Monochrome Processing Definitely a Challenge!

The Cour Marly, topped by a pyramidal glass roof, displays marble statutory.

The spectacular sculptures in the Cour Marly.

The Cour Marly in all its black-and-white glory. Located in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre, this beautiful courtyard provided us a welcomed oasis amidst the heavily trafficked corridors of the museum. In the right and left mid-ground are two statues considered masterpieces of French sculpture: the Horses of Marly, sculpted by Coustou in 1745.

After submitting this photo to Week 10 ofย Leanne Cole‘s and Laura Macky‘s Monochrome Madness Challenge,ย  I rethought the highlights I had chosen to apply. Whether and how much to highlight any of the statues was a major sticking point for me, and I ended up creating numerous new versions. In the version pictured below, I removed the highlights from all the statuary except the two Horses of Marly, but greatly reduced the amount on those.

I’m still not sure which one of the two I like better, and in fact, I’m not even sure I’ve hit the most pleasing combination in either. The highlights in the first look too contrived; the ones in the second are more subtle, but I don’t know if they’re too subtle. And overall, I think both images are too dark. My eyes and my mind definitely are worn out from all the back and forth.

So I turn to all of you: I’d really love to hear your thoughts, even whether you think this was (or was not) a good image for black and white processing to begin with. Be honest; I can take it and your feedback will help me to improve!

The Cour Marly, topped by a pyramidal glass roof, displays marble statutory.

B&W post-processing version #2

 

16 thoughts on “Monochrome Processing Definitely a Challenge!

  1. Greetings Stacy, first I want to say your blog is awesome and really the after-before series. Regarding this photo, I feel that there is too much to take on for the eye. I feel that the statues are so spaced out, basically on different layers. Their are a lot of elements to work with in this photo. Like Jaime said, less would make it more effective. In a photo like this, the angle of view would work great. Capturing a single statue combined with elements from the background would make a more effective photo.
    I personally like these statues and all of the objects around them such as the tiny trees, the wall behind the bottom statues and the windows, they compliment each other well, I just love the aura of the picture. I feel that this could work with black and white, its just like you were saying the highlights are a bit difficult to handle. So going with less would make it more effective and focus on the features and that could probably help with the highlights.

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    • Hi, Isiaih. Yup, I think you and Jaime hit the nail on the head with the less-would-be-more approach to this shot. I can actually see in my mind’s eye what you’re describing. I really would love to get another chance someday to shoot this beautiful space from that perspective. One can only hope ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so very much for your comment, and for the likes you have left on my posts!

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  2. Hi Stacy, this time I’d say that this, right as it was taken, is not a good picture, not even for B&W (maybe color help a bit). I think the problem lies in the composition; for me, there are too many dispersed elements and they’re too distant from the view of the espectator. In addition, the cropped roof and the botton right corner don’t help having a neat picture. Remember, less is more, so, what if you try to make it simpler by cropping the image letting those disturbing areas out of the frame? then, hilight the main attraction point (or points)!

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    • Hi, Jaime. You’re definitely right about the composition. I took this photo quite a few years ago before I knew anything about how to compose a photo. While I did crop it a bit to try to work within the rule of thirds, I was focused on including both Horses of Marly and the glass ceiling was one of my favorite parts of this courtyard. Because I focused on the whole scene, I never was quite able to recompose it according to the rule of thirds. So I have tried playing around with it, as you suggested. I do think your idea about less is more is a good one. Try as I might, though, I can’t find any cropped composition that really makes me stop and say, wow, this looks great. And that certainly has to do with the original composition, as well as the average image clarity. I do think I have come up with a much better solution though: I need to go back to Paris and reshoot this ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks, as always, for responding to my questions and for the time you put into your thought-provoking comments!

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  3. Hmm, difficult one. I kept scrolling back and forth between the two. For choice, I’d prefer the first one where the statues are more illuminated. But I don’t know re next step โ€ฆ not entirely helpful, but I come up against the same thing in B&W where I’m sure it could be better but I don’t know what to do !

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  4. This courtyard indeed is really beautiful… I think it was my favourite place in Louvre when we visited some years ago. Wonderful photo, and I think it works really well in b&w. You’ve done a great job with processing! I can understand with this photo it is difficult to decide what to highlight and what not. For me the second version is a bit more pleasing to the eye, but in the first version it’s nice how the highlighted statues form a triangle.

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    • Elina, thanks so very much for your comments. The triangle idea in the first photo definitely was my attempt to get the eyes to move around the photo. I just began to feel that there were too many focus points. In the second, highlighting the two “most important” statues seemed also to better bring into play the lines of the glass ceiling (though I’m not certain I’m correct in categorizing the bolder lines of the ceiling as leading). It’s definitely been an interesting challenge!

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    • Erin, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I had so many “in-between” versions that it became too difficult to decide which was more visually compelling. Visual overload for sure ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoyed seeing the Musee D’Orsay through your lens – such a wonderful museum. I had forgotten that taking photos was no longer allowed. I love the shot of the hall from above and your choice of high contrast – it works really well. I may have to play around with this my next go round with an architectural shot!

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  5. Hi Stacy… it’s my first time visiting your site.
    I really enjoyed your image this week and the first version is my fave.
    I like the way the statues are highlighted…then my eye wanders around the rest of the composition.
    Lovely image! Beautiful place!

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    • Welcome, Robyn! You are spot on with what I was trying to do with the highlights in the first image. I just didn’t know if that many focal points ultimately made the eyes wander too much. I’m happy to hear you were “seeing” what I was trying to accomplish and that it didn’t make you go cross-eyed ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so very much for visiting, for your feedback, and for your kind comment!

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      • Pleasure Stacy…glad to have found your blog.
        I had a similar issue with my entry this week, one that didn’t really resolve in B&W.
        No cross eyes or wandering here and I think it definitely works! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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