Early Summer Black and White Explorations

Seeing the world in Black and White can be a difficult thing, especially for an admitted “Color Addict” like myself. Let’s have a look at a few recent photos I made as I spent a little time practicing Black and White photography a couple weekends ago.

A mental shift.

As many of you probably know, I love color photography. Color can add so much to a scene in terms of mood and emotion, bringing the feeling of a cold winter sunrise or a warm summer evening back to the front of your mind.

I do love exploring black and white photography, or I should clarify, exploring other peoples black and white photography. In my own work, I really struggle with finding a black and white look that I’m happy with. I usually give up and opt to stick with colors.

In order to shake things up, and quite frankly, attempt to strengthen a weakness in my photography, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time trying to discover how to inject a little black and white photography into my way of seeing. It’s a big mental shift to leave color behind and look at the world of absolutes that is black and white photography. Learning to see the subtle tonal changes in a scene that will translate well to a monochromatic image, ignoring the beautifully seasoned colors from life all around us is like going on a trip and packing no bags. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it’s how it feels to me!

 

I’m making a choice, and I choose fun.

In the most recent episode of Shuttertime with Sid and Mac they had a fantastic conversation with photographer Ian MacDonald. While there was literally a ton of great discussion in that episode, the one thing he talked about was choosing or finding the fun or the joy in your photography. It’s something I’ve been talking about here a bit as well. Hear me out.

If you been following me for a while you will no doubt remember how I have talked about this awakening I had where I realized that I wasn’t shooting for ME all the time. Unknowingly I had been sucked into the trap of comparing myself to all the other great photographers I admire on social media. I found myself making work in the hopes some of them would like it or notice me.  The whole time I was slowly losing my sense of curiosity and fun with my own work. I’d find myself more and more frustrated with my work and feeling like I was stuck in a white out blizzard with no sense of direction.

I’m getting back to doing whatever makes me happy with my photography. Who knows what that looks like going forward, besides more of me being an open book with all of you as I write and share here. I’m not making any bold statements of new projects, new directions or specific styles I’m going to shoot, no grand revelations about an “All New Me”. The process of regaining my visual curiosity is on, care to join me?

 

So black and white photography is my new thing?

No.

Most likely not.

Maybe.

I’m enjoying exploring it in the short term, but I know that I love exploring color and light together so I won’t be abandoning my regular type of work anytime soon. Like I said, I’m having fun exploring the world around me in black and white, trying to figure out how to make black and white work with MY eye as I continue to chase shadows and light all over Northern Minnesota. The ultimate goal would be to become comfortable exploring both black and white photography and color photography and seeing how those two combine to create new work going forward.

Have a look at what I came up with rec I’m pretty excited to share these recent visual wanderings with you!

Let’s not forget, color plays a key role in B&W photography.

Because I’m not shooting black and white film (I know, total *GASP* moment, right?!) I’m shooting color RAW(.RAF) files on my Fuji X-T1 and then processing my black and white images in Adobe Lightroom. I’m well aware of all the great options for B&W photo processing, from Photoshop to Nik Silver Efex and more. I’ve chosen to keep my workflow right in Lightroom at the moment and have been using the new black and white presets in the Rebecca Lily Pro Set V set as a base. From there making adjustments and adding my own seasoning to find a flavor I’m happy with.

Since everything is buried in a sea of green right now (which of course includes a bunch of yellow tones) the primary challenge is to bring down the luminosity of the greens and yellows to help keep a nice blend of exposure, contrast, and mood. I like my monochrome images to feel simple, clean, and a bit moody. Strange combination huh?

Quiet, still, and solitary but not necessarily lonely or sad.

I don’t know why, but black and white photos always give me a feeling of stillness,  a very isolated and solitary mood. Maybe that is just the type of photo that I’m drawn to I’m a pretty big introvert. Yeah I know, you’ll laugh because I do the podcast and write here, play in a band, etc. But honestly, while I LOVE doing all of those things, if I do them too much my gas tank of extroverted fuel runs empty and I need to retreat to a quiet place and recharge. Those quiet moments really shape how I see and feel black and white photography, small moments in time where I can step away from everything and really appreciate things around me. Color photographs let you control the mood and emotion in your work, playing guide for the viewer, leading them down the path of what you are trying to visually communicate.

Black and white photographs seem to speak a different language. There is more of yourself as a photographer shown in the photo and less of the guide trying to steer the viewer down whatever path you’d like them to see. I don’t know if that makes sense, but if you get what I’m trying to say and want to add more hit that contact me button above, I’d love to hear from you. This is a relatively new realization about the way I think about black and white photography. In fact it’s only occurring to me now as I write this. But it feels right so I’m going with it.

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