Why BW

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    Topic: Why BW Read 2739 Times
  • Kevin Raber
    Kevin Raber
    Participant
    Posts: 1
    Landscape & Nature Technique
    on: May 15, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Is there a reason some photos look better in BW?

    I love BW and color conversioons

    See my image from a shoot I recently did Snow fences

    Let me kno0w what you think?

    • This topic was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by Kevin Raber.
    Kevin Raber
    Kevin Raber
    Keymaster
    Posts: 404
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #1 on: June 9, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    I have been shooting and converting to BW in the Faroe Islands. See attached image.

    Kevin Raber
    CEO & Publisher of PhotoPXL.com and Rockhopperworkshops.com

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    Stephane Bosman
    Stephane Bosman
    Participant
    Posts: 2
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #2 on: July 10, 2019 at 1:37 am

    Hi Kevin

    Your picture is a great example of B&W uniqueness. I started with film and really the only practical film I could develop and print myself was B&W. Authors like Barry Thornton, Adams of course, Bill Jay and others were an inspiration and provided ample technical guidance.

    So when digital arrived, I was not really able to see my subjects in colour, despite having a pretty good colour sensitivity 🙂 I systematically converted to B&W. Digital has not been an overnight change for me, far from it. My first real attempts were in 2004 with an Olympus but the poor thing had to measure up to an Arca-Swiss 6×9 view camera that I used with a large supply of APX 25 . Life is pretty unfair sometimes. Had another go with the Canon 5D in 2006, but despite obvious progress, I went back to film with a Mamyia RZ 67. My first fully digital year was 2013 and I have been digital since.

    Nik SilverEfex has been a great enabler and I remained in the 100% B&W approach until I went to Death Valley. Death Valley makes it pretty difficult to ignore the colours. Cartier Bresson considered colour to be a distraction, but at Death Valley it can be the actual subject. Of course not only at Death Valley, but that’s where it occurred to me.

    Since then I  do like 90% B&W and 10% colour.

    Jeremy Roussak
    Jeremy Roussak
    Keymaster
    Posts: 156
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #3 on: July 10, 2019 at 3:40 am

    I have been shooting and converting to BW in the Faroe Islands. See attached image.

    That’s a spectacular shot, Kevin! The Faroes joins a distressingly long list of Places I Must Visit.

    Jeremy

    Kevin Raber
    Kevin Raber
    Keymaster
    Posts: 404
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #4 on: July 10, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Thanks Jeremy.  It’s a wonderful location but you’ll be blown away by Greenland.  You’ll have an over dose of pixels there.

    Kevin Raber
    CEO & Publisher of PhotoPXL.com and Rockhopperworkshops.com

    Kevin Raber
    Kevin Raber
    Keymaster
    Posts: 404
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #5 on: July 10, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Stephane, good to break out of our comfort zone now and then. The Faroe just called out BW to me and that is why so many images were made in BW. I’ll do an article with images soon. Still working on them as it was only a few weeks ago. I’ll ask Steve if he would do the same.    Could be fun. I’ll have to look at your site and images. Your journey sounds interesting.

    Kevin Raber
    CEO & Publisher of PhotoPXL.com and Rockhopperworkshops.com

    John Barclay
    John Barclay
    Participant
    Posts: 2
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #6 on: July 10, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    Because I believe stripping away the color helps us to see the soul of the image.  It takes aways the sometimes distracting power of color revealing the essence of what I was attracted to in the first place.

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    Debra Fadely-Raber
    Debra Fadely-Raber
    Keymaster
    Posts: 15
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #7 on: July 16, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    Well, there are many elements to a photo. Color, texture, light, subject, perspective and so on. Color changes everything, or the lack of it. It became very clear to me in the Faroe Islands, when I was shooting sheep, that I should shoot them in black and white. There were so many color variations, mothers and babies, and they were everywhere. Each was different from another. Little details. Length of their coats, eye color, size, making each one very distinct. I felt such a connection to them. They were beautiful and they knew more than me about this place. They had seen it in all seasons. I wondered what they thought of us wandering in and out of their landscape. These animals that outnumber the humans on the islands. They have been there since the nineth century. There are over 300 color combinations that occur. That’s just too much to think about. I shot them for 2 days in color. Admiring each for their uniqueness and then I started shooting them in black and white. Taking the color out of the equation made all the other subtle differences in them stand out more. It gave them a more regal, majestic look and maybe more emotion. I also began to try and catch them running to each other. The mothers and babies. Sometimes when we would approach, a baby would be in another spot, perhaps 50 feet away or so from its mother. Suddenly, they would become aware of us, as we got a little too close for comfort, and the baby would cry. Then the mother would cry. And so it went until like new found lovers on a beach, they ran into each others arms. Only in this case it was a baby lamb’s mouth to its momma’s utter, followed by a very enthusiastic tail wag. Now that was one of the cutest things I have ever seen. Pure innocence.

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    Lance Lewin
    Lance Lewin
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    Posts: 41
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #8 on: July 25, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    Color is fantastic, and there are several images captured digitally that I sometimes hesitate to convert to BW: primarily I convert 95% of digital captures to BW, and in the past two years have taken out my old Minolta XD-11 35mm film camera to shoot both Eastman Double-X/5222 and UltraMax-400 black and white film stocks. I have always felt BW photographs allow the viewer to engage more fully, deeper into a composition: free from color distraction, we take in the whole, and only after the viewer has spent time evaluating the whole does he or she then move their eyes to find individual aspects or details within the BW image.

    I feel this has always given me more satisfaction in understanding a known interpretation or allow me to better develop my own interpretation of a piece.

    Photo Tech: Eastman Double-X/5222 BW film: From the series Intimate with Nature (The scanned image includes the film edges).

    visualizingart.com 

    Lance A. Lewin

    • This reply was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by Lance Lewin.
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    Mike Nelson Pedde
    Mike Nelson Pedde
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    Posts: 268
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #9 on: July 25, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Several good answers to your question already, but I’ll add my 2 cents. Like Stephane, I started with film and B&W film was certainly cheaper and easier to process (until the year I managed to get my own key to the college darkrooms, but that’s another story). As pointed out by Debra and others, there are many aspects to any photograph. Colour is one of them, and there are some images that are about colour (cue Jay Maisel). However, without colour one needs rely more on the underlying structure of the image. With colour stripped away we become of necessity drawn to these other aspects. There’s a saying for teaching drawing that when one is learning to draw (if possible), put the subject upside down. In doing so one becomes aware of the shapes, shading, shadows, light, textures, etc. and not simply the _____ you’re supposed to be drawing. Similarly with photography (and I don’t remember the name of the person from whom I got this idea), if you’re struggling to decide if an image is worth keeping, flip it quickly into B&W. If there’s no structure there, cut and move on.

    Mike.

    P.S. Attached is a B&W rendering of the Koksilah River my wife Marcia made with her cell phone.20180726-247

    _____
    Mike Nelson Pedde
    Victoria, BC
    https://www.wolfnowl.com/

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    Paul Sokal
    Paul Sokal
    Participant
    Posts: 48
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #10 on: August 23, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Kevin, that is stunning. If I may ask, what are you using to create the mat and frame?

    Kevin Raber
    Kevin Raber
    Keymaster
    Posts: 404
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #11 on: August 24, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Paul,

     

    I use the Digital Frame feature in TOPAZ Studio.  I customized and then saved several versions of frames that I nad pt on a photo when in TOPAS Studio.  I will do an eventual article on this.

    Kevin Raber
    CEO & Publisher of PhotoPXL.com and Rockhopperworkshops.com

    Jan-Peter Onstwedder
    Jan-Peter Onstwedder
    Participant
    Posts: 3
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #12 on: August 25, 2019 at 9:29 am

    I’ll be the dissenting voice 🙂 For me, black and white can be great but it’s so limited – every image conveys an emotion in a narrow range. It’s either moody, or bleak, or intense, occasionally it can be relaxed; but I struggle to see B/W images that say happy, or cheerful, or beautiful, or even content. Colour matters, our emotions are colourful and removing colour for me usually means removing emotion. Sometimes that’s what I want, but often it’s not.

     

     

    Lance Lewin
    Lance Lewin
    Participant
    Posts: 41
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #13 on: August 25, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Good day, Jan-Peter – well, I agree the overwhelming majority of BW work does NOT represent a gleeful narrative, but must stop you in your tracks when you also include the statement BW images are not beautiful. I disagree that BW images fall within a narrow scope of interpretation.

    From the late 19th Century and later as we went through the 60’s, the BW photograph represented an enormous volume of beauty: a representation of Pure Aesthetics, BW Fine Art Photography has no competition. This is exactly what Alfred Stieglitz (and other early pioneers of photography) brought to everyone’s attention from the very late 19th Century and into the first decade of the 20th Century: observing just the lines, curves, shadow and light, and without extensive negative or print manipulation, the BW photograph relies on 1. a great composition, and 2. the eye and brain to seek more deeply in forming an appreciation for the beauty exuded as a measure of pure aesthetics.

    However, if you define beauty only from the standpoint a multi-color painted world can deliver, I suggest you are limiting your palette of cognitive tools, thus limiting your perceptions of beauty within a narrow field of view.  This said, my words are only as an explanation for those who cherish BW photography and in no way am I trying to diminish the world of color (photography), which frankly, extracts overwhelming beauty, in all photography genres. And in many compositions it may be wrong to shoot BW film or convert a digital color file to BW, when it is obvious (on site or in post-production) a color rendering takes precedence of a BW alternative.

    Gleeful BW Photography: maybe not so much. A quick word on maybe why we never see an overwhelming amount of glee when viewing BW photography: for the most part, we normally associate BW photography with Dramatic compositions, as this is the narrative of choice, more common than not, in BW Fine Art Photography. In this scope, we can easily image less gleeful subject matter being represented by the artist. I suggest its a matter of the volume, of the type of work, and not necessarily, the essence of BW (or the lack of color) in photography that provokes the conversation we are having here.

    The attached Portraits: I clearly felt (realized) the color in Isla’s shot was integral to the overall composition and the emotion it exuded. BW rendering was not an option here. Alternatively, though the portrait of Shiloh is a similar soft rendering, the absence of color biased me to edit as a BW rendering. In my opinion, both convey an emotional value and similar degree of glee and beauty.

    I hope we continue this interesting discourse. Thank you, Jan-Peter.

    Kind regards,

    Lance A. Lewin – Atlanta

    Lance A. Lewin

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    Paul Sokal
    Paul Sokal
    Participant
    Posts: 48
    Re: Why BW
    Reply #14 on: August 25, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    So all photographs taken before the advent of color film lacked glee? That sailor kissing the nurse in Eisenstadt’s classic image celebrating the end of WW2 was not gleeful?

    I grew up shooting black and white and still prefer it to color. For me, it is usually a purer abstraction of what I am seeing, why I am taking the shot. In our busy world, I often find so many colors in my FOV that they are distractions from what I am trying to capture, so I make the image black and white. Images with fewer colors that are part of a graphic composition I keep in color. The work of Jay Maisel stands out to me in this regard.

    If I think about the things that make a photograph beautiful to me, like the DOF and how it may isolate a subject, how light defines shape through highlight and shadow, how it defines texture, how it creates drama, as in Kevin’s image from the Faroe Islands, these things have nothing to do with color. The color in an image for me must serve a specific purpose such as being a graphic element or maybe setting the mood, like golden light warming a portrait. I don’t find it important in many landscapes I shoot. We all know trees are green. But sometimes when a lake is that electric turquoise, it screams for color.

    I guess different strokes for different folks.

    Paul

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by Paul Sokal.
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