Shades of Gray

by Jenn on July 25, 2011

in Photography

Quail Eggs, Black and White
Are you someone who sees the world in black and white, where choices are either yes or no, right or wrong, here or there?  There was a time that I liked to think I was, that if just looked at with the right perspective, the world could be simplified and ordered, categorized into neat little bins in which to place every tough situation.  And that once everything was properly sorted into its place, it would be easy to see what the consequences of each would be and where to go.

Sigh.  It’s never so easy, is it?

For what is ever truly black and white, devoid of any shades of gray? Even in the photo above, the smooth quail eggs showing their moon-like crater spots against the rough surface of paint-chipped and cracked wood, very little is actually white or black.  Most of the image is gray, just like I think most lines in life tend to be.  We tend to try to put situations, people, the world into one of two boxes despite us all knowing it is so much more complicated than that – whether it be politics, religion, lifestyles, personalities, opinions, dinner, whatever it is that requires interpreting the world we live in.

Sometimes, we need to embrace that our lives are full of gray and soft lines.  The world can be beautiful in shades of gray.

Spanish Cathedral

I love how so many variations of the same color offer texture and interest in an image, and wonder if that can be applied to our day to day lives as well.  How boring would everything be with only black and white? Gray defines the world.  It defines who we are, how we interact with others and the decisions we make.  Sometimes, it’s nice to remember the color gray is more than just a placeholder between two extremes.  It is where the very essence of a thing lies.

And by stripping all the colors away, removing the blues, the reds, greens, yellows…sometimes I feel that then I can appreciate a new form of beauty – one of texture, shadow, light.

Sailing on the VierwaldstätterseeHow does this translate to flavor? I’m not sure – for I view flavor as I do color – but I think we need to learn the same lesson – to not always compartmentalize how we associate foods and to learn to see their subtleties.  To try pairings that seem different, and see how they work.  For example why should chocolate only be for dessert, or herbs only in savory dishes?  What’s to prevent us from mixing things up and trying something a little different from what we’ve been eating day in and day out each year?  Why are we so prone to only tasting what we know rather than boldly mixing the palate with new shades of taste for the tongue?

While I am not sharing a recipe today, I challenge you to embrace the gray – see the world for all of its beautiful variations, and try a new taste or two.  And I think by doing so, we can all learn to appreciate and see the beauty of color along the way as well :)
Saturn Peaches


Rosa July 25, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I love those gorgeous balck and white pictures! The one of the eggs is terrific.



Jenn July 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Thanks Rosa!

Miriam/The Winter Guest July 26, 2011 at 12:33 am

Wow, the Cathedral of Santiago is impressive…

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 8:25 am

Thanks Miriam!

kankana July 26, 2011 at 2:38 am

I have fallen in love with black and white pictures :) if taken with proper lighting and angle they can speak so much !

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 8:25 am

Yes I totally agree :)

Cinderella's Pear July 26, 2011 at 4:19 am

Thanks, Jenn, for this. I needed it.

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 8:32 am


thepickyeater @ a spoonful of yumm July 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

hey jenn…gorgeous pics. the eggs pic is very dramatic. i think grey , black and white looks good for ancient buildings. i prefer color though :-)

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Thanks! Yeah I prefer color for food too, but black and white is definitely a good exercise and changes the perspective a bit :)

Mairi @ Toast July 26, 2011 at 9:42 am

Beautiful pics :)

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Thanks Mairi!

Elena July 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm

One of the greatest posts I’ve ever read.
Embracing the gray. Beautiful thought.

Thanks, Jenn.

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Thank you so much!

InTolerantChef July 26, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Gray is one of my favourite colours, it’s soft and comforting, neither cold nor warm. My cat is gray and she is beautiful too!
But I do like the photo of the peaches!

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Oh cool! Not many people will say gray is one of their favorite colors :)

Denna July 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Awesome post Jenn! Being from a family of engineers, I have a number of people that I’m going to forward your thoughts on to! Beautiful job!

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 7:15 pm

lol thanks!

Iris July 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm

What a lovely post, Jenn! Absolutely loved it!

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Thanks Iris!

Heather Jacobsen July 26, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Those B&Ws are gorgeous! I used to love taking B&W photos back in the dinosaur days of film. But then, the right black and white filmed could produce such amazing tones. I don’t feel like I always get the same result in digital. But yours are beautiful. Are they digital? How did you get the tones – just “desaturate” in photoshop, or some other way. Of course, if its the artists trademark secret, you don’t have to share. :)

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Thanks Heather! Yes they are digital, I don’t do any film photography… for converting to black and white actually Dario of Food Pixels just wrote a nice tutorial on black and white conversions that I need to add to my tutorials page – I do a similar process to what he describes using Lightroom.

Heather Jacobsen July 26, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Ah right – play with the color sliders… I will have to experiment with that again. I actually like food photos in black and white, if you showing form, for instance in your egg picture, or in Edward Weston’s beautiful food photos, where the beauty of the object itself comes to light. But if you are looking to show flavor, then of course color would be the natural choice. Keep up the great work!

Gen July 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I like B&W, the details are much more stricking!

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm


Winnie July 26, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Very beautiful :)

Jenn July 26, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Thanks Winnie!

Krystal R. July 27, 2011 at 1:36 am

Soooo gorgeous and ahhhh-mazing, gosh Jenn you live in the such a scenic area. You are so lucky and you have such a great eye for everything.

Jenn July 27, 2011 at 8:12 am

Thanks Krystal!

rose July 28, 2011 at 9:39 pm

a marvelous encouragement post! a lot like getting from A to C and going through a lot of B and learning where it belongs in the whole of things…light and shadow are so much more ethereal in black and white! thanx for the stretching into…

Jeanne @ CookSister! August 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Beautiful photos, one and all. I love B&W photos but sometimes it is hard to see in colour and get a shot that will look great in B&W! With me it is usually more luck than design ;o) love that final pic too – the colour really pops!

Jenn August 11, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Thanks Jeanne!

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