Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Black and white versions

with 21 comments


In a comment on this morning’s post Alessandra Chaves suggested the image of tall goldenrod seed head remains (Solidago altissima) against wispy clouds would look good in black and white. Of the infinitely many ways to convert a given color photograph to monochrome, here are two.



You can compare these to the original color photograph.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2023 at 10:53 AM

21 Responses

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  1. This version reminds me of a feather with the cloud behind it mimicking the shape of the plant or maybe it’s the reverse?


    January 24, 2023 at 11:23 AM

  2. I prefer the B&W versions to the color, especially the first, more dramatic-looking one.

    Robert Parker

    January 24, 2023 at 1:21 PM

    • There’s a long photographic history of black and white landscapes with dramatic clouds. You’re at home in that tradition, and many would keep you company in it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 3:22 PM

  3. My mother just saw this and was excited about how she knew what it was, she is very into flowers, plants, and other foliage. Thank you for this post!

    Rei Clearly

    January 24, 2023 at 2:17 PM

    • You’re welcome, and commendations to your mother. People often have trouble identifying a plant from its remains.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 3:23 PM

  4. I like both variations. Taking away the color enhances the texture of the images.


    January 24, 2023 at 4:45 PM

    • Right. Without color, form and texture fill the void, so to speak, and take on more importance. I worked with black and white for decades, developing film and making prints myself. I still appreciate monochrome but I’ve become enamored of color. With the advent and continuing improvement of software like Photoshop, even someone who wants a black and white image has a big advantage starting out with a color original because of the many ways to convert to monochrome. The more colors and shades of colors in the original, the greater the possibilities for noticeably different black and white derivatives.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 5:21 PM

      • I imagine it’s easy to spend hours with photo processing. I do only a little, since I don’t have any fancy programs, but I can definitely see the appeal.


        January 24, 2023 at 5:27 PM

        • Yes, it’s easy to spend hours processing photos—too many hours for my own good, I’ve been thinking.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 24, 2023 at 6:43 PM

  5. I like these and nice that you included the link to the color version–they’re all beautiful captures, Steve.


    January 24, 2023 at 5:30 PM

    • This post was spontaneous, put together in an hour or so after the comment that the color original would make a good black and white. Only a couple of times before (if I remember right) have I shown a partly desaturated or fully desaturated version of a color photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 6:45 PM

  6. I prefer the first. The plant against the bright streak of clouds is more dramatic and without the color gives more of an impression of flowing water…which in a way clouds are.

    Steve Gingold

    January 25, 2023 at 3:40 AM

    • The teacher in me wanted to show that two conversions could look pretty different. I’m with you in favoring the drama of the first one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2023 at 6:52 AM

  7. They are beautiful against the sky, almost majestic!

    Lavinia Ross

    January 25, 2023 at 1:21 PM

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