This is Just to Say

 

Not long after I published my color image of this landmark on Trinity Bay, I received an email from photographer and friend Steve Gingold. It included this reprocessed version of the photo, and a few words:

Forgive me…
The strong contrast and those beautiful clouds, I just had to…

The changes he made to the photo opened my eyes to the virtues of black-and-white photography in a new and visceral way. To put it simply, while my color version of the chapel would make a nice postcard, this is a photograph, and an invitation to a new way of seeing.

The association raised by the words of his email was equally delightful. They brought to mind William Carlos Williams’s famous poem titled “This is Just to Say”:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Uncounted parodies of his poem have appeared over the years, and it seems appropriate to add this one to the mix.

I have changed
the color
that was in
your photo
and which
you probably
preferred
in the end
Forgive me
this seems delicious
so strong
and so bold

 

Comments always are welcome.

72 thoughts on “This is Just to Say

    1. True enough: but I never would have imagined the possibilities of a black and white version without Steve’s reprocessing. Seeing a different version of my own photo was instructive, to say the least.

  1. There was a time of course when all our photography was black-and-white. This picture certainly does not suffer from the lack of colour.

    1. In fact, my first colored photos were taken at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. By the time I began carrying a digital camera, I’d developed a real taste for color, but this has been a good reminder that other options exist, and are worthy of consideration from time to time.

    1. If you ever publish the story, I’d be happy for you to use the image. I’ll bet Steve would be willing, too. You’ve reminded me of that great Rod Stewart line: “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”

  2. Love the newest version, and of course your generous response to Steve’s changes.
    It’s wonderful when we can see new potential challenges and learning.
    Colour can simply be a distraction.

    1. I was surprised to find he’d done a little work on the image, and more than a little pleased. We’ve had conversations about the pitfalls and pleasures of black-and-white photography over the years, and he’s known for some time that it hasn’t been my preference. I guess in this case, an image really was worth a thousand words, because it proved some of the points he’s made in the past without saying a word.

      If I had to make a forced choice between b&w and color, I’d take color every time — but of course that’s not necessary: thank goodness.

    1. Some songs come to mind with only a few chords or a distinctive riff, and some poems come to mind after only a phrase. Steve’s “forgive me” brought that Williams poem to mind instantaneously, and I enjoyed writing a parody that so perfectly fit the wonderfully transformed image.

    1. The old photos I have seem to support what you say. Most of the photos of our family taken in the 1940s and 1950s — black and white — may have faded, but it’s not noticeable. On the other hand, color photos from 1960 to even the early ’80s show obvious fading. Of course, the odd tones some of them take on is so typically ‘vintage’ that some photo processing programs allow for the recreation of that faded look.

  3. Twins – each with their own talents and glories
    BW photography always seem more elegant, dramatic, and striking. This one looks more mysterious/ominous (the curved barrel/dome looms clearly behind the facade whereas before hardly noticed) – like a story about to be told. Interpretation rather than the reality of factual color – the postcard (great comparison) of what was where when.
    I become more interested in BW since noticing the color fading from early photographs in my teens/college years. Something about color fading seems appropriate, though?
    Chuckled a great deal over your witty poem. Hope the day brings smiles toy , too

    1. Steve is so skilled at dodging and burning that I’m sure his hand is behind the new emphasis on some of the details, like the curve you mentioned. When I see examples of color photos turned into black and white, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I think the simplicity of the lines and the vibrant color helped to make both versions memorable.

      Knowing how to make the changes is one thing, but knowing when and where to make them is quite another. If I were writing a story about the beauty of the upper Texas coast, I’d use the color image. If I were writing a different story about that particular compound, there’s no question I’d use the black and white.

      It amuses me that the look of some of those old color photos can be replicated with processing programs: sometimes so closely it’s hard for me to see the difference. We see those odd colors, and regret the fading of memories; others see them, and — well, who knows? Maybe they’re longing for a time they never experienced.

  4. Too funny and both photos were gorgeous! When I first saw the original photo and post I was reminded of Goliad, a place I visited often on our treks down to Rockport when I was a kid.

    If you enjoy black and white photography, you would like Clyde Butcher.

    1. I thought of Goliad, too. There are plenty of similarities between Spanish and Greek architecture of various periods. Speaking of: do you know that you can stay at the Presidio overnight? There’s nothing like being alone in that fort at midnight — what an experience it would be for Forest. I wrote a series of posts about it; this one has some photos of the living quarters.

      A photographer friend who lives in Florida was the first person to mention Butcher to me; his work is wonderful. I wondered at first if he might be somehow related to Solomon Butcher, the famous photographer who worked on the Nebraska prairies in the late 1800s. I haven’t found any link, but both of them have created wonderful bodies of work.

  5. I love both versions and for different reasons. But I agree — as I play more and more with my photos, I realize how sometimes black and white can help you see more in a photo — both what is in the photo and what is in our thoughts — than the color, which can so dazzle that the details are sometimes lost. It’s a beautiful rendition and kudos to you both.

    1. Of course, sometimes color helps to highlight the details, too. I’m thinking of your most recent post; were it not for the riotous colors, I think it would be hard to sort out the details both in the paintings and in the sculptures. The colors themselves are at the heart of the differences among all those fruits and vegetables.

      I do love both of these photos. Asking “which do you like best?” is akin to asking, “which of your children is your favorite?” It’s the wrong question to start with. A better one would be, “What do you appreciate in each?”

  6. We’re never too experienced to learn something, Linda. I love BOTH versions of the photo, but like you, I see it completely differently in black-and-white. I think without color we focus more on the *feel* of the shot, putting ourselves right there and stepping eagerly into this gorgeous chapel. Your colored version was worthy of a postcard, to be sure, but this one looks like it should be hanging on the wall of some museum!

    1. One of the great things about being a beginner in any field is that there’s always something new to learn — sometimes, so much so that it can be overwhelming. But even once we’ve settled in a bit, it’s possible (and good) to be jolted out of our routines. Seeing this in black and white was a revelation, that’s for sure. It doesn’t mean I’m going to go all Ansel Adams and start producing black and white flowers, but it does mean I’ll be more aware of the full range of possibilities out there — always a good thing.

  7. This is exactly the reason that I often include black and whites on my posts, Linda. Both perspectives are valid and often beautiful. Some photos lend themselves to black and white more than others, of course. And some almost demand that you consider modifying them! Beautiful. –Curt

    1. I think there are two primary reasons I haven’t strayed into black and white photography. One is simple enough; I began carrying a camera to record nature, particularly flowers, and although their forms are interesting, color’s a great part of their appeal. Architecture’s different; black and white suits it.

      Beyond that, I experienced a significant loss of color vision prior to having my cataracts removed and new lenses implanted. After getting the new lenses, I was so overwhelmed by the color in the world I couldn’t stop looking. After a few years of drinking in color, I’m starting to pay more attention to form, and that’s where B&W can shine.

  8. I am a lover of black and white images too and the wonderful images lends well to that vision. I truly enjoyed the interaction with your readers and the poetry play.I am sitting here eating some nice white coconut but suddenly I’d like a plum.

    1. You’re the one who showed me that even birds can shine in black and white — and all the shades of gray in between. I think you’ve used b&w with your herons and egrets more than other birds, and the images are compelling.

      I’ve always liked that poem, and all of the parodies that have come along. In 2017, when the President fired Anthony Scaramucci and he left the White House, this one showed up on Twitter, and amused me so much I kept it:

      I have fired
      the Mooch
      that was in
      the WH

      and whom
      you were probably
      mocking
      for re-tweets

      Forgive me
      he was ridiculous
      so mouthy
      and so bold

      1. I am partial to herons and egrets for sure. White birds do make great black and white images just due to the inherent contrast between white and deep green shadowy leaves or swamp shadows they may have for background. But, also and probably by accident I found that mid day images where the light is harsh, can lend wonderful detail to a black and white bird image even with a light background as a cloudless baby blue sky. I have done some darker birds but generally they are herons too, LOL!! Maybe I ought to go after a Black Vulture and make a low key dark portrait. There are so moody anyway.

        1. A friend of mine recently did a series of Vultures and my favourites were of those soaring and showing all the dramatic detail of their back-lit, outstretched wings… (Of course, I’d also really rather prefer to not be able to see the gory blood-red of their heads on any day, anyway; )

          1. Yeah, I totally get that. Someone’s gotta do it though!! I find Black Vultures can be humorous to watch at times. They have this kind of hopping motion they do…usually when trying to move away from photographers on the same dirt path. They are interesting though, both Black Vultures and the Turkey Vultures too.

    1. It certainly did in this case. It crossed my mind that the pair would look good mounted together on a wall — although I’m not quite sure where I could put them. Wall space is in short supply around here.

  9. I am so glad that you enjoyed seeing the conversion, Linda. I don’t often do anything to a photograph by another person but, as I said, this is a great picture and the desire to see it without the color was irresistible. I hope you will experiment in the future. As many of your friends here have said, some image work better in one form or the other.
    Williams’ poem is wonderful. Who writes poetry about stealing another’s food? Well, maybe someone’s lunch from the office fridge. :)

          1. Here’s a related one that comes to mind: purposefully walking away with a post office clerk’s pen. I know one clerk who always assumes intention, and loudly chastises any offender.

            1. They might have to supply their own pens or pay for them when the grow legs. We have a table full of pens with our bank’s name on them. That’s a different thing but still they are hot merchandise now.

    1. After your conversion, it occurred to me that the decision for black and white or color may be a little like a different sort of choice I make. Occasionally, a thought comes to me and I know it needs to become a haiku, or an etheree, rather than a prose piece. Letting the subject dictate the form might apply in photography, too.

      As for those plums, I’ve always imagined them snitched rather than stolen — like opening the refrigerator and discovering the slices of cold pizza that had been set aside for breakfast had ended up on someone else’s plate in the middle of the night.

      1. I agree. As with your writing choices so are the choices made for other art forms. I have a wide interest in so many ways to photograph nature that it always amazes me that some photographers are able to narrow that interest into one category…i.e birds or landscape or wildlife. I am easily distracted.

          1. Well it certainly is not about the same subject as “Seinfeld”…a show about nothing. In my opinion “Lagniappe” is about your observations of nature and “The Task at Hand” is about very good writing and rational thought. Those definitions have a lot of wiggle room allowed based on what you find interesting.

    1. Those clear, blue autumn skies just can’t be beat, can they? With any luck, we may see some of that blue this coming week. I do like the drama of the black and white version, but the purity of the colors in the other version was something to behold.

  10. I am sorry Linda, but Steve Gingold’s black and white version is splendid and although I am not selling your photograph short, his photo is my favorite. I am a sucker for black and white photography

    1. There’s no reason for you to apologize for preferring black and white photography, Yvonne. We all have our preferences. Of course, in both cases the photo is mine; the black and white processing is Steve’s. I’m glad to have the pair of them now, to admire and think about.

  11. In my experience as a lover of photography as art, it has always seemed to me that color photographs are primarily about color — the hues, shades and tones, and how light affects them. Black and white photography, however, always seemed more about design — the shapes and forms, and their composition in the photograph; that’s what I find myself responding to. I think there is a visceral reason that we don’t respond to black and white photography in the same way we respond to color photography. Black and white photography strikes the pattern recognition portion of our brain, that visual analyst area that looks for recognizable patterns, shapes and forms. But add colors and our monkey brain kick in and takes over, that part of our evolutionary history where color was a matter of life and death. We can stand back from black and white photography because we know instinctively that it as an image and, as such, at a remove from reality, but color photography is more difficult to dissociate from because our reality is in color.

    I wish you had included your original photograph in this post, as I think it would have made my point very nicely.

    1. There’s no question I responded differently to the black and white version of this photo, and what you say about the reasons that we do respond differently makes sense. On the other hand, I suspect it’s more complicated than that. Particularly when abstraction is added to the mix, the lines of a color photo of a flower, for example, can become equally as compelling as the color itself, and gradations of light and shadow in a b&w can mimic the effect of color.

      Part of the fun in isolating a flower and highlighting its structure in some way is that it dissociates the flower from our usual ways of seeing it, and makes us really pay attention. Think Georgia O’Keeffe, for example, and her comments about her own intentions:

      “I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flowers you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower—and I don’t.”

  12. It looks great. I’ve also meant to convert several color images from color to B&W and the strongly lit ones work so favorably, as your image clearly demonstrates. As usual, you’re on top of great poets and William Carlos Williams is one of them. He’s an example of a multifaceted human being, also having been a pediatric physician all throughout his life and able to write such ample body of work to also win a Pulitzer. Thanks for this treat.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Maria. It doesn’t surprise me that you appreciate William Carlos Williams. I’m always a little astounded by writers who combine not just work and writing, but demanding work with extraordinary poetry or prose. It takes such discipline — more than I’ve ever achieved.

      I was surprised by the effect of transforming this photo into black and white, too. I keep muttering about learning Lightroom or Photoshop Elements (I have both on my computer) and maybe this finally will prove to be the impetus. Using in-camera settings might do the trick, but I doubt it. It looks to me as though there was some pretty detailed digital dodging and burning in Steve’s treatment.

      1. Lately I became interested in the mirrorless Canon cameras, but they changed the mounts and that was extremely discouraging for me because they are full frame and lighter cameras.

        1. Same here with Nikons. I’d really be interested in teir new “Z” series, but not only that I’d need an adapter, but I’m also using DX lenses, and not the full frame FX ones. So I’ll just stay with my D500.

          1. Hi Pit. From what I’ve gathered, Canon is NOT going to continue making that many new EF lenses because even the newer full frame camera models will also have an RF (mirrorless) mount. I could be mistaken, but this is the impression I got, although the DSLR has a better viewfinder, the mirrorless is said to be taking over. It seems Nikon did the same thing. Poor us who already have lenses that need an adapter! I have a collection of them which will not fit the new mirrorless camera bodies without an adapter. Sony was able to make that mirrorless transition without changing the mount and you can even use the equivalent of both APS-C and full frame EF lenses on the same camera. Apparently, both Canon and Nikon stayed a bit behind.

            1. Well, I’ll (have to) stick with my Nikon D500. Ever since I decided for the old D70s, because that model was a lot cheaper than the full frame one, I could not change unless I was ready to invest a lot of money. And I must admit, I’m happy with my present camera. Sometimes I’d like to have something like a Coolpix with an enormous zoom but I’d have to compromise on the wide angle there. Too much compromise, that is.

            2. I once did get a full frame camera but was not fully content with the size nor the video conversion it offered at that time. I don’t shoot much video but I was interested in having a fully functional full frame DSLR with 4K video capability and the Canon 5D Mark IV didn’t have it, so I returned it.

              The reason I was interested in full frame was it’s low light capability sensor. The full frame sensor is known to yield better low light images. As of now, I have the 2015 Canon EOS Rebel T6s DSLR Camera which continues to serve me really well as long as I keep the ISO at 100 or so.

  13. Good for you for having the grace to be delighted with what Steve did, and the poem – at least I recognize this one! – is perfect, along with your reinterpretation. Like you said in a comment above, letting the subject dictate – or at least nudge you towards – the form can be applied in any number of places. Personally, I really enjoyed seeing the two photographs and being reminded of infinite possibilities.

    1. Collaboration is a wonderful thing, as you know. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes not, but there are occasions when adding parts exponentially increases the value of the whole.

      Your mention of infinite possibilities reminds me of how much I enjoy the kaleidoscope as a metaphor for the creative process. Perhaps I mentioned that in your blog. All of us collect bits and pieces — quotations, photographs, thoughts, techniques — arranging them as we will. But a single twist can rearrange those bits in a new and unexpected way. Even re-reading a book, re-watching a film, or returning to a place where we’ve photographed again and again and provide the ‘twist’ — and it can be so immensely satisfying.

      1. I like to do B&W, with my ACDSee editing programme. I’ve published quite a few on my other blog [https://pitsbilderbuch.wordpress.com/].

  14. They changed the mounts which means you have to put an adapter to make all your regular EF lens fit. I can’t believe it! Either you put the adapter or you buy a whole new line of lenses.

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