Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ex. 15 Black-and-white

Today was bitterly cold with a strong breeze, making any outdoor activity quite an endurance.  Coupled with a heavy grey cloud cover this limited what I could do and how long I could do it.  However, for my first Black and White shoot I had a good location in mind and some ideas about how I wanted to treat it.

The location is the Friedensengel an Italianesque monument to peace close to the river.  I took two lenses, a 24-70mm F/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/4.  As I planned to use mostly small apertures, f/16 and smaller I already determined to use a tripod, meaning that the lenses lack of IS would be no issue.  The wide zoom would enable some environmental shots, the longer would zoom permit me to close in on detail whilst retaining perspective.  The 70-200 is also extremely sharp and at its longer focal lengths would enable compression of structure in the shots.  The Friedensengel (particularly on a day like today) is very monochromatic, built of a yellow stone with grey cobble stones.

On a better day the Fridensengel looks like this:


25mm, f/16, 1s, ISO 100

The sky was completely washed out so I have almost  eliminated it from the frame and used a landscape crop together with strong contrast to emphasize the shape of the stairs below the central pillar.  With my second shot I have tried to capture the structure of the park below the statue, a complex structure of diagonals and curves.  This just about works in BW, but is not an ideal subject, colour would add information to this image. I also mounted a red filter on some of the 24-70mm shots out of interest, however, it made little difference to other shots as there was not much colour present.

42mm, f/16, 1/3s, ISO 100

 Looking back at the staircases the next two compositions try to investigate the structure:

58mm, f/16, 1.5s, ISO 100

51mm, f/16, 2s, ISO 100

These work better as Black and White images, the structure is the dominant element in the frame, the lack of colour does not lose useful information, however, I still do not find these to be very interesting.  I turned next to tighten the frame a little, trying to create strongly geometric images in which lines dominate.  This is the best.  I think it would be improved by panning out a little, the bottom is cut off and leaves me asking why. I have also switched to a square crop which seems to work very well with BW.  I think this is partly a throwback to medium formats popularity as a BW platform, but also works well with very strong structure.

70mm, f/22, 1/3s, ISO 100

By now I have switched to my 70-200mm zoom, enabling either very compressed images, such as the above or alternatively by selecting f/4, images with a strong sense of depth:

140mm, f/4, 1/60s, ISO 100

Continuing the focus on detail and shape the next 3 frames look at different elements of the monument:

94mm, f/22, 0.7s, ISO 100

34mm, f/16, 0.7s, ISO 100

70mm, f/4, 1/30s, ISO 100

For my final two shots from todays Black and White shoot, I moved in very much closer and worked on two diagonal compositions, trying to capture the texture and shape of the stone balustrades:

135mm, f/22, 1/2s, ISO 100

70mm, f/4, 1/60s, ISO 100

In all of the photographs I have limited processing to a straightforward BW conversion in Lightroom with default settings and then adjusted the contrast and tonal balance.  I have not sued any specific effects or much modified the colour conversion.

The biggest learning point is that certain subjects suite B&W better than others, simpler shapes and textures look better than more complex wide angle images.  The light was very flat with little or no shadow and so I had no chance to look at how shadow affects the images.  The sky was also bright and washed out, so impossible to get any cloud  shape or texture. For the exercise I have deliberately chosen a subject that starts out with no colour and then looked at how I could push this further in processing.  Using a tripod was important, it slowed me down and forced me to think hard about each frame, as well as enabling me to use narrow apertures and get the shots aligned better than I could in camera.

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