Category Archives: B&W
In the most recent issue of Lenswork, I was pleased to see a folio of work from the Palouse. It struck me as odd at first as I see the Palouse (with the exception of a few images) as a place that needs to be photographed in color (see color version below). But the images in the folio and a subsequent discussion with a few friends, inspired me to reconsider my position. So, back to our recent conversation about “why and when B&W.” I said in that post, I tend to think about removing color when I want you to focus on the graphic nature of an image. I remove the distraction of color to reveal the essence of the subject. This image its all about graphic elements. The lines and texture in the barn, only shooting part of the barn, and then the shadow and light play in the wheat field. When I moved beyond my expectation that color is a must and analyzed this image, I realized indeed it does work in B&W. Now to be like Chuck and Cole and learn to see this in the field!
Its time to clean house as I am shooting primarily with my Fuji gear. I have a couple of lenses for sale.
Nikon 28-70 2.8 – This is the predecessor to the current 24-70 2.8. This is a SOLID lens in excellent condition. It comes with the leather case. $600.00 – SOLD!
Canon 180mm Macro in excellent condition. The Canon macro lens to own. I honestly hate to get rid of this lens but its finally time. I thought I had the original box but can’t find it at the moment. Time to clean the basement and find it! $900.00
I’ll pay shipping on either lens.
At the end of my recent Topaz webinar, someone asked a good question. How do you know when to convert an image to B&W? I gave an answer, however, since then I’ve been thinking more about it. I have an answer, but, I’d like your input. I’m curious to know your thoughts on this subject. Here is my current answer, which I’m sure will morph and change over time. B&W needs to be a purposeful choice. One does not just tap the “V” key in Lightroom to convert it and then walk away. It should be done with a bit more purpose. Typically I ask myself, what role does color play in my image? If it is important, I will most likely keep it color. The image below is a good example. For me, the color is a very important part of the story in the Palouse. The yellow canola, the red barn, blue sky, green wheat. All big players in the overall composition. Yes, this is the same red barn seen in the distance in my last blog post.
Here is another, where color plays an important role. I just don’t see this Gehry building in B&W, however, the building in LA is a different story. The panels are all silver making for great conversions. See below.
If color is getting in the way of what I am trying to portray, express or show, I will remove the color so the design, graphic, or emotion is more discernible. These images come to mind as examples. The door at ESP does not have much color to begin with so it makes sense to remove it. And the B&W choice does a good job of drawing the eye to what is important, the shadow. The “god-rays” scene is all about the rays and the conversion makes that clear. The dunes are all about line, rhythm, shape, shadow and light. As such, the color just gets in the way. With people, when we remove the color we see into the soul of the person.
Sometimes an image works in both color and B&W and simply creates a very different emotion/reaction. I posted such an example this spring from the Smokies. I share it here again to make my point.
My suggestion is to make your B&W conversions with purpose. Don’t make B&W images for the sake of creating another B&W image. Not all color images convert succesfully to B&W.
Enough from me, I’m interested to hear what you have to say.
“With color we look at the photography, with B&W we look into the photograph.” Anonymous
I’ll be doing another Topaz webinar on June 17th. You can sign up here but hurry, when I checked with Nichole, 1,300 are already signed up! I will be doing two more this year, you might want to mark your calendars for August 26 and October 28. Thanks for your support.
I can’t stop thinking about the vision conversation. Today, I was listening to music. It was on random play, up came the band Fictionist. Fictionist is a band I love and have a connection to, the lead singer is a friend. I was thrilled when they made it to the final four in the “Rolling Stone” cover contest. Then they got signed by Atlantic records. The ultimate goal, signed by a record company. Many months went by and still no album. I began to wonder what was going on,Stuart promised it would be coming soon. Nothing. What happened? I finally found out. Atlantic assigned a top notch producer to the project and they started to change their sound. They encouraged modification of the music, new instruments, lyrics, etc. Today it dawned on me, essentially they imposed their vision on the band. They wanted them to be something other than what they were. What they signed. They wanted something more marketable I guess. At least more marketable according to them. What I love is that Fictionist decided they did NOT want to change. They wanted to stay true to their vision! They approached the management team and came to an amicable agreement to part ways and leave the dream behind and regroup for the moment. How cool is that?!
When someone is critiquing your work and imposing their vision, I suggest you remember Fictionist and fight for your vision. Feedback is fine, but remember it is coming from their paradigm, their vision. They do not have your vision nor do they know what you are trying to create. As such, be careful not to let them move you too far from what you see and feel.
The blog image today is another from the Palouse. Since my first trip there, I’ve been drawn to the grain elevators dotting the region. I love this simple graphic image.
This is a a grab shot with a lesson. We were doing our pre-tour scouting when we spotted this scene. Rather than get out a tripod and shoot it properly, I fired off a couple of handheld shots and we moved on. At the moment my head was filled with things like, we need to move on and get the scouting done, eh, its not that great anyway, how do I expose for this type of scene anyway? Seriously my F.U.D. (fears uncertainties and doubts) were creeping in. Then when I got back to the room and took a look, I immediately realized I had made a mistake. I should have stopped pulled out the tripod and taken a few minutes to think through my composition and exposure.
The lesson? STOP and get it while you can.
I love this picture in color, AND, I love it in B&W.
I asked my wife which she liked best, she said, “I like them both, however, they each evoke a different emotion. They create two very different moods. The color is full of life and happiness making me want to go there. The B&W is full of mystery, drama and wonder. What lies beyond the fog?” I am frequently suggesting that B&W is a choice, and should be used with purpose. I believe the two versions here illustrate my point well. Neither is better than the other, however, each creates a very different response from the viewer. That is of course unless you’re Cole Thompson to which color is noise or Chuck Kimmerle who sees color as the anti-christ. Which do you respond to?
A note for the Fuji fans out there. I shot the entire trip to the Smokies with the X-E2. To say I am happy is an understatement. I wanted to shoot the new X-T1, however, the Really Right Stuff “L” bracket did not arrive in time. The good news is they started shipping this week. This was shot with the 10-24mm zoom at 10mm which is effectively 15mm in the full frame world. Very happy with this wide angle zoom from Fuji.
Here is another black & white image from Sparks Lane. As I continue to explore the Smokies in black and white, I am pleased with what I’m seeing. Remember to click on the image to make it much bigger. A fun side note. We ate lunch one day at the wonderful Lily’s in Townsend. As we engaged our server in conversation, we learned that she is from the Sparks family after which this lane is named.
This image was a bit of a surprise. I liked what I saw through the viewfinder as a color image, however, when I opened the file in Lightroom, I began to play with it as a monochromatic version. The surprise was how much I liked it as a b&w conversion. My initial thinking was, I’m in the Smokies, an awesome place to photograph early spring color. Why on earth would I want to try b&w? The lesson learned once again is, b&w is simply a choice and one that should be made with purpose, regardless of subject matter.
A note on the processing. Ninety percent of this image was processed in Lightroom 5 with just a few minor tweaks in Photoshop to finish it off.
As we finished our first full day of shooting with the group, a gloomy, overcast, rainy, and great day got even better. Near the end of the day, we began to see blue sky and the sun came out, basking the iconic scene on Sparks Lane with its golden glow. Then, on the way out, we rounded the corner and found the ground fog rising around this wonderful lone tree. The Smokies deliver yet again.
Alabama Hills – Yes the sky was working this day!
Whose vision are you chasing? Chuck Kimmerle’s latest post is excellent, stop now and go read it. No really, go read it, it is essential reading. Alright, now that you’re back, his post validated what I have been teaching in my new lecture “Discovery and the Creative Process” The last slide in the presentation is a quote from Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” My commentary is typically something like…. in the end we need to be confident in our own vision, in our ability to discover worthy images that make our hearts sing. We should not be worried about what others think, rather we should be worried about how we feel about what we are creating. As Chuck says, and I agree, we are human so positive feedback is good and oft times welcome. BUT, it should not be why we make images. My friend Donnie Fulks said this when responding to Chucks post, “when I joined 500px, it took me about two days to figure out what kind of image will garner 5,000 views. Yes, I admit that stokes the old ego.” Then Donnie went on to talk about sharing a “personal favorite image” that only received 50 views let alone any likes. What now? Does he abandon his vision? Does he post only images that will resonate with others and get him to the front page, lots of hits? Or does he continue to create images that comply with his unique vision?
Might I ask why you photograph? Is it for the joy of it? To create images to sell? To create images so that you can earn a living? To create images that feed your soul? To create images that others like that make you feel worthy, stroke your ego? To create images that remind (memories) you of the journey you are on? Why? There is no right or wrong answer, however, I think it instructive to understand why we do what we do. I photograph because it feeds my soul. I don’t print many images. I don’t actively market my images for sale. I love the process of making and processing images. Yes, I enjoy the positive feedback, however, ultimately I’ve come to a place where I don’t need others approval to like what I produce.
So, whose vision are you chasing?
I can’t help it, one more from the Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley. How I love these dunes!
I’ve been spending more and more time with the Perfectly Clear plug-in, trying it on all of my images just to see what I get. Never tried it on B&W but did on this. I felt I had it just right, however, Perfectly Clear gave it another bit of “POP” that I really liked. It was just a tad heavy handed, so I simply created a layer to put it on and then blended it at about 60% opacity. If you would like to try Perfectly Clear or save 20% just click this link.