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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Go B&W In Winter

More than just a solution for bleak scenery, converting your images to black-and-white can give winter landscapes and sports action tremendous impact

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Black-and-white adds a fine-art impact to nature photographs, and the unique properties of winter are especially exciting for beautiful monochromatic photos and prints.

Winter is a wondrous season for photographers, with its own unique challenges and triumphs. For many of us, the landscape changes shape and character entirely, covered in a blanket of Mother Nature’s finest frozen concoction. While there are certainly fleeting moments of inspiring color, winter, it seems, is a season well suited to monochrome imagery.

There’s a certain simplicity and resoluteness conveyed through a black-and-white image that’s often hard to capture in color. In my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to showcase the simple framework of a meaningful image. Color takes a backseat to shape, texture and tonal nuance, and depth and dimension are brought out through shadow and highlight. For some, winter can be a particularly challenging time to capture five-star images. With a little insight and practice, this season can serve as a veritable monochrome bounty, ripe for the taking.

Above is an example of a before-and-after desaturated image. While the color photograph is striking, black-and-white conversion brings an almost otherworldly, timeless feel to the overall aesthetic of the image.

Often, the overwhelming question that looms in our photographic minds is, “When do I shoot for monochrome or just stick with color?” The easy, open-ended answer is simply, “When it feels right.” It does take some practice, however, to arrive at a creative level where you know the scene before you was just meant to be shared in black-and-white.

In my earlier years of shooting, I found myself converting images to black-and-white only when the color at my location wasn’t cutting it. It always seemed to be more of a plan B than a plan A. This all changed with a visual exercise that helped me to see the world in shades and tones as opposed to just color.

Upon returning home from a shoot, I would convert my digital color images to monochrome and study the way everyday objects looked without color. Before long, I was able to “see” in monochrome when shooting in the field. Depending on the scene that lay before me and what my creative mind-set was, I was seeing in shades of black, white and gray instead of indigo, magenta and mustard. What an inspiring new world! Winter is a particularly useful season to practice seeing, as much of the time the range of color is naturally limited. The veil between color and monochrome is thin, and it’s easier to see both types of imagery without sitting at the computer and converting the image.


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