Phoneography Challenge: Black and White

18 November 2013


Four Work Horses and an Amish Farmer (conversion to Black and White), iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Four Work Horses and an Amish Farmer (conversion to Black and White), iPhone 4s, Pennsylvania, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer: black and white (conversion) or full color (the original is in the Tip of the Week section).


If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Phoneography Challenge, please contact me.

I wander aimlessly, roaming country roads and city streets. Sometimes a destination becomes lost in a discovery of another place. My tendency to gallivant in search of visual panoramas or scenes of spectacular quietude or outrageous engagement is all the encouragement needed. But I also receive energy from the process of the search, the endless road ahead.

There are moments when time can be stopped to wed opposite worlds. In that second the mind understands the significance of what is before it, the brain makes calculated action that stills the scene. This happened to me a few weeks ago.

I was traveling home from a photo shoot in Pennsylvania, and suddenly a wagon appeared that was pulled by four stocky horses and driven by an Amish farmer. My car was clipping along at twenty-five miles an hour on a curvy country road. That instantaneous sight pushed my synapses into high gear; I slowed the car to a crawl.

The wagon moved at an even slower pace. This scene was a photo opportunity not to be lost. My iPhone was resting nearby, my DSLR packed away in the trunk. Time was escaping as the farmer steered the wagon to the left and onto a dirt road.

I had the wherewithal (and just enough time) to grab the phone. Now I was traveling at a snail’s pace. Intuitively, I knew that I wanted the juxtaposition of the wagon to my vehicle. With unbelievable good fortune I was able to capture the duo: the wagon and my car seemingly touching each other.

My photograph in the Lens section melds the past with the present: an Amish farmer using human and animal muscle to forge a living as well as the notion that this team was doing their daily chores. I was seeing a farming life positioned against a line of automobiles and moving between two worlds.

I felt a sense of wonder that the Amish live without any modern conveniences, and are able to continue their “plain” life. Their days are packed with ritual and tradition, and it is accomplished with human might. Ours are forged very much by twenty-first-century technological ingenuity.

Each allows for survival and subsistence. Neither are black and white: no judgment here.

Tip of the Day: It’s a decision made by each photographer, mostly during the editing process: whether to render an image in its original palette or convert to monochrome.

Here is the original photograph used in today’s challenge.

Four Work Horses and an Amish Farmer (original photograph), iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Four Work Horses and an Amish Farmer (original photograph), iPhone 4s, Pennsylvania, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

For me the conversion to black and white allowed the story to focus on the symbolism that is pressed into time: the power of the work horses against the power of the car; the tortoise and the hare syndrome (slow wagon vs. fast car); the relationship of humans to their vehicles; the reflection of the land from the car window and side mirror; the shadow of the wheel of the wagon against the shadow of the car. As important, the monochromatic faceless farmer was in keeping with the Amish belief that a photograph where an individual can be recognized violates the Biblical commandment, “Thou shall not make unto thyself a graven image.” To me the color shot adds another layer to the storytelling: the hues distract me. But the black and white forces the pivotal elements to move into the forefront. As always it’s the eye of the viewer who renders the image worthy. Still what engages a viewer is influenced by full color or a range of blacks and whites. So I study the character of each image to determine how to present its best side. These experiments in personal observation help me to examine my visual arena. They also force me to move over the edge into the seen and unseen. Then my choice of an editing palette becomes irresistibly clear.

Here are other entries for today’s challenge:


As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. Here’s a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Phoneography Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black and White

4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Human Nature, Photography, Traveling and Travels, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to Phoneography Challenge: Black and White

  1. Like them both. Color adds life while B&W brings back the warmth of an unforgettable nostalgic past. Beautifu!

  2. Love this in black and white – and, like many of the other commenters, I agree this is a really clever use of perspective/mirrors to echo the theme of changing times…

  3. Given your goal of contrasting the present-present with a past-present, black and white, associated as it is with the past, is appropriate. It must be especially hard for Amish children to keep living in a past-present, and I suspect many of them eventually convert to the present-present.

  4. Madhu says:

    That is such an interesting composition Sally! I prefer the B&W too.

  5. Su Leslie says:

    What a fantastic photo! I really like the juxtaposition of old and new technologies. Here’s my contribution:

  6. joshi daniel says:

    The black and white looks classic 🙂

  7. Rusty C says:

    I like your shots! Good job!

  8. For me the monochromatic rendition is the stronger. One reason is as you point out yourself, the black and white makes the viewer focus on the symbolism in the pictures. For me a point is also that the colours don’t add anything in the story telling, they are just what they are, and doesn’t help the eye play around within the frame or bring emotional depths to it. The black and white, is a very strong and poignant. A very engaging image.

  9. Trifocal says:

    I liked the full size coloured version because it looks very ‘1950s’. But what if it had REALLY been taken then? The farmer becomes one of the last stubbornly using horses. But he is advancing into a future where already power cables march across his fields and jets that will soon be in the sky over Korea leave dissolving vapour trails above. Behind him the driver of the latest Ford waits impatiently for him to move out of the way, the land he passes left unregarded in the side mirror. Interesting how different a picture looks depending on our prior knowledge of when it was taken!

  10. Definitely a fine subject for black and white. It is timeless and for this subject, most appropriate.

  11. Gallivanta says:

    An awesome photo with such a wealth of ideas and perspectives and layers. Glad you like to gallivant too 🙂

  12. micey says:

    I like both. I particularly like the point of view. Cheers!

  13. What a great moment to capture with your phone’s camera, one more point of contrast. I’m adding my voice to the long list who love your choice of black and white for this one.
    My black and white entry is here:

  14. FireBonnet says:

    I like them both, however I think the message you conveyed in your pens is better depicted by the drama (and historical feel) of the black and white. In the color one I see the yellow lines leading us forward and into the past. Simply a wonderful and serendipitous capture.

  15. Amar Naik says:

    Beautiful. The first photo gives the perfect old feel . The click of car from the mirror and the wagon ahead caught my attention.

  16. Ming Wang says:

    I like the cropped black and white. It got my eyes straightly focusing on the wagon and horses, and the big frame of mirror as well, the juxtaposition adding the power to image by showing us the traditional life styles still existed in the modern world.

  17. marialla says:

    GREAT PHOTO!!!! I soooooooooooo like this type of picture and it is always so much fun to take.

  18. Nico calavita says:

    What a commentary on the everlasting and continuosly shifting tension between “progress” and tradition!

  19. I like the black and white more than the colour one. Much more softness and tone in the B&W. How do I enter my entry for this challenge? The link goes here

  20. Well done Sally-The b/w is very powerful and reminds me of the FSA images that documented American life-the juxtaposition of the car really adds an interesting commentary on differing ways of life and attitudes-

  21. Great shot in black and white. Lovely juxtapositioning of old from new/

  22. Steve Lakey says:

    I prefer the black and white, one hundred percent! It gives the main subject a timeless quality, despite the presence of technology. With the power lines in the background, the wagon is almost bracketed by the modern world.

    Here is my contribution.

  23. I absolutely love this photograph in black and white. It brings an oldie worldly mood which is somehow lacking from the modern colour shot. Fantastic photo and you were so lucky getting it Sally. 😀 Heres my entry for the challenge.

  24. I like them both. The B&W gives me the feeling of being in two dimensions!

  25. wisejourney says:

    b and w all the way….wonderful

  26. Allan G. Smorra says:

    I like the cropped B&W photo. It has a sense of immediacy to it—the position of the wagon relative to your car, as emphasized by the mirror.

    Here is my entry for this week’s challenge:

  27. Sally the black and white feels like some of the antique family photos I have, but then the contrast of modern rear view mirror and power lines tell a complete story of competing technology. Excellent time capsule!
    Here are my simple B&W trees

  28. Angeline M says:

    Beautiful in B&W, Sally! And great composition. That’s some wonderful country there.
    I’m going to the City for my photo today

  29. Sally, you rendered a perfect decision to process it in black and white…fits this photo to a “T”! Blessings…Laurie

  30. Tara says:

    Love the layers and contrasts in this photo, down to the hazy electric wires in the background.

  31. Amy says:

    Great phoneography of the wagon and mirror! I love the b&w. Here is mine for this week:

  32. says:

    Nice work Sally . I like the color one but the Black & white is effective also when cropped. It looks like you are actually driving in his field behind him : )

  33. Black and White – hands down for this one. I agree with all points made.

  34. Lignum Draco says:

    Must say, I prefer the B&W version best. There just seems to be more detail when you remove the colour.

  35. Sally, the B&W gives the perfect “old” feel to the photo and I really like the juxtaposition of the modern mirror and the “ancient”. My grandfather, long before I visited the farm, plowed using mules, something my dad knew about and helped with but not me. I like this photo very much.


  36. Spectacular in black and white. The juxtaposition of the different modes of transport and lifestyle is one thing; the perspective of the car from the mirror and the wagon ahead is impressive to me 🙂

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