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.
While the sun’s brilliant orb slipped behind the Grand Tetons, the clouds reflected the orange glow of sunset. That evening the clouds took on a rippled texture as well as a misty, ethereal quality. We could feel the temperature fall. The light show was brief. Soon it would be dark.
Green is the color of Life and of Spring and Summer. This simple image made at the Naples Botanical Garden features patterns of green tonality. The accordion texture of the fan palm creates repeated and predictable patterns, while the shadows of the sunlit overlapping fans are instantaneous and contrapuntal.
Photographs stimulate our visual sense and often our memory, but in some cases they do more. This image of the Pacific coast at Big Sur, California evokes for me a big breath of fresh air and the distant sound of the surf.
The wind was blowing and the sun was shining. The temperature was in the 70s (Fahrenheit). Other tourists were milling around us, talking and taking photos.
Visually, this photo gives us texture and color as well as a long view to the south. Regions that are very dry contrast the open sea. The foamy shoreline as well as the cliffs help our eye to travel to the distant horizon. A bit of wild brush shows us where we are standing.
Let’s drive to the next lookout and check out the vista from there.