Lonely Stranger

‘Cause I’m a lonely stranger here, well beyond my day.

And I don’t know what’s goin’ on, so I’ll be on my way. – Eric Clapton

Here we start with two pictures. I could have started with one and desaturated the colour to B&W or shot two or more to begin with, but I shot one in colour and the next in B&W and worked from there. To avoid prejudicing observed opinions I’ll hold off on explaining the differences and why I made the changes until you’ve seen the images.

Unaltered colour shot:


Unaltered Black & White:


First Changed:


Second Changed:


Third Changed:


Fourth Changed:


Fifth Changed:


Sixth Changed:


Now let’s address the issues I saw in the originals and what changes I made and why.

The first colour shot looks fine, until you notice the lens flare in the upper right. Whereas some may find this not a big deal, I see it as an intrusive yellow dot. In the first B&W shot it shows as a white dot. Somewhat less intrusive, but still annoying. I swear I did not see this when setting up the shot. Yes it’s getting so that even using the big display on the back of the camera is hard to see. Maybe I need to link the camera to a 17″ monitor … That’d be handy to carry around, eh?

So the First Changed is cropped to eliminate the dot on the colour shot. This gives another advantage; it changes the composition to a more asymmetric alignment. The title of the piece being “Lonely Stranger”, moving the subject out of the center emphasizes the “lonely” and the “stranger” aspect (as opposed to him being literally the center of attention).

The Second Changed is the same as the first but with the colour slightly desaturated. This is done to again emphasize “lonely” aspect as bright colours are too cheerful. Even in the woods.

The Third Changed is the B&W shot cropped to leave out the spot. It already has the colour gone, so once again the “lonely” and “stranger” aspect are emphasized by this and the change in composition. One bonus in the B&W shot is that the man’s left foot is raised. This occurred purely by accident but helps illustrate the full narrative: “so I’ll be on my way”.

The Fourth Changed is square cropping of the colour original. I did this mainly because a couple of the blogs I’ve been following have talked about the pleasant aspects of 1:1 images. In this case it eliminates the dreaded spot, but does put more emphasis on the man. It’s not as asymmetric as the long shots either, but it may be preferable on a small-scale display as he’s also not ‘lost’ among the giant trees.

The Fifth Changed is the same as the fourth but with the colour ‘turned down’, so to speak. This again is to emphasize the “lonely” aspect.

The Sixth Changed has the colour turned off. In this case I think it doesn’t work as well because the man becomes another collection of textures and shades – he does not stand out enough.

It took me quite some time to make the variations I wanted to try, and even longer to decide which one I felt was best. To that end it would depend on where and how it is displayed. For a print on the wall – which tends to show photos at their best (or worst) – I’d go with Third Changed. For me who created it, that is the one that comes closest to my original intent. In fact I’d be bold enough to say it meets it entirely.

One final note: the way you see these images is not the way I see them. For one thing, you’re not looking at the same screen. That is a big difference. Even if we were side-by-side looking at the same finished print we wouldn’t see it exactly the same, as not everyone’s eyesight is identical. My wife happens to be blue-green colour blind, for example, whereas I still have quite good colour differential skill. Only if those factors were equal would we reduce the discussion to the pure aesthetics of taste. And I always say that the photo is right when it’s what the photographer intended. Whether other people like it or not is up to them.


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