Discover Hawaii Tours 9:54pm, 6 September 2011
Looking through the Discover Hawaii group, there are a lot of color photos.

What kind of image warrants a monochromatic treatment? In other words, why use black-and-white for a colorful paradise like Hawaii?
TomBenedict PRO 7 years ago
It depends on the subject. Some really call for color, others work well in black and white. Still others work well with a sepia tone treatment. It all depends.

Some years ago there was a B&W photo competition in Waimea that I entered. I submitted three pictures. One was from a B&W negative I'd made of a silversword plant. Another was a desaturated digital photograph of trees in mist. The third was an aerial. I never should've entered that aerial. It was inherently a color subject. Trying to make it work with B&W utterly ruined it. Unfortunately it's still hanging around my house. Just a frame and mat asking for a new purpose in life. But the other two did work in B&W. In the case of the trees in mist, it worked better as B&W than as a color photo.

Two local subjects I think really lean toward B&W are the distinct island architecture and paniolos. Two photographers whose work I enjoy, Dan Sabin and Jock Goodman, have made B&W photos of these two subjects that really work well. Another subject that works well in B&W and in sepia tone is hula. More particularly hula kuhiko. I've seen some outstanding B&W hula photography.

I still think landscapes are natural subjects for B&W, but it's tricky here in the islands. I know it can be done, but so far I've been disappointed with every effort I've made along those lines.

Good question!
Discover Hawaii Tours 7 years ago
Great answer!
TomBenedict PRO 7 years ago
I really enjoy checking this group to see what questions you've posted. They get a fellow thinking.

This one is still rattling around in my head. I'm a huge fan of Ansel Adams. His Technical Series is what originally got me into large format film photography. The times I've done photography in the Southwest, I've come away pleased as can be with both the color and B&W photos I've made.

Which is why good B&W landscape photography of the Big Island is such a grudge match with me. I want it to work. I just haven't figured out how.

But I've had good luck with a related type of photography: selective color. Back in the day, you'd make a B&W print, usually on an RC paper, and hand-tint only those parts you want to contain color using a mixture of pencils and acrylics. I still have my hand tinting supplies somewhere in my photo gear.

These days selective color is typically done using a color digital file. A desaturated or otherwise B&W converted copy is layered on top of it, and a mask is used to allow only those bits of color the photographer wants to show through.

I think Hawaii is a fantastic location for doing selective color. There are so many scenes where you have strong graphic elements with a distinctive color that lends itself to this technique. I did this one a while back, just on a whim:


A little too subtle for my taste as a selective color photo, but you get the idea. Selective color lets the photographer draw the viewer's eye only to a particular spot in the photograph: a reflection, a flower, a gecko, a single person. These things can blend into the background when the full rich color of the Hawaiian landscape surrounds them. But set them apart and the picture can pop.
Discover Hawaii Tours 7 years ago
Thanks t.benedict, it's a pleasure to hear your perspective on these questions.

More discussion topics to come soon!
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