For the exercise ‘Positioning the Horizon’ we were given two photos to study. The first was by Edwin and Smith, but the second was the one I liked best by Ansel Adams.
His photo ‘White Branches Mono Lake’ is so dramatic, especially in monochrome as the viewer can really feel the emotion of the piece without the distraction of colour. I love how so much of the foreground is included which draws the eyes across the dark waters to the horizon.
I studied more of Adam’s works and noticed that his photos are really dramatic and imposing with huge contrasts between tones and comparisons of big and small. Whether the effect is because the photos are black and white or the composition used, the photos really impact on the viewer.
The more I looked at his works the more I started thinking about what the advantages of black and white are over colour photography. I mean almost all cameras nowadays shoot in colour so why do people still go for black and white. Is it the classic feel that take us back to the past or is it something more. I decided, as I wasn’t going out until later to take photos for the horizon shoot, that I would research into it.
I read several websites, photography discussions and blogs about peoples opinions on black and white and found some amazing photos.
What I Learnt.
Sometimes colours are distracting and the photo can appear cluttered making it hard to focus on. But when you remove all the colours and change it to black and white all the distractions are gone and you can focus more on the photo. You can savour the composition and texture, the shapes the lights and shadows and the lines and perspectives. “It forces you to see the image not the colour.”
You may take a photo that doesn’t really stand out, but before you delete it, change it to black and white, and a standard shot may just become something of beauty. The same goes for when a weird tint is on people’s faces which you can’t remove. Black and white solves this.
They have a classy feel and an ‘aesthetic artistic look.’
When you look at wedding albums amid all those colourful photos of the flowers and the dress are these beautiful black and white photos. There’s something timeless about them at a wedding. photos are moments frozen in time but these feel more, you can see and feel the emotion in the image, the connection, the characters. Like in movies when the two main characters glimpse each other and everything just fades to the background. It’s magic.
A while ago, the library held an event to meet people with different careers and the historian showed me photos of where I lived several decades ago. They were frozen on glass and the excitement, that buzz as you held it up to the light to see the black and white photography with no idea what you were going to see, was so beautiful and perfect I just stared in awe.
I thoroughly enjoyed this study into black and white, before I had never gone into that type of photography but now after studying it in depth I am excited to try it out. Though I will mostly always prefer colour over black and white I have a deep respect for it now and really enjoy looking at them.
That’s the beauty of photography in the modern age, you can turn colour into beautiful black and white in an instance and back again.
Which do you all prefer?
Here are some amazing photos I found