If you’ve followed any of my work you’ve probably noticed by now that I am hooked on a few subjects. Landscapes have always been a passion of mine. Military aircraft, especially WWII Warbirds on display in an air museum or an air show are something I really enjoy. But lately I’d have to say that my niche is black and white photography. It’s not that I’ve lost interest in my other photographic interests, black and white has just taken a front row seat.
One of the benefits of black and white is that I can still work on my landscapes and also the aircraft. Since I shoot about 95% color (I do switch the camera over to black and white occasionally), I have the best of both worlds. It’s after I’ve taken the shot and have it available for post production that I can begin to transform it. Sometimes when I’m out and working a scene I can even picture it in black and white. Ansel Adams described this as previsualization where he defines it as “the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure”. This may sound a little corny, but it works for me. There are some scenes that just seem to cry out to me – “black and white”!
Here’s an example. This shot is of the Imperial Beach Pier, just south of San Diego. Whenever I’m down in the area I try to make a sunset photo side trip. I was trying out my new Sony RX100 and got lucky to have a very pretty sunset.
Not bad, and I think most folks would probably just leave it as is. But there was just something about it that made me wonder what it would look like in black and white. I think the result gives this shot a completely different mood. It’s been transformed from light, colorful and even cheery to dark, moody, and somber.
There’s one more aspect to my black and white obsession, and that’s adding a vintage look. I’ve been fortunate to have access a family travelogue from the early 1900’s. The book is called “Around Arizona” and chronicles my great-grandparents and very young grandfather’s 1000 mile journey around a very rough and wild Arizona. Being over 100 years old it’s not in the best shape and I’m in the process of scanning all of the pages and copying the photos. I’ve always admired vintage photos and like to study them to try and duplicate their unique look and feel. Having access to some that have a direct family connection is just icing on the cake.
As you can see, this photo is far from perfect. It’s faded, scratched, blotched, etc… etc… And I think it’s absolutely perfect with all of it’s imperfections. Looking at it takes me back to simpler time, when there were no superhighways, no air conditioned cars, no fast food. Photography was very primitive compared to what we have today. The camera my great grandmother used for this shot was an Eastman-Kodak No.1 Pocket Camera. It used A-120 roll film and had an autographic feature that allowed the photographer to actually write a note on the back of each frame of film using a little stylus.
That’s enough history. My point in sharing all of that is to say that I use this as my inspiration to further transform some of my photos into something similar, something with that same vintage look and feel. I’m not always entirely successful, but I enjoy the challenge. Here’s one of my more recent images:
To sum it up, I’d say that black and white, including vintage images have more character than those technically perfect shots that are cranked out today. There’s nothing wrong with a perfect digital shot that is flawless down to the last pixel, but most of them lack character, or a soul. A photo doesn’t have to be perfect to convey a feeling, a mood, or tell a story. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with those that want to create that technically perfect image. I’m just going in a different direction, towards my niche.
If you like black and white photography and want to see more, check out my new Black and White Gallery!
That’s it for this post. I hope you find your photographic niche! Until next time, Happy Shooting!