Light and Shadow, Color and Form

Robin over at Breezes at Dawn ran a black & white challenge last week that got me thinking about photography in a way I haven’t for several years. At one time I took photographs and developed the film myself, participating in shows once in while. I worked in black and white since the color process had more steps and more chemicals.

This picture, from a post last September, converted to black and white beautifully.

This picture, from a post last September, converted to black and white beautifully.

Robin was publishing a few black and white photos each day and I looked through some of my pictures to see what I had. What I found out is that I look at things differently when I photograph with black and white film than when I’ve got color on tap.With black and white, you’re looking for line, texture, light, form, shadow.

Here we have a textured path, soft grass, misty light.

Here we have a textured path, soft grass, misty light.

With color, the whole focus of a picture can change.

And here we have a beautiful fall day and a burning bush.

And here we have a beautiful fall day and a burning bush.

In a review of photos, I found a few where there was very little difference between color and black and white.

Pan sits in a temple playing his pipes.

Pan sits in a temple playing his pipes.

Pan, still playing pipes, not startlingly different from color

Pan, still playing pipes, not startlingly different from color

I only found two where a color photo transformed into a black and white I considered successful.  One you’ve already seen.

And this one, from a blog on Dumbarton Oaks this winter, has all the ingredients...

And this one, from a blog on Dumbarton Oaks this winter, has all the ingredients…

It’s almost like the difference between a watercolor and an oil. Both are art. Both result in something to look at. Both require different ways of seeing and different visualization techniques, not to mention different brush skills. Which isn’t to say the skills aren’t transferable from one to the other. They’re just specialized.

And of course, before color film, people took their vacation snaps in black and white.  This one has a few tell tale signs of modernity.

And of course, before color film, people took their vacation snaps in black and white. This one has a few tell tale signs of modernity.

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7 Responses to Light and Shadow, Color and Form

  1. Fabulous explanation of your process with photos! I really liked the second photo, the softness of it and the light. The scrolled down and KAPOW! the ‘burning bush’ This is probably the best comparison I have seen of colour v black and white. As you say, both art, both entirely different!
    You will love to meet Laurie I’m sure – also a photographer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robin says:

    Wonderful post. The first image is stunning in black and white. I like the willow in the picture of pan playing his pipes in black and white. I agree with Pauline. Fabulously done. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. KerryCan says:

    This was so interesting to read! I have never had any luck with black and white photography–my photos are all monotone and boring. I need to think about some of what you wrote and try again. And I love the photo of the boat in full sail!

    Like

    • arlingwoman says:

      Yeah, you actually have to look differently at the picture. I was surprised how converting color photos really didn’t work, except for the two I called out. I like the boat too!

      Like

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