Sunday, August 10, 2014

Published 9:44 PM by with 4 comments

The Timeless Beauty of Black and White

Black and white photography is deceptively simple. It's not a case of just transforming a color photograph, it's a combination of composition and light and being able to "see" in monochromatic tones. My recent travels have given me plenty of opportunities to experiment and I'm reaquainting myself with this wonderful form.

First up is Larrabee State Park in Bellingham, Washington. With chiseled cliffs, abundant deadwood and seaweed-smothered rocks, it was the perfect place to start exploring.

I liked the leading lines in this scene. What didn't work for me was the depth of field. The foreground is out of focus and I think it would have been more effective had everything been sharp. 

Shooting this scene in black and white transformed it into one of timelessness. There was a lot of distraction in the color version so I was pleased with this one.

This person stepped into my frame and actually made it a more interesting photograph. Inserting a known object (such as a person) helps the viewer get a sense of scale.

The tunnel to the beach was covered with graffiti and I thought this not only captured the name of the place but the bold playful lettering, almost font-like, made it a good choice for black and white.

Searching for a more interesting angle can make something relatively mundane much more dramatic. Here is a windmill in Windjammer Park in Oak Park, Washington. From this angle, it's a cool structure but not all that remarkable.

Shooting at a low angle really showcases the structure and also incorporates the backlit sun. Black and white simplified the tones so that the architecture was at the forefront of the composition.

This is one of the oldest residential buildings on Whidbey Island in Washington and was built in 1860 by Winfield Scott Ebey as an Inn for sailors and other travelers. My friend Dan and I visited it early one morning. There were no clouds and the sun was pretty strong. I could have walked away with this average photograph, but...

I felt that black and white would make the house feel less contemporary and maybe a little mysterious. The heavy shadows added something special to an otherwise ordinary building. I also stripped away any other distractions around the house so the sole focus is on the lines and shapes.

The house was locked up so I couldn't get inside so I leaned my camera lens on the window and shot this interior. Apparently the wallpaper was added in 1998 by a film crew when they shot scenes for the movie Snow Falling on Cedars. Who knew?

I love trees and I love silhouettes, especially one as interesting as this. The colorful fields in the background were beautiful but converting it to monochrome helped to strengthen the shape of the tree so it looked more iconic.

This staircase at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, WA cast many shadows that made it fun to shoot. I used a wide angle lens at 24mm to exaggerate the perspective of the bannister.
What I learned: My best black and white shots are not accidental. When I choose to "see" in this way while shooting, I usually yield better photographs. I should also bring my tripod with me so that I have the choice to shoot with a slower shutter speed and smaller aperture. That way, I have the choice of a deeper focus in low light situations like the trail with the fence above.

Stay thirsty, my friends...


Glenn Lacey said...

Thanks for all the insight into the pictures and your thought process. Black and White does have a timeless feel and can cut through the clutter of modern colors, especially in clothing. Keep this blog blogging, I love reading it.

Fred Wishnie said...

Beautiful Steven! Your commentary adds so much to the images. I look forward to more as you travel.

Steven Dempsey said...

Thanks so much for the comments. Writing this blog helps me create photo assignments for myself. I'm glad it's inspirational.

dreamjosie said...

What Fred said...