I took this photograph back in October 2012 as I was driving toward Portland, Oregon along US Highway 26. This shot is the John Day River in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. I had stopped in the Monument that day as I had never been in the area before, and was just awestruck at the landscape. It wasn’t the best time of day, so I had snapped a few photos and moved on. A storm was coming in and I had decided I needed to hit Prineville for the night, still quite aways from where I was.
Anyway, as I was crossing the river pushing westward. I saw the late afternoon sun hitting the basalt cliffs and this golden grass swaying in the breeze. As pushed as I was for time to beat the darkness and deer crossing black highways, I found a pull off spot and scrambled down to the river to get my shot.
Now, this photo has given me fits as I never seemed to be able to get the final image to match what I saw that October afternoon so many years ago now. Anyway, I was looking through my old photos as the weather here is cruddy today. It was supposed to rain all weekend, but all we’ve had are a few sprinkles and lots of wind. The original plan was to be in Malad, Idaho for a car show with a friend, but Mother Nature made other plans for us. Neither of us wanted to get caught in a messy rainstorm after all that cleaning and polishing.
Well, I came across my old nemesis, the John Day River photo, and decided to give her one more shot. I slightly adjusted the color temperature from what I shot on “auto white balance”, making it just a tad warmer, less than 100 degrees Kelvin. Then I used my de-hazing tool, but not too aggressively. Next I made the usual adjustments — bumping up the mid-tone saturation a little, adding in more color saturation and vibrancy, and ever so slightly adjusting the contrast and brightness. And then as a final tweak, I increased my exposure 0.20 stops. And…
There was my shot! This is what I saw almost 8 years ago down on the river bank that chilly October afternoon.
Now, I know I have been working with monochrome quite a bit lately, and if you’ve caught my last post, you’re probably wondering where the black and white will come in. Alright, here is a little photography philosophy. What?
For me photography is about two things — recording a moment or a scene, or capturing a feeling brought about by an image. Now, the second is what we’re dealing with here. The reason I can describe the moments surrounding the original photograph so well, is because that moment and those emotions are stored in my memory forever. I can recall exactly how I felt as I came around that bend and saw the warm sunlight hitting that basalt rock and then saw the gleaming gold grass contrasting with the cold, bluish water and sky. I literally had to get that image!
Here is the corresponding monochrome photo that I made today.
Now, I admit this monochrome is actually pretty darn nice. In my opinion, this is a quality photo whether we’re seeing it in color or in black and white. The tonal range is full and robust, and the composition is balanced and draws in the viewer. The monochrome does retain a few of the qualities that originally drew me to make that stop. The bright highlights of the grass blooms against the darker cliffs and water. The unsettled darker, somewhat foreboding sky offers a nice contrast to the bright grasses. Yes, the black and white is a good photograph in my opinion.
But in this case, as was the case in my previous post, I feel the original color image is stronger. Why? Again, the color adds yet another dimension here. The late afternoon sun added just a hint of magenta in that cold, bluish October sky. While the gold grass heads still offer the same sharp contrast in color or black and white, the cool tones in the river shadows capture the contrasting temperature of being down by the water as compared to being up by those warm, sunlit dark reddish rocks. And then the green of the undergrass adds yet another subtle contrast and reminder of the last hint of summer present in the autumn transition into winter.
So now you have my opinions on this photograph. I would definitely like to hear what you think. And I really hope that you are enjoying the narratives regarding how I am making these images and why I prefer the color or monochrome photographs.
Well, thanks as always for visiting my blog. This is really for you, my readers. Have a wonderful weekend.