I have just got back from a few weeks traveling and shooting in S.E Asia and much of my time was spent in Cambodia exploring the incredible ancient runins around Siem Reap, and then heading out on a 4X4 trip around the northern part of the country to access some more remote, less frequented places. I had certain self imposed goals for the trip and wanted to make sure that I captured a full range of images so that I could package up a collection to sell to a photography magazine. This meant getting some shots that truly showed the beauty of the Cambodian countryside and the life that lives within it.
The last day of my trip rolled around and I still wasn't totally happy with the “countryside shots” that I had gotten, it was the one thing that I hadn't scribbled off my shot list. We headed out in the 4X4 late in the afternoon with my fixer and a local translator. They said they knew of a great spot to watch the sun set amongst the farmers fields and thought there was a good opportnity for some interesting images of rural country life.
Sure enough once we got there I saw that it was just about perferct. Totally idylic and full of farming life with animals running in every direction and plains of rice paddies backed by towering palm trees. Once again, the value of having a knowlegeable fixer on an important photo expedition was paying off, but more on that in a later article…….
As the sun started getting towards the horizon we got to opportunity to shoot a local mad with his water buffalo cart and I knew rigth away that this was going to be my opportunity to get the shot I had been looking for. The light was perfect, the scene was perfect and the subject was perfect as well. The sun was just above the horizon and being my last day in Cambodia, it was literally counting down to the end of my trip, I HAD to get the shot. I had a 24-105mm lanes on my Canon 5D MKIII and set it right out at 24mm. The low sun was creating incredible contrasts and the shot just juped right out at me and I had enough time to rattle off about 5 shots and get the farmers head between the spoked of the cart wheel.
This is the shot I ended up with:
Now normally when you shoot a shot at sunset you are looking for that golden light, those warm tones cast across your subject and deep blues in the sky. When I opened this image in Lightroom though I knew instantly that this was going to be converted to black and white and I wanted to take the time here to discuss this instict and why I would make this decision. It has those wonderful end-of-day colors we strive for, why would I want to get rid of them?
Color in an image is just one piece of the puzzle. All these pieces come together to form the final photo but sometimes you can complete that puzzle with less pieces and still see what the final result is meant to be. When you complete the puzzle with less pieces, you produce a simpler image that allows the reader to concentrate more on the pieces that are in the photo. Let's examine the pieces in this image:
- We have the farmer himself who really sets the idea that we are in the coutryside farming.
- We have the palm tree in the backgroud which tells us that this is a more exotic location.
- We have the Water Buffalo which again reinforces the farming and countryside aspect which is the main theme I was looking for in the image.
- We have the sun burst caused by the low sunshine broken up by the Buffalo head which tells us it's either early morning or late in the evening, again setting the scene and reinforcing 'hard working farmers in the countryside'
So how does color fit into this image? All the color does here is reinforce that sunset feeling yet the sun burst and lens flare is already making that plainly obvious. It doesn't add to the main point of the image which is the farmer and the Buffalo at all. Golden sunset light can bring out and highlight wonderful colors in your subject if they have wonderful colors in the first place. Muddy buffalo and wooden carts have no colors to excentuate anyway. By removing the color from this image the viewers eye will go to four distict places on this photo, guaranteed. They will go to the sun burst, then the palm tree, then establish that this is a Buffalo and then finally their gaze will draw along the line of the cart to the farmer's face. Those four elements that they have explored take them from the left side of the image, right across to the other side on a journey that explains all that they need to know about what is going on here. Having color in the shot just draws attention away from the important elements. For the very same reason why I spend so much time framing my images to include only exactly what is necessary and nothing more, color can be removed from a photo to simplify and reinforce ideas.
Final Image – Converted to B&W with Nik Silver Efex Pro2
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