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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


Winter naturally reduces the color palette to the essentials, and by learning to “see in black-and-white,” you’ll be able to properly judge a scene. The digital age also has provided photographers with so many options for black-and-white imagery that it’s hard to even define what a black-and-white image is. Channel mixers provide extended control over hue and saturation, and any number of tones can be added to conversion for subtly or overtly adding to the look of an image.
What To Look For In The Field
When out shooting in wintertime, there are several questions I ask myself when deciding between color and monochrome. What is it that speaks to me about the scene in front of me? Is it color? Or is it shape, depth, texture and detail? How can I best relay to the viewer the most important components of the scene and exclude the rest? If color appears to be a distraction, then the answer is easy.

There also are numerous elements I look for when composing and capturing an image in my mind before actually clicking the shutter. I look for intense transitions between highlight and shadow. I look for ways to convey a sense of depth and dimension that will manifest itself in tonal difference as opposed to color. Winter weather has a way of sculpting the landscape with wind, sun and other atmospheric phenomena, presenting strong foreground anchors, rich in linear texture and detail. This depth and dimension also may be found through near-far transitions between lit and shaded areas of the image. Many times I search for layers in an image, the definition of which are rendered much more palpable when void of color.

It’s worth mentioning that a good scene for monochrome isn’t necessarily one that just doesn’t work in color. Oftentimes, the resulting image will look adequate, or even somewhat nice, in color. What I’m shooting for, however, is maximum impact. For me, an image shot in color most often will have to exhibit bold, rich and exciting color to have impact. If those qualities aren’t present, I’ll start to examine how the shadows, highlights and tonal differences will establish impact instead of color.

Here’s a worthy exercise that may help you to understand how an adequate color image can be an exceptional monochrome one: Go through your image library and pick out several images that may not have made the initial five-star cut on your first edit. Process these images in monochrome, and you’ll be amazed at how some images just sing with life. The more you do this, the better you’ll know when the impact of monochrome will surpass color.

It’s worth mentioning that a good scene for monochrome isn’t necessarily one that just doesn’t work in color. Oftentimes, the resulting image will look adequate, or even somewhat nice, in color. What I’m shooting for, however, is maximum impact.

Furthermore, there will be times when you actually find the color to be a deterrent from the message you’re trying to convey with your image. When shape, form and texture trump color, you know you’ve found monochrome heaven.

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