Why I Like Black & White

Many people ask me why I like black & white photos better than color. Maybe it is because I had my first exposure (pardon the pun) to black and white photography in my cousin’s darkroom at a young age. There is magic in watching an image coming to life in the chemicals in the darkroom.

But secondly, there is much greater detail visible to the naked eye in black & white than color. You can’t see the contrasts and detail in color as you do in black & white. It is more than “just pretty.”

In black and white images, the absence of light can be as important as the highlights. Solid, deep blacks can give a depth and solidity of an image. Sunlight, properly used, can paint a total photograph with total brilliance.

Black and white has a distinct atmosphere of its own. It’s classic, yet simple and elegant, even romantic. It has a refined quality. Without the distractions of color, the photograph asks each viewer to recognize the individuality and uniqueness of the subject. Black and white focuses the attention on form, shading and pattern, not color. It forces the viewer to see the world in a way that cannot be seen with the human eye.

To me, a black & white photograph is the purist art form of photography. It makes a viewer, stop and look at the detail and the structure of the photograph.

The photograph with this blog is from the San Jose Mission in San Antonio, TX. It is the front doorway and window of an Indian  dwelling which consists of a single room. The exquisite detail of the wood in the doorway and the stones of the outside structure is lost in a color photograph, but comes alive in black & white. For comparison I have also included a color photograph too.

This photograph was taken in January, 2011.

San Jose Mission  2 copy

Doorway color copy 1

Take Interesting Photographs

Take photographs that are interesting to you. That’s the fun of photography. Shoot it when you see it. People often ask me “What do you specialize in?” and I reply, ” Anything that is of interest to me at the time I see it.”

Everyone has special interests, but you must like the photograph first…for whatever reason.  And if you see something you like, do not pass it up….like I have on special occasions and most recently the other afternoon.  I plan on going back at the same time ago and see if the same scene of the sail boats at harbor is still there…but I don’t know.

There is really to reason to explain to any one why you took such and such a photograph. If you like it take it.  And if you take it and still like it…have a an enlargement made of it, have it matted and framed and display in your home, your apartment, or your college dorm. Display the talents you own.

Look for angles and composition that interest you. We have talked before about taking a walk….do it and see the different angles of your subject. Most of today’s cameras have good zoom lens and you can take several shots of the subject from several different angles. Be creative…then tell yourself… ”Hey..that IS a very good picture.”

For example, I have included three photographs with this blog…one  a sign on Beal Street in Memphis that I thought was  neat; a color shot of some flowers at a farmers‘s market outside of Memphis, yes I did say color, and some workers at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter in New Orleans taking a break.

None of these were planned, I saw them and took them. You can do the same.

Some of these may end up in my Mississippi River Gallery…someday.

Beal

Coffe Break time at Cafe Du Monde  NO  1 jpg

Farmers Market 1  copy

Do Not Let Life Slip Away

In this modern age of instant gratification whether it be something we buy on impulse with a credit card or a digital photograph we take and see instantly, life passes us by quickly and we tend to forget those things we thought were important a few minutes ago.

While this blog is intended to improve your photographic abilities, I just want to take a few minutes here to remind you to grasp and keep those things that are important to you right now.

How often do we look at “old pictures” found in trunks, shoe boxes and envelopes that were taken 50-75 or maybe even 100 years ago…and let them bring back memories of past things in your life–the photo of your parent’s wedding 50 years ago…or a photo of your grandfather who served in World War I dressed in his uniform?

I am spending some of my spare time going through boxes of photographs and negatives of “stuff” I have taken and saved over the past 50 plus years. My concern with today’s digital photography is that photos of family histories will be wiped out because we hever had prints made, or we merely left everything on a memory card or transferred to a disk or maybe left it on the computer’s hard drive…until it crashed.

I really don’t believe that 15 or 20 years from now..or even 50…we will be able to access the photos we are taking and saving on memory devices today. The technology is moving so fast that we will be unable to retrieve these…unless you have prints made now of the photos you want to cherish later…and keep as family keepsakes.

These days many young couples who are getting married have photographers who take the photos, and then hand them a cd…and let them make their own prints. How many really do?

Have prints made now…or make them yourself even if you think you might not want to keep them or they may be gone forever. We may become the lost generations when it comes to family photographic memories years from now.

The photograph with this blog is one I took probably 45 years ago but never made a print…but I had the negative and discovered it going through my “stuff.” It is one of my son taking along a wooded road on an autumn day leaning against a brick wall. You can see the sun shining through the colored leaves…and all the leaves on the ground.

If I had taken this photograph digitally only 20 years ago, I probably would not be able to look at it today or make a print of it. Today I can.

Boy at the wall original copy copy

Abandoned Railroad Passenger Car

I found this abandoned railroad passenger car sitting behind an abandoned grain elevator at Prairie du Chein WI while taking photographs along the Mississippi River in 2009.

The clouds of the summer day and the dirt surrounding the old tracks tell a story of times long gone by for many river towns along the river.

Who knows all the stories this old car would have of the places it visited and the people who travelled on it? A voice out of the past.

Abandoned railroad passenger car  copy

Beach Bum

When we talk abouit “beach bums” we all have different ideas of what a “beach bum” could be….it could be a person who loves the beach and hangs out there, a person who loves the beach….or a homeless person who lives on the beach. This photo of the week is my version of a “beach bum,” that certainly lives on and along the beach.

It was captured near Destin, FL in 2009 while I was scouting out some photos of a small beached sail boat. The bird turned out better than the sail boat. It was taken on a cloudy day so that none of the detail was lost in deep shadows.

I focused on the bird’s eyes and you will notice that the water in the background and the beach in the foreground is slightly out of focus…as is the end of the bird’s beak. I also have a color shot of the bird that is in my “other” gallery…soon to be renamed.

Beach bum bw  1  copy

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