One of the first pictures I ever took in black & white was this one:
Now, it was just chance that this came out looking decent! I did like the way it was framed when I took it…so it wasn’t entirely a random piece of luck. But still, I was just messing with my camera (which I’d just purchased and was still getting to know.) The point is, I wasn’t actively thinking about setting up a nice B/W shot. I actually didn’t really know how to set up a nice B/W shot.
I’m not sure that I know now either! Two months later, I remain most definitely a beginner.
But I have been experimenting a bit lately.
So, a week or two after I took the above, I tried some more B/W shots.
Of the three, I realized, photographically, that I liked the kitchen floor shot the best. So I started trying to figure out why (looking for artistic insight.)
I realized it had to do with the lines. The light and the contrasts also…but mostly the clean lines.
The first picture, with Mae on the sidewalk, appeals to me for the same reason. The sidewalk in that shot delineates the space in a way that pleases me.
So then I started to get a little interested. What makes a good B/W image? I started thinking a lot about this – even going back, mentally, to my college years, as little factoid tidbits and analytical tools started creeping out of wherever they’d gone to hibernate in the last decade+.
(Note: Back in the day, I graduated with a B.A. in Art History. To be perfectly honest, I actually have an M.A. in Art History too…though I don’t often volunteer that because it tends to make me sound more knowledgeable than I actually am in the subject matter. In grad school, I studied Early Medieval English art…which wasn’t in fact a whole lot of actual art. [That’s a topic for another post!!])
I can’t say I took any very impressive black and white shots in the next weeks. But a few color pictures that I didn’t like when I took them translated very well (I think) to B/W.
Black and white started to be something I turned to before wholly chucking a shot. It wasn’t always a cure-all….but it sometimes (I realized) could make things interesting.
I took this shot the day of the amazing reflections (as you can see in the background.) Unfortunately, it’s essentially a worthless picture, with myself in the foreground so very dark.
Then I tried switching it to B/W.
I’m such a novice! And I’m still totally reliant on PicMonkey for editing (it’s on my agenda to learn GIMP – the open source version of Photoshop – next month.) But even with those limitations, it’s interesting to play with the format.
Well, I actually didn’t delve too deeply into the B/W stuff at this time – tempting as it was. As I said, I was still getting to know my camera, and was getting increasingly interested/distracted by the drive to wean myself from automatic mode. So I basically gave in to that competing urge.
But I’m writing this post because the little B/W bug bit me again last week.
I was (again…and as usual!) messing around with my camera. My parents were extremely generously letting me stick my camera in their faces (for like a couple of hours!) to practice taking portraits.
When even I got tired of that, I started to give some thought to WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge. That week’s topic was “Silhouette.” And exploring that led me to this picture:
I was excited enough about the way that turned out to continue exploring the B/W mode a bit.
Which resulted in these shots of Henry:
And this one of Mae:
Now, those two shots of Henry I took with my camera set to take B/W pics. But that last one (of Mae) was originally a color shot. I totally messed up with the light and settings (I’m on full manual mode now…and still learning!) It came out really dark. When I tried to lighten it, it destroyed the whole look of the picture.
It was in an attempt to salvage it in some fashion that I tried switching to B/W in editing. I was surprised by how much I liked the results!
I decided to start exploring B/W in a more concerted fashion – both in the actual picture-taking process, and in the post-processing area.
So that’s been my photographic preoccupation for the last week+.
It’s seeped over into exploring sepia as well.
I’ve taken a couple of good shots.
And I’ve learned that it’s remarkably easy to get a nice non-color image of my dog (who happens to be black and white herself!) I take black and white shots of her now to salve my frustration when things aren’t going well, photographically – because they’re pretty reliably attractive.
Mostly what I’ve been doing though, more than trying to get great shots, is trying to reach a better understanding of what makes a compelling picture, when color isn’t part of the equation. A lot of that’s been via messing around with editing.
Clean lines do help; I’m certain of that now.
But not everything, I’m finding, is so easy to determine.
What I mean is, sometimes color and B/W (and sepia, for that matter) render equally interesting pictures. Then it becomes a matter of preference.
That’s a challenge – an interesting one.
I don’t really have a point to this post! Except, I guess, just to note that I’m finding non-color photography more interesting than I expected to.
Though I’ve put so many pictures into this post, I suppose its secondary function now is as a record of where I’m at, skills-wise, at this moment in time.
It’ll be fun to do an update in a few months, when I’m (hopefully!!) more accomplished in this area!