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Author Topic: The style or idiom of 'barely color"  (Read 25900 times)
Michael Haspert
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« on: July 10, 2013, 11:52:02 AM »
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The idiom of "barely color" or "nearly monochrome" has attracted my attention. What I mean by barely-color is a shot where the color is subdued but necessary-- in other words, a shot where it looks like a B&W conversion would work, but the B&W turns out to be not as compelling.

Question 1: If "not quite black and white" is a well-known idea, who are some famous practitioners I can study? (I just can not get anywhere trying to google this.)

Question 2:  What do you think of my notion that the small amount of color is needed in the attached shots?

Any comments or thoughts are most welcome, remakes included.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2013, 11:58:40 AM by Michael Haspert » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2013, 01:43:06 PM »
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I have played with it too, but mostly it seems a waste of effort to get there. It becomes neither fish nor fowl, just a statement that one knows how to do it. As with many 'tricks' it doesn't often make a weak picture any the stronger and could possibly make a reasonable one look less so.

But with personal photography, do as you please!

;-)

Rob C
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Hening Bettermann
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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2013, 03:11:15 PM »
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I would like this if it is in fact the visual impression at shooting time, and not a 'style' that is applied by post processing.

In 'HarrysFence', I get the impression that the boards are bleached by age and weather to a degree that makes them look gray; only the little rest of color is left to show this, i.e. to distinguish it from a b&w photo.

Same in 'PatioBench. Both the 'over-exposed' wood of the bench and the tiny rest of blue in the shadows emphasize the impression of "very light" in a way that might not be achieved otherwise.

Good light!
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Michael Haspert
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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2013, 04:23:57 PM »
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I didn't mean to mislead by using the word 'style'. These are pretty much as-shot, not post-processed to get the look.
Maybe I should have said category or concept. What happened was I luckily took a high-key muted-color shot that appealed to me, so I kept the idea in-head and started checking for when it might be applicable.

Sometimes it works when the color is more definite. In the last photo, only the bit of brick-red and plant-green explain that the reflection in the plate is a view out a window
« Last Edit: July 10, 2013, 04:44:50 PM by Michael Haspert » Logged
RFPhotography
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2013, 09:15:40 AM »
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I didn't mean to mislead by using the word 'style'. These are pretty much as-shot, not post-processed to get the look.
Maybe I should have said category or concept. What happened was I luckily took a high-key muted-color shot that appealed to me, so I kept the idea in-head and started checking for when it might be applicable.

Sometimes it works when the color is more definite. In the last photo, only the bit of brick-red and plant-green explain that the reflection in the plate is a view out a window

Except that without the explanation, the viewer has no idea where the colour is coming from.

This is almost, particularly with the fence shot above, getting into the realm of selective black and white.  Selective B&W is pretty much a cliché that has been significantly overused and improperly used (hence why it's become cliché). 

Here's a question I have for you:  Are you looking for a way to rescue a picture that would otherwise not make the cut?

Looking at the 4 images posted originally, I don't find the colour adds to any of them.  The first doesn't appeal to me at all as a composition.  As far as the second, I love texture.  I love old wood fences, garage doors and the like.  But in the kind of shots I'm thinking of there's more of it.  Much more.  And usually there are boards askew or old rusty nails with interesting heads or other things to add visual interest and complete the idea of texture.  This fence is too regular, too smooth, too new.  The third, I think has some very compelling lines and shapes and could be strengthened with a crop.  Down from the top to eliminate the bit of shadow in the upper left corner and, if you want to maintain the aspect ratio, in from the right.  The skylight does nothing for me, personally.
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PeterAit
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2013, 09:37:15 AM »
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I sort of agree with Rob - actively manipulating an image to get this effect seems pointless and falls into the area that is, for me, too much manipulation. But, there are indeed some very effective images that are this way by the nature of the subject.
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Peter
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Michael Haspert
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2013, 01:40:59 PM »
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HI Bob:
Thanks for the feedback and for the question that made me question.  :-)

1. I'm not trying to rescue shots. These are low post-process shots of sought-out muted-color subjects. I guess what I'm doing is reacting against the "It only looks good if it's Vivid " idiom that I see all over the place. I'm trying to understand the situations where a little bit of color works--where it is the focus of the composition or the last piece of a puzzle. This is why my first question was essentially, "Who does this well?"

2. I shot the skylight because, when I first saw the shot, I saw the optical illusion called a Necker cube. To me, the corner (at top center) of the (actual) skylight seemed to oscillate--Is it sticking out or in? Finding that directly over my usual seat at the kitchen table made my day, photographically. So, maybe my shot fumbles the Necker illusion. (Once I see the illusion, I can't figure out how to not see it, so now I can't figure out how to exaggerate it (which is something I WOULD do in PP, if I could). Interesting catch 22.)

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RFPhotography
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2013, 09:33:29 PM »
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Now that you mention it, I see it too.  I can see it in the other corner as well.  So yes, I think the key to that one would be to come up with a composition that accentuated it but eliminated some of the other, less necessary, parts.
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2013, 09:55:39 PM »
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I think post processing to get the one or two colors is too gimicky as others have said.  Wait for it to be natural.
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Gulag
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2013, 11:05:14 PM »
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The idiom of "barely color" or "nearly monochrome" has attracted my attention. What I mean by barely-color is a shot where the color is subdued but necessary-- in other words, a shot where it looks like a B&W conversion would work, but the B&W turns out to be not as compelling.

Question 1: If "not quite black and white" is a well-known idea, who are some famous practitioners I can study? (I just can not get anywhere trying to google this.)

Question 2:  What do you think of my notion that the small amount of color is needed in the attached shots?

Any comments or thoughts are most welcome, remakes included.

Are you talking about much desaturated color images?
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« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2013, 01:07:57 AM »
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Question 2:  What do you think of my notion that the small amount of color is needed in the attached shots?
I like the style a lot.
I think it works particularly well for subjects with simple, bold compositions (like your last shot), rather than your third shot which seems a bit too 'busy' to me.
Ironically, getting the colour right is very important in these type of shots as colour casts, as unnatural or exaggerated tones, can really distract from the purity of the image.

I'm surprised that so many respondents here haven't understood the concept; A full colour image of a subject with a small colour palette, nothing to do with post-processing at all.
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louoates
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« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2013, 09:59:25 AM »
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When dealing with such nuanced shades of minimal color I would think the biggest challenge is to get the prints to look right. Equal in difficulty to making toned prints that look right, especially in a series.
As to the "barely color" technique I don't particularly like it. It's not a good or bad thing. But I'm very sales minded about images and find it hard to visualize a high customer demand for such subtlety. If my image falls between a good b/w image and a more traditional color image I rarely proceed.
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Michael Haspert
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« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2013, 12:32:24 PM »
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I like the style a lot.
I think it works particularly well for subjects with simple, bold compositions (like your last shot), rather than your third shot which seems a bit too 'busy' to me.
Ironically, getting the colour right is very important in these type of shots as colour casts, as unnatural or exaggerated tones, can really distract from the purity of the image.

I'm surprised that so many respondents here haven't understood the concept; A full colour image of a subject with a small colour palette, nothing to do with post-processing at all.
Thank you Rhossydd. Exactly.
I see I need practice at simple things like getting my point across in less than 100 words. Apologies to all for the confusion.
Since I first posted, I found a master of the style--Saul Leiter. See below.
Any other suggestions?

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Rhossydd
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« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2013, 12:53:45 PM »
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I see I need practice at simple things like getting my point across in less than 100 words.
Not your problem, you were perfectly clear.
Some folk simply don't read what's actually written.
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Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2013, 03:58:42 AM »
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Not your problem, you were perfectly clear.
Some folk simply don't read what's actually written.


And some others never dowload other people's pictures, almost certainly without prior permission, either.

But let's avoid another long, boring interchange about legitimate usage etc.

Must be fucking wonderful being perfect; so far, I've found but two of you in that category - how exclusively delightful for you both!

;-)

Rob C
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Rhossydd
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« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2013, 04:20:13 AM »
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And some others never dowload other people's pictures, almost certainly without prior permission, either.
But let's avoid another long, boring interchange about legitimate usage etc.
What's this about ? Any relevance to this thread ?
Quote
Must be fucking wonderful being perfect; so far, I've found but two of you in that category - how exclusively delightful for you both!
Reading posts and commenting on what's actually been written is a simple courtesy you obviously seem to find difficult.
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Michael Haspert
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« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2013, 03:39:58 PM »
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I am not being ironic, sarcastic or anything else. I truly do not know the answer to the following questions.

Did I do something wrong? My experience with text and with graphics like maps and charts is that quoting (with attribution) for the purposes of discussion and analysis is well within fair usage.
Is this not true for photos in particular for some reason? If so, I'm sorry. I certainly do not wish to make trouble for the forum or the website.

If it is not legitimate to post a lo-res so that folks know the shot I'm talking about; what is Luminous Landscape's recommended way of referring to a well-know artwork?
Thanks in advance.
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Rhossydd
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« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2013, 06:02:47 PM »
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Did I do something wrong? My experience with text and with graphics like maps and charts is that quoting (with attribution) for the purposes of discussion and analysis is well within fair usage.
Is this not true for photos in particular for some reason? If so, I'm sorry. I certainly do not wish to make trouble for the forum or the website.

If it is not legitimate to post a lo-res so that folks know the shot I'm talking about; what is Luminous Landscape's recommended way of referring to a well-know artwork?
Some people would say that downloading and reposting any photo without permission is unacceptable.
Not sure I'd take that stance in this particular case given the tiny sizes involved.

It's generally regarded as better practice to just post a URL to another's work instead.
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Michael Haspert
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« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2013, 10:54:11 PM »
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Thanks for the kind advice, Rhossydd. It made me think about where I might have gone wrong.

Upon further research and consideration, why am I trying to figure this out myself??
You folks (on Luminous Landscape forums) have been having recurring debates about fair usage?
You're kidding.
How about consulting someone else, (for example, someone who must get it right) like wikipaintings.org?

This is Wikipaintings.org's official worldwide position, based on their legal counsel.
//Quote
The site presents both public domain artworks and works that are protected by copyright. The last ones are posted on the site in accordance with fair use principle, because:
  They are historically significant artworks;
  The images are only being used for informational and educational purposes;
  The image are readily available on the internet;
  The images are low resolution copies of the original artworks and are unsuitable for commercial use.
//endquote

Based on these principles, they are posting lo-res captures of (for just one example) Picasso's in-copyright art and no one is challenging them.

Now, I happen to believe that the membership of Luminous Landscape Forums  are experts in the field, so asking questions of experts in the field falls under 'educational purposes'.
Since I can't afford legal counsel of the stature that an expert in their field (wikipaintings.org) can, I think I will  'borrow their (wikipainting.org's) homework'.
So. feel free to diss me after you feel up to taking on wikipedia.org's and wikipaintings.org's position on this topic.

Best Regards,
Michael Haspert
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Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2013, 03:01:17 AM »
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I've just watched a young female person on tv expounding about the 'problem' of zero-hour work contracts. That we are living through times when job seurity is a thing of the past, to hear a young person spouting forth with such a sense of entitlement was an eye-opener. One wonders on which planet such people are reared.

I would have thought that within the sorts of occupations these people move, Macjobs/temporary/peak-demand periods etc, where there is no way on Earth that business needs or should logically employ the same numbers 24/24, that an appreciation of the short-term need and quality of those jobs would also be understood by the person with the job. But no; even talk about unionising! The fact that a job exists because someone needs someone else to perform a specific function for a specific period doesn't seem to count: employment is turned into risk management, in the sense that once somebody hires someone, the hirer has stepped into a gin trap of obligations that can only act to ensure that as few people are offered any employment, permanent or temporary, as is possible! Way to go! No wonder I worked solo all my life.

It made me think of the parallels with using another's image without permission.

It's this sense of 'entitlement' again; because there may or may not be legislation about a particular usage doesn't mean that common courtesy should be discarded as an unnecessary evil, as if it were but another infringement of the user's sense of entitlement. What about the author's sense of entitlement, doesn't he even deserve the courtesy of being consulted? (Within LuLa that poses no problem of access.)

I'm perfectly aware that those exist for whom any attention to their image is better than no attention; thing is you don't know until you ask. It always pays to be polite; it even opens doors.

Rob C
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