Black (& White) Friday: Parliament Hill

Note, I have a reader question at the end of this post that I’d love to have your participation in.

On a recent bike ride through Ottawa, I decided to follow the paths that snake alongside the Rideau River. After about an hour or so, I found myself at the mouth of the Rideau, where it meets the Ottawa River. This scene was taken from a lookout point at Major’s Hill Park, and showcases the less-viewed side of the Parliament Buildings, and the side that is guarded byΒ the banks of the Ottawa River.

In my opinion, the main feature of this view is the Gothic-style Library of Parliament, which is the round peaked building near the centre of the image.

Tours of Parliament are free, and since I am in love with architecture, I’ll be sure to visit and document these amazing buildings over the next few months.

parliament hill ottawa

parliament hill ottawa

Reader Question:Β To be honest, I really struggled with whether to share this image in black and white or in colour. I am not a fan of sharing different versions of the same image in a post, because I think it is part of the photographer’s job to presentΒ what he/she believes is the best representation of his or her image. However, I am equally fond of these two versions, and I wanted to turn the microphone over to you for some feedback. I would really like to hear from you on which version might catch your eye, and why? Or, if you’d prefer to simply use the poll below, that would be fine too πŸ™‚




  1. I see why you struggled, Shane. It is a powerful image! The black and white is stunning but when I saw the color, I couldn’t believe the sky could go deeper in color, that was unexpected. It holds up easily as either, I bet you were very happy you rode for an hour after you saw what you captured with this image. Beautiful.

  2. Lovely shot – and hope you’re enjoying Ottawa. I visited our capital for the first time late this Spring, and your recent posts have prompted both good memories and a decision to post some of my own Ottawa images on one of my blogs. I suspect you’ll find lots to shoot around Byward Market, and that you’ll enjoy capturing people amidst the tulips and more next Spring.
    NB Both iterations are good, but I voted for colour! – Shelagh

  3. The colour version caught my eye because it brought all of the various green/blue elements (foliage, sky and roofing of the parliament buildings) together and seemed to have more depth than the B&W image.

  4. What an absolutely STUNNING picture!! That is so gorgeous… I loved the B&W image.. until I saw the colour! The pop of green from the grass and trees against a relatively dark building and sky and water looks incredible!

      1. Haha mate if I could, I’d quit my job tomorrow and live out of a suitcase for the rest of my life! I’ll get to Ottawa and the rest of Canada eventually!

  5. Beautifully composed image Shane. I Love the B&W and find it to be dramatic and powerful. While I really like the colour version there’s something about the green of the trees that I can’t seem to put my finger on.

  6. I like the one in color–the colors are so brilliant they take me right into the scene. The black and white one gives me more of a dark and gloomy feeling. Just my opinion though! πŸ™‚

  7. Great shot Shane! Because your main focus in this shot is the Library of Parliament building, you should focus on how to narrow down the viewer to just that subject. The first thing I noticed when I looked at the photo was the boat at the bottom because it’s the brightest thing in the photo. So here’s my critique on this photo. I would crop it in from the bottom to get rid of the boat but leave all the trees. This makes it a bit less distracting. In color my eye wants to view the entire scene as I find the trees add to the entire photo. In black and white I tend to ignore the trees and focus on the cloud to the left and the buildings, but the trees are not distracting in the least and add to the overall feel of the photo. Unlike the color version where my eye wants to travel around the photo, the black and white version I’m wanting to stay focused on the buildings as that’s what stands out the most. With the boat in the scene I keep going back and forth between the buildings and the boat. Try cropping it and see what you think, for me it works very well. Personally, I like either version but if your focus is to make the viewer just notice the buildings, then B&W works very well. If your focus is to allow the viewer to take in the entire scene then color seems to work better with that.

    1. Hey Justin, thanks for the terrific feedback on the two images. Funny you should mention cropping closer in on the library because I also took some shots of the library by cropping in-camera, to save me from doing it in post and losing some of the detail.

      It’s also interesting that you suggest cropping out the boat, because my original thinking was that the boat added a bit of interest by showing some signs of life along the water. However, I see what you’re saying about cropping it out since the focus is supposed to be on the buildings and not the boat.

      I guess it’s a matter of deciding on what the image focus should be, looking at this image, and making adjustments for a future shot when I get to this location again.

      Great suggestions once again… have a fantastic weekend!

      1. With your background being mostly street photography where you are used to looking for elements to add signs of life to a photo it makes sense with the approach you went with. With my background being strictly landscape photography, I always look for any signs of human life (except for man-made structures of course) and try to not have them in the frame.

        I also want to expand on the cropping piece. I think that with these photos by cropping in with camera, you not only remove elements at the bottom of the photo, but you also have to sacrifice elements to the left or right of the frame. For instance, if you take a look at my photo in this post( you’ll notice that it looks like a panoramic, but I did not want to deal with stitching all the photos together to create an actual panoramic. Instead I took one photo and then cropped it only from the bottom . If I would have cropped it with my camera as I took the shot, I would have lost the entire feel of the photo by needing to sacrifice some of the frame on the left, right, or both. I feel that if you were to crop it to look more panoramic looking vs. zooming in a bit for a different frame, the extra space on the right tends to balance out the scene a bit as there’s a lot to digest with the buildings and the negative space helps with balancing all that out. So to me you wouldn’t loose any detail but add to the overall feel to the photo. And it’s also not much work to crop in post production. That’s just my thoughts though.

        When it comes down to it though, photography is really subjective as I believe when someone critiques a photo, a lot of what they see depends on the type of photography they are into and what they think would make a better photo. In the end what matters is if you met your goal. Are you trying to create photographs that please you or are you trying to please an audience? As bloggers I think we try to aim at both but whichever way you want to lean more towards is up to you. I tend to photograph in a way that pleases me because one of my ultimate goals that I had when starting off was to be able to create photographs I’d be happy to hang on my wall. I think a lot of my opinions come down to watching a lot of critiques myself to see what other professional photographers said about photos along with viewing many many other photos and picking them apart to determine what I really like about them and what I may not like about them and why. For me I want to know the reasoning behind something and not just, “it looks bad”, or “It’s almost there”. If what your ultimate goal on this photo was an emphasis on the buildings with the surrounding life, then the color one does it more for me. For more emphasis on the buildings by themselves, the black and white with more of the panoramic crop works for me. But that’s just me. πŸ™‚

        I hope this gives you something to think about and helps you grow as a photographer. I won’t say improve as to me there’s no improvement needed for these photos.

      2. BTW, just thought I’d let you know I’m almost done with my next ‘Learning’ post on the processes I take when I go out shooting. Just need to add a few photos and touch it up a bit and it should be ready to post for next week on Wednesday. πŸ˜€

  8. Hi Shane, having just put out a post where I showed the whole processing journey, I have to say that I find it hard to show different versions of one image! I’d created quite a stylized art piece though and after comments within Monochrome Madness I decided that showing the basics of the process was actually worthwhile, particularly as I like to encourage others to experiment with and explore their art. I think when an image works well in both a monochrome and colour process they can be both be seen as a “final edit image” in their own right. They don’t need to compete if you know what I mean? Art is so subjective anyway! I personally love the top section of your colour edit. The buildings and sky work really together. I think maybe there’s too much in the lower third of the image. The amount of greenery in the woodland and the boat on the river are a bit of a distraction from the story you’re telling of the grandeur of the parliament buildings themselves. I’d probably crop the image to focus on the building and the space that it looks out across and drop the vibrancy of the greens left in your foreground. I wonder if cropping it would help you decide which version you prefer?

    1. Sarah, I just took your and Justin’s advice and made some further edits in Lightroom. I’m actually quite impressed with results so far. Thank you both. Perhaps I’ll turn this advice into a post.

      1. I often prefer to do that too Shane! It was so much easier to do that with paintings and film photography but I often feel the pressure these days in the digital world to get images processed and published before you’ve had a chance to breathe!! Do you know what I mean?

  9. Am I the only person who doesn’t like HDR? I prefer the black and white because the HDR is less obvious! Like Justin, I would in any case, crop out the boat at the bottom because it is the first thing that grabs your eye.

  10. In my photography, I use color for most photos and B+W to show features, such as contrasting lines and shapes. So color works better for me with this image, as it is essentially a landscape. No matter, it is one fine photo.

  11. I might be biased because I took a B/W photography class but I think the contrast creates a bit more drama to the photo. It’s a completely different mood and the sky looks stunning. Well done!

    1. Thanks so much Mary. How did you find your photography class by the way? I haven’t had much time to visit other people’s blogs so I’m not sure if you’ve posted about it. I’ll check soon though πŸ™‚

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