Wednesday, August 25, 2010

B&W and HDR

My photographic roots are deeply entwined in the era of film and black and white. Some consider B&W more artful than color. Without those bright colors to attract the eye to an image, one must look a bit deeper - to form, line, texture, simplification, and other ways to strengthen composition. Learning to see and shoot in black and white can not only help one produce some artful work, but also improve one's color work as well.

So it is good if one can get inspired to delve into the black and white world on occasion. Today I took my black and white vision down to the garage and sought out a particularly, uh, "textured" corner near a window. Windows provide one of my favorite kinds of light especially for black and white - directional, but not too harsh.

Since I have been having some good results lately using HDR techniques for landscapes, I thought I would shoot the garage corner both ways. I used five images captured at one-stop intervals to feed into the Photomatix HDR machine, and also picked one of them to process "straight". The black and white conversion was done the same way for both of the images, using a split-tone process via Lightroom.

Here's the "straight" B&W version

And here is the HDR version

As expected, the HDR technique reaches into the shadows and pulls out the texture there, as well as finding some detail in those reflected highlights. The textures are interesting, but the forms are subdued as a result of the evening out of the light.

The straight version looks more "photographic" to me. In this case that is a good thing. The source of the light is obvious. It reflects from flat surfaces creating bright highlights, peeks through the weave of the basket, then get's sucked into mysterious darkness - negative space - in that dark corner. The shadows enhance the shapes, giving a bit more strength to this hastily composed image.

I will experiment more with HDR techniques in B&W, but especially will work on getting back to my roots and shooting more using my B&W vision.

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