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.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Image as Metaphor

Actually, this post is really about vision and composition. I generally don't think of photographs in terms of metaphors. Things are what they are. My educational background in engineering and earth sciences has allowed the part of my brain that should light up at the hint of a metaphor shrivel and atrophy. It takes a firm and patient tutor to drag me through a poem.

But I am not so dull as not to at least recognize that there are those superior beings who can make these connections, and for those, the images and words of Diane Varner must be the real deal.

My takeaway from her work is the pleasure at seeing, and being inspired by, such clean images. Didn't some sculptor say, when asked how he works, that he just chips away everything that isn't needed until he is done? The parallel in photography provides one of the best guides to composition - remove from the frame everything that isn't essential.

Diane's work is so clean that it looks easy. Just look carefully at what is in the viewfinder frame, use a longer focal length, get a bit closer, add some selective focus, a step this way or that to get the post out of the background, right? But I think it takes practice.

Just like enriching the images by making those metaphorical connections.

And now that I've thought about it a bit more, couldn't learning to make that metaphor connection, to encourage that little sparking in the head when you make the connection between vision and idea, help us to see image possibilities a bit better? What do you think?