Cacti, Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Posted by on Oct 30, 2011 in Blog | 5 comments

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, Arizona, USA

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, Arizona

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, Arizona, USA

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, Arizona

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

Cacti, Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Last week-end I received my copy of David duChemin’s new book, Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images. As with all of his books, David discusses how to create great photographs by discussing their design and the power of the elements in the image.  This is a book about creating style and having vision rather than the technical aspects of photography.  The basics of composition are discussed, I think mainly to ensure everyone is on the same page, but the main purpose of the book is a discussion of how to structure an image so the that the visual elements in the frame are effectively placed to tell the story the photographer intended.  One of the main themes of the book is the inability of a photographer to discuss what appeals to them about a particular photograph or for a photographer to adequately describe their own images.  One of the aims of this book is to get a photographer to think about a photograph, how it is constructed, how it works, and more importantly, why it works.  It is only through an understanding of the how and the why that we can adequately express the emotion created by the image.

All of David’s books have been thought provoking and are highly recommended (This is the fourth book in his trilogy – he manages to explain this but it would take too long to include here – The previous ones being Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision; Vision Mongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography; and Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom).  This one has made me think about my images more than any of its predecessors.  His use of Message, Elements and Decisions with comparison to the use of language to create novels and poetry, although unusual, works very well with his conversational writing style.  Throughout my reading of the book I was constantly thinking about my own images and how they could have been improved by applying one or more of the ideas discussed.

In section two of the book where David discusses effective composition, after he discusses each concept there are Creative Exercises for the reader based upon the tasks he assigns the attendees of his workshops.  One concept is on the Seduction of Color.  For this Creative Exercise the reader is to create two versions of six favorite color photographs, rendering one of each into black and white.  The idea is to see what has changed in the image by removing the color.  Does your eye move through the picture differently?  Do you have a different emotional response to the color versus the black and white image?  Which one is best is not the aim of the exercise; the point is to see how color makes a difference.  As David puts it “there’s nothing wrong with a photograph being significantly about color itself, but it can often distract photographers from looking critically at lines and tones, moments, light, and other elements that could vastly improve the image if we gave them more attention”.

Many of the blogs I read have included these B&W versus color comparisons of the same image and I thought I would do the same here.  This image of Barrel Cacti under a tree in Boyce Thompson Arboretum was always intended to be in color but whilst producing some B&W images for a wall at home I thought I would try this one.  I liked the effect but as David duChemin so elegantly pointed out in the introduction to his book, I could not explain why.

Which version do you prefer?  And, more importantly why?

Camera: Minolta Maxxum 7D

Lens: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 IF EX DG HSM AF

Processing: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 | Nik Silver Efex Pro


  1. The colour version, because to me, the colours make it look like cacti. The b&w, although I like it, looks a bit surreal and it isn’t clear what it is at first inspection.
    It is all about what YOUR vision was when you first took it, thats what counts.
    Good post.
    Marc Collins recently posted..Looking down the ThamesMy Profile

  2. Lovely images. I’d take the color version. I like the vibrancy of that one, although both are really special.
    Jimi Jones recently posted..The GatewayMy Profile

  3. nicely done and I lean toward the color shot, but that is usually my preference – both look great though!

  4. Great shot Mark. I love both versions. While the B&W is really appealing, the white cactus needles are very threatening in this one I think I prefer the vibrancy of the color.
    Edith levy recently posted..It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…..My Profile

  5. Interesting now that it is brought to my attention but I do see even these two images differently. The b/w draws me more intensely to the subject. Great post!
    Curt Fleenor recently posted..Grandfather MoonMy Profile

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