Feels like Charleston

A second floor sleeping porch, the perfect place to catch a breeze on a hot, muggy night might remind you of houses in Charleston or Savannah or New Orleans. But this picturesque home is found in Sewickley, Pennsylvania where I live.

Painted white with black shutters and shrouded with green trees, it seemed like a good subject for infrared photography — a medium that shows green foliage as white.

Infared photography shows foliage as white and skies black.
Infared photography can be processed many ways, but one way shows green foliage as white and skies as dark or black on a sunny afternoon.

I have just started this week experimenting with Infared photography, having bought a Sony 6300 camera and having sent it to LifePixel to have it converted to “Super color” Infared. Stay tuned to this blog for more interesting results.

How to Improve Your Photography

Looking through my archives for color photographs that would make a satisfying black and white image made me realize that “seeing in black and white” will make me a better photographer. Any consistently successful photographer will pre-visualize the image before image capture. For starters, one evaluates dynamic range, depth of field, light quality, composition, timing of the action and whether the subject is meaningful.

To choose a good subject for black and white photography there are more factors to evaluate: tonal range and contrast, simplicity, shape, texture, interest. I like my black and white images to be strong. The image has to be eye catching and hold the viewer’s interest without the help of color. I admit, I’m a photographer who loves color, so this challenge is fun for me!

This photograph of a mother Bison and her calf grazing on top of the hillside made the cut for a color to black and white candidate. In my judgement, it has simplicity, large repeating shapes, texture in the fur, wide tonal range and plenty of interest — from the unusual wildlife sighting to the eye contact and tongue in mid-air.

#bison, #motherandcalf, #buffalo, #gtnp, #grandteton, #wyoming, #jacksonhole, #givethemdistance, #safedistance, #wildlifephotography, #wildlife, #photography, #nature, #blackandwhite, #sonyalpha, #nik, #silverefexpro
Mother and calf bison grazing in Grand Teton National Park (shot from a safe distance inside a car with a 600mm lens).

Thinking in Black and White

I’m challenging myself with learning a new discipline in photography. The first step is having a digital mirrorless camera converted to capture infared light, and I’m learning about the techniques for capturing and processing these new types of images. But the camera won’t be back in my hands for a few weeks.

In the meantime, I was daydreaming about the places I would love to photograph with the infared camera — like the Florida Everglades and Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. With the limitations on travel during the pandemic, those excursions will come to pass down the road.

The scenery of Joshua Tree is fresh in my mind, since I visited the park in 2018. I decided to process one of my color photographs in black and white, as a first step in my journey to see in black and white. What do you think?

#joshuatree, #jtnp, #joshuatreenationalpark, #blackandwhite, #silverefexpro, #nik, #nikon, #shapes, #texture, #contrast, #california, #landscape, #photography, #nature, #desert, #adobe
I love the bold silhouettes as well as the textures in the Joshua Trees found in the high desert of California. A monochrome image makes the image more about shapes, textures and contrast, as it subtracts color. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

Back to School at Hogwarts

It’s early September, and school starts a new academic year. Does your school look like Hogwarts? This sunlit cloister of Durham Cathedral in England looks a lot like Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school, because parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed here.

#durham, #durhamcathedral, #cloister, #harrypotter, #movie, #harrypottermovie, #school, #september, #sepia, #blackandwhite, #bw, #shadows, #architecture
Durham Cathedral’s Cloister was the perfect setting for Harry Potter’s school Hogwarts in the movies.

Rendered here in a sepia-toned, black and white photograph, we can appreciate the sunlight and shadows of the Norman architecture. I recall similar architecture at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

Next week, I’ll be back in the Big Apple, and I’m looking forward to seeing New York’s iconic sights again. Looking back at the images I have made in past years, I came across this 2013 black and white photograph that celebrates the geometry of the Brooklyn Bridge.

#brooklynbridge, #newyorkcity, #thingstodo, #visitNYC, #newyork, #flag, #bridge, #NYC, #nikon, #blackandwhite, #bw
While walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, I looked up and noticed the patterns made by the cables.

This style is a departure from the vibrant sunsets and colorful birds I have been shooting in Florida, but this subject begs for black-and-white interpretation with its emphasis on pattern.

Next week, I’ll wander no farther than Central Park with my young grandchildren, newborn and not yet 2. But Central Park in the Spring is something special. Stay tuned!

 

When you are four

Sometimes when you are four, you don’t want your picture taken. Maybe you are just shy around strangers. Maybe you are tired or not feeling great. What’s the big fuss?

Little Emily is shy, and she might not feel 100%.  The last night her Mom brought her to a  photographer, she didn’t want any part of it. She refused to smile.

When Emily and I met, I could tell she was shy, so first we let her watch another child have a portrait session. Then, we just talked. Emily had fun and got a few photos taken with no pressure. You know what? Her favorite color is purple, and her favorite movie is Frozen. She can also sing her ABCs, very quietly.

#portrait, #flashesofhope, #children, #blackandwhite
If you are shy, it’s okay. No pressure.

Time out for life

Sometimes you have to drop all your routine activities and focus on family. Last week, when my daughter Caitlin went into labor to deliver her first baby was one of the those times. I packed my car the next morning and drove 8 hours from Pittsburgh to New York City, hoping to see my first grandchild on the day she was born. While I inched along in traffic approaching the Lincoln Tunnel, Caitlin called my cell phone. “We have a new Kelly girl,” she announced with equal parts pride and joy. (Caitlin and her two sisters were affectionately known as the Kelly girls.)

#newborn, #portrait, #blackandwhite, #motherandchild, #borntoday, #joy, #pride
Just a few hours after giving birth, my daughter admires her newborn baby girl.

It was so exciting to hold my first grandchild just a few hours after she came into the world. God gave us all a beautiful gift, and our hearts are filled with love.

June 16, 2016

Antiqued Anhinga

This monochrome treatment of the anhinga, drying its feathers, isolates the elegant dark bird from its habitat,  a busy tangle of tree branches spotted with lichen. Anhingas are plentiful in southwest Florida, tame around people, and interesting to watch as they swim underwater to catch fish. After a swim, they fan out their wing feathers to dry.

I like this the sepia effect on a square composition. While the bird takes center stage, the diagonal branch and star shaped air plant add interest. The overall effect of the image reminds me of photo taken in the early days of photography. It makes me feel akin with the wildlife explorers of old.

#anhinga, #sepia, #blackandwhite, #wildlife, #lichen, #florida, #nature
In Florida, the Anhinga dries its feathers on its perch in the trees.

When selective color works

Portraits for Flashes of Hope, a volunteer program at Children’s Hospitals across the country, are all produced in Black and White. I have been shooting these portraits for many years, and I love the black and white, improving my work over time.  There are many good reasons for this stylistic choice: The portraits stand apart from family snapshots. They look classic, timeless. They can often make an ill subject appear more healthy and vibrant. The monochrome style puts less emphasis on clothing and more emphasis on the face.

But every so often, one of my images begs to be seen with selective color treatment. Let me show you what I mean.  This child came to me crying and refusing to look at the camera even with the comforting words of both parents, toys on hand and a little brother who was happy to help. The only trick that worked that day was a stream of bubbles. Lots of bubbles that you could reach out and pop. The bubbles just kept coming, thanks to the quick actions of my assistant, and nobody cared about the camera anymore. Even when one bubble got in his eye.

I see an echo between the bubbles, the boys’ eyes and the eyes not the minions on his shirt. I guess he should have worn goggles, too.

#selectivecolor, #blackandwhite, #portrait, #children, #bubbles

Personality to spare

Many children I photograph act a little shy at first. A few cry or refuse to look at the camera. (As long as I can get the parents to stop pleading, scolding and threatening them, I can usually distract them enough to get some good shots.) Other kids, in an effort to do the right thing, give me the same uneasy smile, as they listen to a parent call out to them, “Be good for your picture!”

But my favorite subjects have so much personality, that they just can’t keep it inside. Every thought seems to bring a new expression, and every minute a fresh willingness to play and pretend. This little dynamo (call him Dennis) brought me great joy with his every move.

Dennis just thinking...
Dennis just thinking…

My assisting photographer called Dennis “the art director,” because he kept running over to me and asking to see his photo on the camera’s LCD.

"Show me sleepy," I asked.
“Show me sleepy,” I asked.

Posing on Dad’s shoulders, he reached for convenient handles…

Father and son
Father and son

After I asked Dennis to “Be a banana,” he obliged. Then he said he wanted to be a Chicken McNuggett.

This is what a Chicken McNuggett looks like.
This is what a Chicken McNuggett looks like.

 

(“Dennis” is not the child’s real name. We protect his privacy by withholding his name.)