As I mentioned in an earlier post I’ve been experimenting with black and white photo processing. I’ve also been trying to get my photos a bit better organized. These two have come together for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week: some photos from trips I made to China, specifically Shandong Province, over the years, focusing on the signs on store front signs.
I used Nik Silver Efex Pro, an older version of it that I got some times ago, while it was a free plug-in for the GIMP. I think you have to pay for Nik now.
If you click on any of the pictures it will expand and you can scroll through them at a larger size. Some of them got quite small in the tiled gallery.
I’ve been spending time this week reading about current events, and experimenting with black and white photo effects.
One trick I learned a few years ago was to look at a photo in black and white, it brings aspects of composition into focus that one misses in color. Sometimes something that seems almost incidental in a color photo will really jump out at you.
This is a time to listen, with our ears, and our hearts and minds. To put aside our opinions and really try to imagine walking in the shoes of others. It recurred to me that looking at things from a perspective of black and white may be a metaphor: it’s time to look at things in a totally new way.
As a conventional sort of person, the current events of the corona virus and the brutality of police toward citizens are really challenging me. But reading and listening, and trying to do so from other points of view to understand seem to be a necessary first step…Definitely before espousing opinions.
The sycamore of sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria is the most photographed tree in all of England. No surprise since it is perfectly framed by the dip in the terrain, which allowed it to grow by protecting it from the sometimes brutal winds of the area. The day we were there was a little blustery, giving us just a little taste of reality.
I also began to experiment with Lightroom’s black and white presets (there are over 20 black and white presets that come with the software!) I am actually working on an exercise to take a few sample pictures and process them with all of the presets so that I get an idea of what they all do. I may put that onto Flikr when I get it done, in case anyone else out there is as overwhelmed yet curious about them as I.
But I digress: Cee’s challenge for this month is about the initial composition, not post processing. Here are six pictures, out of the heaven only knows how many I took this past month, where I thought that contrast and/or texture was essential to the composition. I used the one-click color to black and white in Adobe Lightroom. Some of them came out well and others less so.
The textures I noted in the original were the shingles on the walls of the station, the clouds on the horizon and the shininess of the roof and pumps. Unfortunately the clouds don’t have enough contrast to show up in the black and white, and the electric wires really jump out and compete for attention with the handle, spout and roof of the station. In the color picture, while they are annoying, the red stands up to them a bit. Although I am not very skilled at the editing process I prefer this image where I removed the high contrast electric wires:
For this pair I prefer the black and white. Black and white brings out the contrast of the chalk on the boards listing the prices, the stripes caused by the light on the corrugated siding which contrasts with the plain black of the chalk board signs and the round shapes of the fruits. It seems like this is an example of the composition points that Cee made.
In this case there is not a lot of contrast between the color and black and white versions. The one thing that black and white does for you is to remove the contrast of the fairly bright green of the maple seedling that draws your eye to the bottom of the screen in the color picture. There is both textural and darkness contrast between the fern and the earth. The regularity of the fern’s geometry and its arrow like shape show up well in black and white.
This fine fellow looks great in color or black and white. His feathers have a texture that define him (or her) against the fence and tree. The focus of the picture helped with that: the hawkling is in sharper focus than the background.
In this case I prefer the black and white. It seems to make the stripes of the tablecloth more like a background. The rounded and irregular shapes of the mushrooms show up well against the narrow stripes of the table covering. In the color picture the similar colors of the mushrooms and the stripes make the shape contrast less noticeable.
This is a dud in black and white. I thought that the mountain had enough textural difference to show up but it does not. There is not enough contrast in brightness between the sky and the white of the mountain.
I think my personal favorite black and white is from a few Compose Yourself’s ago:
There are different textures in the rose, the leaves and the fence. The rose, which is the subject, is much brighter than the other two elements. This is another picture that illustrates Cee’s Composition points well.