Black and White photography

Black and white photography has always been a bit of a conundrum for me. It’s so romantic, so dramatic, so direct, and yet, not real. I enjoy photographing rich colorful landscapes with deep azure blue skies, or magenta sunsets, or lush green sprawling meadows, or bright yellow “pop off the page” daisies. This is how we see, so I’ve always felt that if the photograph was drained of its wonderful palette there must be dark forces at work. One of my favorite photographers, Moose Peterson, recently taught a class on Kelby Training about black and white photography. It’s much more of an art form then I had thought.

Technically there’s a few things a black and white picture needs to have, namely something black and something white. These two obvious necessities give your mind the parameters to frame the rest of the shades of grey. Without a clear black the picture looks like everything is in a fog, without a clear white the picture lacks contrast and becomes just a darkened scene. Think of pure white and pure black like the header and footer on a page. Your brain can see that the interesting stuff is in the middle.

Emotionally, the power and depth that a black and white picture can emote is impressive. As an observer, having the color stripped away lets you look deeper, into the essence of light. Without all the color, the picture feels more precise, more pure, and even more truthful.

I used to wonder if color technology existed at the beginning of television and film, would black and white as a medium, even exist today. Now, I am sure that it would. Black and white images have a beauty that is only possible without color, and sometimes a story is better told without a rainbow of noise.

Nikon D800 Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 @ 50mm f/16 ISO 100 1/60 sec