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Photographer: Linn Smith
Location: Washington, D.C.
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 100mm ƒ/2.8 USM Macro
While in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2010, one of the attractions Linn Smith photographed was Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. The characteristic extreme heat and humidity in August limited Smith's photography to the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. because lilies such as the one in this photograph close during the heat of the day. Smith used Nik Software Silver Efex Pro and Levels in Photoshop to intensify the contrast and bring out the tonality in the lily's petals.
In May, I put up an Assignment on black-and-white knowing that I would be looking at that gallery for this issue's Assignments article. You rose to the challenge and sent in more than 300 photographs. I was impressed by the range of subjects and the variety of perspectives that were submitted. Although software makes it easy to convert a photograph to black-and-white when you get back home to your computer, it still takes some planning and a good eye to see in black-and-white in the field. The art of previsualization isn't dead, and DSLRs with high-resolution LCD backs make it easier and faster to learn and become proficient.
Some people say that converting to black-and-white gives people a chance to make a bad photograph into a good one. I disagree. Monochrome isn't some kind of magic art dust that you can sprinkle over the photograph. The reason, I think, you hear that comment is because a black-and-white image creates an emphasis on form and tonality. In color, the form and tonality may have been lost in weak hues, a dull sky or harsh lighting. It's not that black-and-white saved the weak image; it's that the image was meant to be in black-and-white all along. Not every weak color photograph will magically become a strong black-and-white. Those key elements—form, tonality, contrast—must be present, otherwise the conversion will simply take a weak color photo and make it into a weak monochrome.
If you haven't been to the full Black-And-White Assignments Gallery on the OP website, take a look. In print, I have limited space, but there are many more outstanding photographs in the gallery.
—Christopher Robinson, Editor
Photographer: Slobodan Blagojevic
Location: Grand Teton National Park, just off Oxbow Bend, Wyoming
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/4L IS USM at 160mm, 1⁄320 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 320, handheld
Slobodan Blagojevic was in the Tetons in early October attending a friend's wedding. During his week there, the weather hadn't been inspiring, mostly drizzle, rain and drab skies. Because he had been at the park before, on this trip Blagojevic spent time driving around looking for a different take on the familiar scenery, which is a tall order in the Tetons. As he was passing by this scene, just off Oxbow Bend, the sun broke through the clouds for a brief moment, hitting the solitary tree and setting the fall color leaves ablaze. The moment was magical, but quite transient. By the time he pulled over and reached for the camera, it was over. Undeterred, Blagojevic waited, hoping that the rapidly moving storm might create another opening in the clouds and illuminate the same tree. Perseverance paid off, and Blagojevic was prepared. He had the exposure already dialed in.
Photographer: FwuKai Quah
Location: Sand Harbor, North Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Equipment: Canon EOS 60D, Tokina 11-16mm ƒ/2.8 AT-X, B+W 10-stop ND filter, Singh-Ray 3-stop reverse graduated ND filter, Singh-Ray 2-stop graduated ND filter
This photograph was captured during the winter at Sand Harbor when FwuKai Quah was on a skiing trip. The wind was picking up, so Quah reached for an arsenal of filters to balance the illumination, tame the waves and create the misty effect. Because of the long exposure and the need for considerable in-camera noise reduction, Quah had to wait to review the image in the car on the way home. In this case, previsualization and technical skill were more helpful than being able to instantly review the shot or the histogram on the LCD.
Photographer: Ya Zhang
Location: Grand View Point Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM at 17mm, 3.2 sec., ƒ/20, ISO 100, Singh-Ray 3-stop graduated ND filter, Benro C-328 carbon-fiber tripod, Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 ballhead
Ya Zhang had never been to Canyonlands National Park, and this photograph was captured on the first morning of the trip. The plan was to go to Mesa Arch for sunrise; however, being unfamiliar with the park, Zhang missed the target and drove to Grand View Point Overlook instead. It goes to show that sometimes it's better to be lucky than a good navigator.