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Finding Your Creative Vision Part 3 – The Black and White

5 May

“Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and wonder surrounding him.”
— Ansel Adams

Contemporary landscape photography is dominated by digital images of saturated and vibrant color. The popularity of this style is obvious and it oftentimes overshadows the traditional and subtle effectiveness of just using black and white. However, by no means is black and white photography passe. Today, we’ll discuss some of the most important processes involved in capturing and presenting your images in black and white.

Having a Vision

One of the most critical steps for the photographer to think in terms of black and white. What I mean is at the time of capture you should be envisioning a black and white finished product for your photograph. While this doesn’t always have to be the case, it certainly does help. You may be wondering, how does one go about developing this type of mindset?

One key is for the photographer to focus on finding black and white compositions when they are in the field. A prime way of accomplishing this is through the careful examination of subject matter and light. Black and white photography is most effective when there is a full spectrum of tone between white and black with many different shades of grey. Two common means of illustration are the primary colors of the subject and/or the light during the time of capture.

This is an image of Yellowstone Lake taken at the beginning of October as the area’s lovely fall weather was deteriorating into the freezing grip of winter. The water level here was low thus exposing many of the rocks in the lake. During capture, it was very cold and windy and a huge snow storm was moving in. The colors were fairly mute and because it was in the late afternoon and extremely overcast I knew this would lend well to black and white.

Once again, the key with black and white is to offer the viewer the full spectrum of tones so the eye can easily differentiate between the shades. Form is also accentuated in black and white. The effective use of contrast to emphasize form is often a key to the aesthetic success of your image. Here I like the forms of the rocks in the water. I also like the powerful U-shape formed by the exposed bank in the lake.

Styles

Stylistically, several types of prominent landscapes translate well into black and white photography. Here is a short list to keep in mind next time your are in the field: aspen trees, dead trees, raging creeks, sand dunes, barns, and snow capped peaks.

Processing

While this blog post was not designed to get into the specific technical aspects behind black and white processing, I will briefly discuss a couple important factors. How and when you convert your image to black and white is a subjective call. I’ve experimented with it several ways and I don’t particularly have a preference. It can be done at the beginning or end of your work flow and by a number of different ways in the same programs. (There are also third party plug ins that effectively facilitate the conversion too). If you are looking to have a finished product in both color and black and white I suggest just convert and tweak at the end of your work flow, unless you want to completely edit the picture twice.

Finally, the white balance you choose will also affect your image’s final appearance. What color tone do you want? A neutral grey? Blue? Or maybe slightly yellow? Those are subjective calls and a lot depends on personal preference and what you are trying to communicate…
For example, look closely at the image below and then compare to the one above. Notice the difference in the tone? The Yellowstone Lake shot is bluer, while the image beneath is more of a neutral grey.

Hopefully this post provided you with a little creative inspiration and approach to capturing and presenting your images in black and white, until next time have a great weekend!

Updates, Musings, and the Future

3 Mar

Well, here is an update with the latest happenings at Wild Moments…

Hard Drive Issues

 
My hard drive is at the forensics lab and hopefully I”ll know by later today whether any of the information we’ve lost is recoverable. If it is, we have to decide whether it is worth the price of recovery, which could range anywhere from $200 and $2000! Being that it was basically the third hard drive failure in a little over a year, we have decided to bite the bullet and get a new computer within the next few months.

Unfortunately, I did lose all the notes on our current blog series entitled, “Wild Moments” and some of the information I had recorded I just can’t seem to remember.  I plan on continuing that series in the future. On a positive note, I did not lose any RAW photography files,  just recently edited ones and a few master versions that were not backed up.

Art Festivals

Our next art festival is in less than two weeks. It is the Litchfield Park Arts and Culinary Festival. We plan to add some new items and to expand the variety of our inventory even more with some different sizes, prices, and products. We were also recently accepted for the Prescott Fine Art and Wine Festival on Mother’s Day weekend May 7 – 8.  If you stop by, be sure to mention you read about the festivals here for a 15% discount off any single item purchase.

Recent Trips

Over the past two months, we have enjoyed several day trips out to the Superstition Mountains, a three day trip to Tucson and another trip to the Mohave Desert. Currently, the website does not feature all of the images captured on these trips as we are a little behind due to the loss of information from our recent computer failure. We hope to be caught up within a month.

Upcoming Trips

Joyce and I are returning to Tucson this month for a couple more days and nights. During that time, two of our images will be debuting at an exhibit at the Art Institute of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Hopefully while we are there,  spring conditions will prevail and will have some new wildflower pictures to share. We are also in the middle stages of planning our second trip to the Pacific Northwest.  We will be visiting in May and plan on spending equal amounts of time at the Columbia River Gorge and the Palouse.  We are hoping to time our trip for peak wildflower season. This will be probably be the only photography trip of the year where we actually fly to our destination. 

Workshops

Our Zion Narrows workshop is coming up at the end of June. If anyone is interested please contact me or check out our workshops page for more info. This is an incredible opportunity to work with me in a very small group setting and grab some killer images of the Narrows. This is the best time of the year to visit.

Special Thanks

Thanks to everyone who has supported Wild Moments by purchasing our products and sharing our website with their family and friends. We couldn’t do it without you! We hope to hear from you again soon.

Michael and Joyce

Tucson Barrio

27 Jan

Joyce and I are back from an awesome weekend in Tucson. I have to say that here  in Phoenix, the city of Tucson sometimes is portrayed negatively and unfairly (in my opinion) by many of the local print publications. It is unfortunate because Tucson has a ton of character on its streets that  really isn’t as evident here in the valley. Although it has grown dramatically in the past ten years, it still maintains the feel of its Spanish roots. Tucson has also down a good job of preserving historic sites. The Mission at San Xavier del Bac just south of the City is a shining example painstaking preservation efforts. In addition, Tucson has some killer mountains on all four sides and probably the best saguaro forests in the country. Saguaro National Park is a must do trip on any visit to the Tucson area.

Today I want to talk about the Tucson barrio.  As many of you may know, I volunteer for Friends of Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. It was through the Friends organization that I first learned about this  amazing place. They do a workshop there in the spring and reading about this place captured my imagination.  I’ve always been interested in photographing doors and this was a perfect opportunity to do so. The brilliant colors and unique architectural features in the barrio are mesmerizing.

With a weather forecast of clear, blue skies all weekend long I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to capture some urban art in the heart of the “Old Pueblo.”  Joyce and I spent several sunrises there capturing the colors and atmosphere of the unique barrio. Below is one of my favorite images from the trip….

I prefer the distressed look on the abandoned properties as opposed to the cleaner presentation of many of the remodeled homes in the area

Joyce captured some fantastic shots too. Even though this home is remodeled, I think the light shining in the middle of it really makes this shot for me. It is definitely one of my favorites…

The barrio is a really cool place if you are interested in this type of photography. We felt the best location was in the vicinity of Stone and Cushing streets in downtown Tucson. If you are ever in the area, it is definitely worth a look. My next post will most likely be on Monday, until then, have a fantastic weekend!

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