Milford Sound

ELEMENTS OF BLACK AND WHITE - Strong Contrast

DARK AND STORMY NIGHT IN BLACK AND WHITE

The first roll of film I shot was colour but the first photograph I fell in love with was a black and white.  It was the one known as "california kiss."  It kicked off a long run of creating colourless documentary style photos of my friends and family which ended when I shot my last roll of Ilford in 1999.  At that point I made the move to digital and recommitted my affections to colour.  

Participating in the 5 Day Black and White Challenge has inspired me to take a closer look at what kind of black and white landscape photos I like.  After collecting these on a pinterest board for study I've discovered that the ones I find impactful share some common elements. Over the remaining days of the challenge I thought I might share these with you.  

ELEMENT #1 - STRONG CONTRAST
Very black black's and very white whites are perfect for giving the image real pop.  Without colour to provide the vibrance, strong contrast steps in to provide that umph!

TIP:
When working on a black and white image in Lightroom, did you know that if you hold the 'alt' or 'option' key down while sliding the black or white slider it will give you a visualization of how your image is being adjusted.  You can then adjust the slider until just enough true black or pure white is showing in the image.  Here is a great article at digitalphotographyschool .com that illustrates what I mean.  So handy right?  I also watch my histogram carefully when I play with the adjustments and I have noticed that with black and white landscapes I prefer to have it skewed to the left or on the dark side.   Ahhh yes... the dark side is powerful.

 

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THERE'S A STORY TO TELL

Old World Exploration of Moody Milford Sound

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “story” lately.  In addition to photographer and artist, I call myself a visual storyteller so I suppose it's not surprising that I’ve put some thought into it.

I recall when I was in my twenties, noticing that the bulk of the conversations my then middle aged father and his friends shared centred around story telling.  In fact I remember feeling bored by it.  “Did I tell you about….” my father would start.  I would gently smile in hopes of taking the sting out of my response “Yes, you shared that one with me already.”  Is that all they do I wondered?  Swap and re-tell old stories?  Ugh,  isn't there more to life?

Now I am the middle aged storyteller and it's funny that as I have aged the value of stories has become obvious.  Stories are the core of life.  They give meaning, provide context and help us to connect.  

With vast quantities of visual media bombarding us daily - stories have even greater value than ever.  I crave the deeper connection that comes when a story is told alongside an image.  Listening to an artist share their experience of creating their work often will greatly deepen my affection for the work.  Does this happen to you?  I find I can even forge a connection to a subject I normally have no interest in - say for example tennis (no offence to tennis enthusiasts). If I happen to watch tv coverage of a tennis player's life everything changes.  Knowing the “story” - the athlete’s hopes, dreams, struggles and triumphs - connects me to them and suddenly I am engaged in watching a game I previously had no interest in.

But I call myself a visual storyteller but what story am I telling?  Of course each image has it’s own creation story - an account of the experience or moment, but I have started to notice that most of my images are part of a larger narrative. Looking at my work they make a collective statement: 

all natural landscapes contain a beauty that we need

The ones we find close by us as well as in more remote places.  As a photographer, artist and visual storyteller, I hope my images will remind others to seek this beauty, help them to find it and encourage them to preserve and protect it.  

In truth, the image is NOT what is important at all.  The image is the icing on the cake - but without the cake there would be no reason for it.

 

INSPIRATION THIS WEEK:

  • Trey Ratcliff
    Trey is the consummate storyteller.  His daily (so impressive) blog posts always include a new image from his travels with a bit of the story behind them. You can find him online at your preferred social media stream or at the hub Stuck In Customs
  • Karen Hutton
    Karen has a wonderfully unique way of posting.  Her beautiful images are paired with a creative bit of prose.  She sets the stage and then lets you in on the dialogue the characters of the image are having.  Sounds like no big deal… but here is the magic part… her images are mostly of landscapes. I follow Karen on google+ but you can also visit her blog.
  • Gage Salyards
    Gage describes himself as a "Gentleman explorer. World Traveller. Life photographer."  Having met him and followed his work ever since, I have to agree - he is all of those plus a man with an incredible personal story of resilience.  His latest postings on instagram @eyeamgage not only contain his beautiful images but also inspiring and thoughtful words.
  • Maptia - “is a beautiful way to tell stories about places”  They ask the question "Do you believe stories can change the world?"  If your answer is yes... then you are in the right place. http://maptia.com
  • Exposure - If you haven’t visited https://exposure.co yet then don’t wait any longer.  "Exposure is a tool to create beautiful photo narratives. It’s also a community of passionate photographers and storytellers. Exposure is a great place to tell your photo stories.”  This is the place where visual storytelling lives.  My first story is here.
  • Zaria Forman
    This artist and her hyper realistic works of art in soft pastel are incredible.  Their photo-like quality caught my attention but it was the story of what inspired her to create them made me love them.
 

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IS PHOTOGRAPHY ART?

Photography is such a hot bed of debate.  Yup - it is.  Have a look at almost any image posted on social media and you will find sparring in the comments below it.  

Often the debate centres around what is “good" and what is “real.”  

We all know that "good" is subjective - right? Strangely when it comes to photographic images there are some who feel "good" equals "real" which makes "good" no longer subjective.   Many stand firm that no matter how beautiful the composition, how pleasing the colours or beautiful the lines, a photograph which has been been manipulated in any way no longer qualifies as “good."

I suspect this is due to the historical emergence of photographic images as not an art form but as a method of recording.  The idea that the "camera doesn't lie” became firmly ingrained, though it has never been true.  The camera has always been merely a tool to produce images.  All images are manipulated by the photographer if in no other way than at the simplest level of what is included or omitted from the frame.  Photographic images have always had the ability to span the spectrum from lightly altered (what some might call “documentary or journalistic”) all the way to highly stylized photographic art.  

In my experience, the closer a photographic image moves towards the centre of the spectrum where the line is blurred between documentary and art the more uncomfortable people become. I like to make images (notice I make the distinction between making images and taking photographs) that fit squarely in that space.  I find them beautiful.  And bringing the world to life beautifully is really my goal with my art. 

 

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