The Day The Colours Fall

After photographing with intention for a few years, we start to recognise patterns and themes in our work.

Something I’ve noticed with my photography is there comes a day in the autumn when I quite suddenly have the desire to switch to black and white photography. 

This doesn’t mean I won’t make another colour photograph until the spring or summer. It just means my general feeling is the late autumn and winter months look better captured in monochrome than in colour.

Looking back in my Flickr, this year there were a few odd b/w shots on my iPhone in September, before the real onslaught began mid October, with this photograph.

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Aside from a one-off in April, the last previous b/w photo in 2017 was early February, in the grips of winter.

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Between those two, a riot of growth and colour blossomed, which this year coincided with the discovery of the Pentax K10D and its glorious CCD sensor.

In 2016, the post summer mono mood first took hold on 8 October.

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Again, the last b/w the other side of the summer, aside from brief, single roll dabbles in June and July, was early April.

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In 2015, it must have been a very mild autumn, judging from the sun and still vibrant colour in my shots from back then. It wasn’t until early December the first b/w photographs appeared.

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And, once again, aside from a solitary film roll fling in June, the last shot in b/w from the early part of 2015 was late February.

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Though the precise day changes year to year, a very similar cycle occurs with me, and there’s always that one day in late autumn to early winter when the colours fall.

I wonder too if it’s not just about there being less colour around in nature in winter, and the weather generally being bleaker, but reflecting a more subdued mood in myself too.

This year I feel with my wonderful little new friend the Ricoh GR Digital III, I couldn’t be better prepared for these muted seasons, when everything tends to make more sense in monochrome…

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Do you notice certain factors influencing when you shoot colour versus black and white? Do you experience any seasonal changes in your photography, or is it much the same all year round? Please let us know in the comments below. 

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15 thoughts on “The Day The Colours Fall”

  1. Sure, there are virtually no colors (except in the cities) in winter. But for me it’s the inverse. My normal view of the world is black and white and sometimes, I lust for a color film…. haven’t figured out the exact times though.

    1. Frank your comment has made me think about the degrees of colour too.

      I love my Pentax K10D for the vibrant colours it gives, and it’s ideal for the blooms of summer, and vibrant greens of trees, and even autumn shades, on sunny days.

      But sometimes I like more muted colours (You know how so many TV dramas and films these days have very muted, grey/green tones, and some are very bleak indeed?).

      I’ve done some initial playing with the in-camera saturation and hue settings of the Ricoh GRDIII but not quite got something I like yet.

      The other option is using/modifying a preset in LightRoom, and shooting RAW, which is another thing I’d like to experiment with, with the Ricoh.

      Muted winter tones makes more sense than anything bright, for when I do want a hint of colour…

      1. I like to overexposed my film a stop or two. Gives very nice muted, washed out colors!

        But that’s film. On digital you’ll have to run the raw files through Lightroom I guess.

        1. Interesting, with colour film I tend to overexpose a stop to get MORE saturated colours. Guess it depends on the film, most of the consumer stuff I use has -1/+3 exposure latitude, so a stop over doesn’t make a huge difference. I imagine with a less tolerant film, a couple of stops either way would have a much more significant effect.

  2. Hi Dan. Very interesting in that you’ve noticed something of a pattern in your use of B&W and colour.

    I really, really like B&W pictures and have made quite a lot of them, especially in digital. I can see a time where I shoot mainly in B&W but I doubt ever exclusively so. Just now and again there’s a little voice inside which says “There are so many beautiful colours out there – make some pictures of them.” I’ve found that especially so with the beautiful saturated colours of a sunny Autumn day (and we’ve been blessed with a few of those around our way recently).

    Also, I’ve not shot much landscape photography, but I do like it and think i’d struggle to shoot it in B&W. For me landscape work is all about the colours, whereas with street/urban photographs, still life, portraits etc. I get more pleasure from shapes and texture.

    Maybe what I’m getting at is that my colour/B&W split is more subject and genre driven, rather than seasonal?

    But whatever the reasoning, I guess it comes down to what makes your heart sing with a photo. It’s important for all of us to find what means uniquely for us as individuals. Rather than shooting B&W “Because that’s what Cartier-Bresson did” or saturated colour “Because Martin Parr does”.

    It probably comes back to your previous post about photographers finding their own voice and style. It’s an interesting journey for sure.

    1. Absolutely Richard, very interesting indeed, and a major reason I write a blog is to share these things and hear other peoples’ thoughts and preferences.

      I probably don’t shoot a wide enough variety of genres with my photographs to have the kind of range of preferences you talk about with your work. Though I do a bit of “street” stuff, it doesn’t usually feature people, at least not close up. And I hardly ever do portraits, aside from informal ones of family. So it’s mostly nature scenes, churchyards etc, where the seasons changing have a major impact on the type of subjects available to photograph, and my colour vs b/w decisions.

      I liked what you said about shape and texture. It’s certainly true for me in the summer I’m more seduced by colours (of flowers, trees, skies) whereas in the winter where there is naturally less colour anyway, the stark shapes and textures of objects become more apparent and attractive. A photograph of a dying tree for example (there are two or three in my local haunts) to me is far more appealing in b/w.

      https://www.flickr.com/photos/danjamesphotography/8012940569

      In some ways I like that b/w reduces the options again. It feels currently like after a summer with the K10D (and its siblings), plus a bunch of vintage lens shooting glorious colour, I need to radically simplify. Hence the appeal of the compact, intuitive, straightforward Ricoh GRD III, its one lens and one focal length, and b/w instead of colour. Every option has been pared down. Which is often exactly what I need!

      1. Until I shot the last of my FP-3000B stash, I tended to want to shoot instant pack film in the autumn! Now I’m not sure if my gear choices change; I guess I’ll have to see how it goes this year.

          1. Heh, FP-3000B *is* the equivalent instant film, to Polaroid’s departed Type 107. When Fuji stopped making instant pack film we pack-film shooters were left high and dry. You can still buy leftover FP-3000B stock here and there but it’s very pricey and I won’t pay it.

      2. Ah I see! I’ve not explored in great deal but there seem to be quite a few new options now for instant/polaroid film? I had a Fuji Instax Wide which delivered surprisingly good results.

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