From “The Garden in Black & White” in Creative Garden Photography by Harold Davis:
“It’s clear that black and white is very important to certain kinds of garden photography. Why?
“For one thing, a black and white photograph is ‘art.’ In the context of gardens, black and white has a long history of rendering the shapes, forms, and composition of the garden….
“Up until fairly recently, photography was only black and white. Color was not an option. Nineteenth-century photographers, such as Eugène Atget (1857–1927) who worked near Paris, used the prowess of their monochromatic cameras to capture gardens around the world with a particular emphasis on the patterns and structure of formal French gardens. To some extent, this embrace of the static in garden photography was driven by technology: not only was photography monochromatic, shutters were also slow, so capturing anything in motion was non-trivial.
“As time went by, when color film was introduced, the great era of Kodachrome was on. Fast forward a few more decades, and the wet-film darkroom transitioned to digital. Not only is the default capture mode on most digital cameras or smartphones in color, to choose to render a garden image captured in color in black and white is an affirmative choice. In today’s world, to present an image in black and white is making a statement. The statements may well be: ‘Look at me, I am a work of art!’ ‘I am special.’ ‘I am the form and composition reduced to its essentials.’ Of course, it also helps that black and white photography is simply beautiful.”
For most of my photo projects — where I clump a couple dozen similar photos into a Lightroom collection and work on them together — I often convert a few to black and white to see if I like the monochrome versions enough to produce a separate set. Usually, I don’t find them compelling; but for the mostly-magenta amaryllis I featured in the previous two posts (see Amaryllis, Mostly Magenta (1 of 2) and Amaryllis, Mostly Magenta (2 of 2)) the combination of colors in the pink-to-purple range (along with the slightly shiny glow produce by lots of rain the night before I took the photos) seemed to work out well in black and white. As I often do, I added a bit of silver tone (actually, a wee bit of light blue) to each of the images, which seemed to further emphasize the soft textures of individual flower petals.
Thanks for taking a look!