Langstrothdale – in colour or black and white? May 2012


Langstrothdale begins at Buckden in upper Wharfedale and heads a little north of west until the road climbs north over the ridge and drops down into Hawes in Wensleydale. It’s a delightful stretch of country, with the river running next to or at least very close to the unfenced road and burbling over and around shelves of limestone. It wasn’t particularly busy on this May Sunday (unlike Hawes, but that’s another story) and so we were easily able to park up and wander at will.

Plainly it’s very photogenic (although the sunlight evident in one or two of the images was very fickle and mostly absent – which was a bit of a shame). I felt myself struggling a little though – I’m beginning to conclude that “landscape” isn’t really my thing, and this setting is all about landscape; there’s very little in the way of buildings or structures, just the place, the river, the road and the sheep. The six pairs that follow here are my pick of the bunch – and I took here another opportunity to reflect on the relative “value” of colour and monochrome.

John Hedgecoe in his “Complete Guide to B&W Photography” (p.7) suggests that “there is no type of subject that is best shot in colour or any other that suits b&w over and above colour”. Indeed should we say to one who likes to draw and sketch in pencil or charcoal that some subjects are “off limits”? Surely not – it’s just that the results will look different from that produced by a water colourist. In an art gallery in Norfolk we came across the work of Chris Wright. He draws, apparently with a handful of pencils of differing hardness, and produces work that while clearly black and white, has no need of colour to validate it …. well worth a visit to Google!

So I produced these 6 images in both colour and black and white to try and decide which I liked the best, and have decided, I think, that that would be something of a fool’s errand. Neither is better than the other, they are simply different and speak in different ways and it is perhaps a function of the wiring of the individual’s brain that determines who “likes” which. I had thought to try and comment on each pair, but having just written the last sentence, I don’t think I will except to add that of them all it’s “3” and “5” that speak most clearly to me, and in each case I prefer the black and white option.

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