Back in Africa, I was loving the trees. The desert date tree silhouetted in the morning sun as well as isolated on the plains, seem to highlight the shape and beauty of the tree.  The history of the Maasai Mara is that it once was covered with forests, but disease came and the people burned all the vegetation to purify the land from the disease. The only trees that were left were those that could withstand the fire…. A few token desert dates. Yet, the lone tree on the plain makes a statement. It has character. It gives the landscape definition. And we certainly don’t have trees like this back in Massachusetts.

So out on a game drive (while others were shooting lions or other boring animals), I , the landscape photographer at heart, was enjoying the golden color of the plains and admiring the trees.


Desert Date on the Maasai Mara in color with golden plains and white puffy clouds.

When I saw this tree, the others in our vehicle were shooting an eagle in a tree behind me. I saw this tree and immediately thought of a black and white image as this would draw the eye to texture in the landscape, but most importantly, focus the eye on the uniqueness of the tree.

Today, we can take any color image and create a black and white photo. We don’t need special film or processing. However, there are still crucial elements that make a photo have more impact in black and white:

  1. Does the color take the attention away from the subject?
  2. Are there interesting textures that would become more apparent with black and white? (e.g., tree bark, or grass)
  3. Are there leading lines that would be enhanced with black and white?
  4. Is the scene already monochrome such that removing the remaining color only enhances the image?

For example, most sunrises or sunsets are not black and white candidates as it is the color of the light or the color of the sky that makes the photograph. So thinking about a black and white photograph is more challenging for me as I enjoy shooting during the sweet light of early morning and late in the day. This is when the light casts its golden hue and everything looks better.


Black and White of Desert Date on the Maasai Mara Plain, complemented by clouds

So, what do you think?  Does the black and white bring the focus on the tree? Does it make a better image or do you prefer the color image?

And remember, black or white, it is still all about the light.