comment. I will admit to never having thought of the points he makes regarding colour vs b&w. Rather thought provoking though interestingly enough I have never associated b&w with melancholy, nostalgia or gloom. I will usually associate those feelings with the subject matter rather than with the rendering of the image. Having said that I will add that I am a big fan of Ted’s colour work and I will readily admit that I find many of his images exceptionally uplifting.

  4. Blasted! The light really shines in the b&w version. However, that touch of red is a surprising discovery in the color version.

    I would keep both.

  5. Thanks all.

    Ted, yes, there is an inherent melancholy bias in monochrome images, but it’s only an uphill struggle if you’re trying for a cheerful, light mood. It works pretty well for many kinds of images. Take my recent “low down” image “1194 – Dirty World“. Ove has commented “Oh my god, I thought you had entered a war zone here“, and I dare say that this image seems to work as intended 🙂

    And yes, monochrome is often an easy way out. There are cases where the information that I want to share, is not in the color. It’s in tonal values, shapes, lines, and sometimes there is a distracting patch of for instance red color right at the edge of the image, a color that would attract much attention to a spot where I don’t want it. What can I do? I can edit it out (I do that often), I can use something like Alien Skin Bokeh to blur it away (you do that often), or, and that’s the easy way if there is nothing of what I want to say in the color anyway, I can go for b+w.

    This very image is a case where I was presented with the problem of having seen a blinding light in reality, but the camera captured it much darker. I couldn’t have changed overall exposure, because then I would have lost all details. Thus I had to selectively increase exposure in some highlight regions, restoring a feeling of contrast.

    I’ve done that in the color version, and in fact the strong saturation that I’ve added, gave that run-down spot under the bridge an almost cheerful mood, very similar to what I experienced when I was there. On the other hand, the hard contrast didn’t come over that well. Thus, like so often when I am not sure what I want to do with an image, I tried b+w, and whenever I try b+w, I step through the various filter presets in the Photoshop b+w adjustment layer.

    “High Contrast Red” had much of what I was looking for in terms of contrast, but the gloomy look of “High Contrast Blue” immediately fascinated me. Combining them with masks was an experiment, and the result satisfied me, because it was somewhat complementary to what I had achieved in color.

    In a way both versions, color and b+w, represent aspects of the scene, aspects that were there, aspects that I can’t combine into one single version. And that is not even a problem, it’s a feature. You can look at reality in different ways. You can choose to ignore this or put your attention to that. That’s what we do all the time. We see, and most of what we see, we ignore immediately and completely. It’s our way of making sense of our environment, it’s our way to cope with information overload.

    Photographing in RAW gives me the opportunity to delay much my decisions until post-processing, but sometimes even that is not enough. Sometimes I want to share two different views, and that’s what happened here.

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