“The world is black, the world is white
It turns by day and then by night” – David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson.
This month’s Readers Photo Challenge was “black and white” and I was pleasantly surprised at the response to the assignment. I thought the interest in black and white photography was on the wane much like the decline of the use of film, but boy was I wrong. Twenty-three people sent in a whopping 181 photos, which makes it one of the most popular challenges.
The subjects varied from grandchildren and pets to landscapes and architecture. The best ones show the artistry and the drama that black and white can convey.
Here are the top picks sent in.
The legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams is best known for his black and white work for good reason. His photographs show the power and beauty of the medium.
On a road trip with her mother and sisters through Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, Teresa Mahnken of Morada made a stop at Zion National Park, Utah. With a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera with a rented Nikkor 14-24mm wide-angle lens, Mahnken photographed Lady Mountain with Virgin River flowing in the foreground. She then converted the image to black and white through Picassa on her computer. She captured the power and majesty of the landscape in an image that would have probably impressed Adams himself.
Jackson resident Carolyn Silva’s photo shows the ability of black and white to convey geometric patterns in an image. While in the backyard of a home in Sutter Creek during the 43rd Annual Home Tour sponsored by the Amador Branch of the American Assoc. of University Women, Silva used an Olympus SZ-20 digital point-and-shoot camera to photograph the shadows left by slats of an overhead patio cover. She then converted the image to black and white through FastStone Image Viewer on her computer. The patterns of lines and angles compliment the lines on the wooden patio furniture that wouldn’t have been as powerful if it were in color. But in black and white, the lines almost jump right out of the picture at the viewer.
A silhouette is one of black and white’s strongest fortés. A stark black image against a nearly white sky or background can make for a strong graphic image.
Sam Doan of Stockton created a self-portrait at Four Mile Beach along Highway 1 near Santa Cruz with a Canon 5D Mark II and a 16-35mm wide-angle lens set on a tripod. His own figure is darkly silhouetted against the lighter sunset sky and provides the focal point of the image. Water caught in the beach’s tide pools reflect the lighter sky and creates foreground interest to the scene. While most people would think that sunsets are best shot in color, Doan’s dramatic use of light and dark makes his photo work very well in black and white.
“When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls.” – Ted Grant
Janet Baniewich of Stockton used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph 8-month-old Jack Ball in Billings, Montana. She used Windows Photo Viewer Microsoft Office to convert the photo to black and white. Without the distraction of color, Baniewich’s photo emphasizes the child’s wide eyes, which are almost as big as the eyes on his owl-faced wool cap.
Another strength of black and white is to show texture. Allison O’Neill of Stockton used a Fujifilm XS-1 DSLR camera in B/W mode to photograph a bench in Gold Beach, Oregon. In black and white the grain of the wooden slats of the bench is almost tactile in its detail as is the vegetation and even the dirt on the ground, which may have been otherwise ignored if viewed in color.
Colors are perceived differently in black and white. Green, for example, is much darker in tone than one usually thinks of in color. Rick Wilmot of Lodi used a Canon 5D Mk III DSLR camera to photograph raindrops on the leaves of a rose bush after a recent storm at his home. He converted it to black and white with Windows Live Photo Gallery. The green leaves of the bush reproduced as a very dark grey making the glistening gem-like water drops pop out even more.
Architecture is also another subject that works well in black and white. Two readers searched out the gothic-esque buildings on the Stockton campus of the University of the Pacific to find their photos.
Tom LaBounty of Stockton used a HTC One cellphone to photograph the Faye Spanos Concert Hall on the campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton. He converted it to black and white using the Snapseed application on the phone. The approached his shot in almost a landscape fashion including the sky, trees and parking lot. The image exhibits a wonderful range of tones that only a black and white photo can do.
Dave Skinner of Stockton used a Nikon D90 DSLR camera to photograph Burns Tower on the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton. Skinner used Photoshop Elements to convert the photo to black and white. The extreme low angle that he shot tower from makes it look like its shooting up into the. Its white walls starkly contrasts against the darkness of an early morning sky.
Ken Class of Stockton used an iPhone 5s in black and white mode to photograph a flora exhibit at the Bouquet of Arts show at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. Class took advantage of the nice natural lighting to capture the texture of the flowers.
Lindsey Shepherd Wanner of Milford, Illinois used a Nikon D5100 DSLR camera to photograph her cat Equinox at her home. She used the retouch menu in her camera to convert each picture to black and white. Black and white can emphasize the most aspect of a portrait: the eyes. In cropping the photo to only include half her cat’s face, Wanner stresses even more attention on its remaining eye.
All of the images can be seen in a photo gallery at Recordnet.com. Stay tuned for the next Readers Photo Challenge assignment on Thursday.