A Series of B&W Images and Thoughts: Part 3
(click on images to see them in FULL resolution)
Continuing on with some thoughts on B&W images, this first image is overlooking Park City, UT in the early evening. The colors were fairly flat with haze and grayish clouds filling the scene but the light was balanced. More on this in a moment. This view is one of my favorites here because it shows how Park City is nestled in a valley that is surrounded by mountains. Being on the east side of the Wasatch Mountains, we don’t get incredible sunsets that often and the mountains to the west are in deep shadows, making any sunset images tough to capture. This view is looking north and before sunset, so more light is visible on the landscape.
Creating B&W images begins well before you press the shutter on the camera. You must look at the scene you’re trying to photograph and observe the light. How bright are the brightest areas? How dark are the darkest areas? Are there more dark tones or light tones in the scene? Once you observe the light, you can begin to compose a photograph. Composition goes beyond leading lines, shapes, or “rules” and uses light to determine the image. In this example, I already knew the composition I wanted but there is only a short time where the light is right for this image. This same view later in the day makes for much more black with the opposite being true for earlier in the day, not enough shadow.
The name “B&W” can be a bit misleading because there is often no black or white in a monochrome image. This first image may look black and white in places but nothing is pure black or pure white. Instead, B&W photography is more about the tones of grey between true black or true white. Your cameras dynamic range (or film’s range) needs to be understood when making images as well. Some digital cameras have a wide range of light they can capture between black and white, films have different ranges, and some digital cameras have a narrow range. Once you understand the range of your camera/film, you can begin to observe scenes with your image in mind before you take a photo. This last image was made with this thought in mind.
The idea of using light to determine a composition and image goes beyond B&W photography though. It is extremely useful in making color images too, but color adds additional variables to consider. Contrasting or complementing colors in an image, luminosities of colors and the balance of colors all affect an image. Becoming a more acute observer of light, you will be able to analyze a scene and create a photograph that expresses how you saw a scene and not just what your camera sees. There’s a great quote by Ansel Adams about this exact thought “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it”. This is a fairly abbreviated post of some thoughts and there is much, much more to read and learn about. Just search “Zone System” to get started:)
Thanks for reading and go look at some light!