When I started my photographic journey as a teenager black and white imagery was all there was. Color was a small printed image or slide that you looked at on a screen or in a scrapbook. What I learned was that the world was made up of light and dark and that I needed to adjust my exposure and development to create the image I wanted.
Fast forward to my college years full of shooting and developing B&W film. You see I was in charge of the student association darkroom and the year book photo staff for about three years. Then onto my career as a photojournalist. Again seeing and developing for the light. You might say B&W imagery has been my life.
When my career as a photojournalist changed to that as a photo editor I had to make sure digital images had enough tonal contrast to produce high quality B&W images for print. Again, B&W imagery.
Then my career as a photojournalist was over after 38 years. I started shooting in the mornings on a short walk around town with my Leica going back to my formative years shooting B&W.
What I discovered was that I was shooting the light and texture not the color. This guided me to the Nik Collection of B&W presets known as Silver Efex Pro 2. It’s a great tool that gives you incredible control over the B&W image. There is a really cool zone graduated bar at the bottom of the app that is such a huge help. Back in school I studied the zone system. As a photojournalist I employed it almost every day in one form or another. Using this tool brings me back almost into the darkroom. So now I always look at what the B&W alternative is or I convert it right away because that's how I envisioned it when I made the image.
Working in B&W is an incredible way to discover light and texture. It forces you to look at these elements of an image and to feel the subject. The images in this blog post were made in Oregon while I was on vacation. I was there to enjoy being with family and not take to many photos. I carried the camera with me only once and these are the images that resulted. All of them were visualized as B&W. Ordinary objects that are interesting - because they are B&W not because they are color. They are about light and texture. Learning to see the light is often taught in workshops but not often learned. What I teach in my workshops is to feel the light. Feel what it is doing to your emotions as it plays on your subject. Feel the textures as they come out in the shadows and adds depth to your images.
One of the things I like to do at my workshops is to gather in the early morning after sunrise and ask my students to close there eyes and use their other senses to experience the light and their surroundings whether it be bright sun, cloudy, rainy, misty etc. Smelling how the light is burning off the haze or starting to heat up the things around you. I then ask them to think about what they have felt and then try to photograph what they have experienced.
Next time you are out in the early morning try this exercise. I think you will find it will help you make images that mean something.