Fotografía en Blanco y Negro

Fotografía en Blanco y Negro

Happy New Year! Did you make any resolutions?

My resolutions have a lot to do with stretching photographically, trying new things and working on improving my skills. And telling you all about my progress, of course. So, let's get started!

For some of us, black and white images used to be the norm; remember all those Kodak photos of your childhood? Birthday parties and those awful squint-into-the-sun in your Easter finery snapshots? Old photos of our parents and grandparents were all in black and white, usually pasted in black paper photo albums, or stashed unsorted in a shoe box. 

And of course, the early movies were in black and white, shown on the silver screen. Wonderful lighting, texture and drama all without the benefit of color. Next time you are wondering what to see on Netflix or stream from Amazon, try a classic like His Girl Friday, High Noon or All about Eve and revel in their glory. Or watch The Last Picture Show. Director John Ford claimed to prefer the black and white medium over color for his 1962 movie Man Who Shot Liberty Valance because

"In black and white, you've got to be very careful. You've got to know your job, lay your shadows in properly, get your perspective right, but in color, there it is," he said. "You might say I'm old fashioned, but black and white is real photography."

With modern digital cameras you can change the settings to save the image in B&W or switch over in post-processing. Sometimes, when you take the photo you can imagine how it would look without the distractions of color, but other times you just have to experiment with various filters after the fact. 

These images were shot in color but post-processed with NIK Collection Silver Effects Pro 2, and other tools. 

Rice University door to knowledge Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Rice University door to knowledge

Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

When I was wandering around Rice University this fall, I spent a lot of time lining up this door and the symmetrical stairways. I was so disappointed that I didn't notice the harsh shadows to the right until I downloaded it at home. Now, in B&W the shadows add drama that was missing in the color version. 

Forgotten chairs Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Forgotten chairs

Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Now, this image from the Rice University adventure is one I actually thought might look better in B&W when I shot it. Something about the stark shadows of the chairs appealed to me. And a lot of pattern in the floor even though it is in shadow.

Once modern office building Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/500 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Once modern office building

Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/500 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

This office building is just east of downtown Houston, circa 1960 I would guess. The curved brick wall and modern operable windows, plus the limestone facings all contribute to the texture. Architectural shots always look good with dramatic skies. I think I punched the clouds up a bit with NIK HDR Efex Pro.  

Viewing blind over the marsh and lowlands Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/250 sec. f/4.5 ISO 1000

Viewing blind over the marsh and lowlands

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/250 sec. f/4.5 ISO 1000

Strong geometric shapes often look better in B&W than color. This is a viewing blind at Paul D. Rushing Park, out on the Katy prairie. I am really drawn to symmetrical scenes; even at home I like to balance lamps or photos or arrangements. 

Note: I went out there recently looking for birds and didn't find too many. What I did find was a LOT of McMansion development off Clay Rd and even way out on Katy-Hockley Rd. I know we all have to live somewhere and I am not advocating we move to the inner city to take buses or ride bikes everywhere.

But, we need to protect the wide open spaces. Good to know a great deal of land has been saved by the Katy Prairie Conservancy.

Wildlife photographer in action Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1000

Wildlife photographer in action

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1000

Portraits are also good subjects for B&W. This is my fave photographer Bill Maroldo and his giant 500mm lens. He takes such fantastic images and I have learned so much from him. Patience for one thing. And he has taught me to be much more critical of my own work.

How are you going to grow and get better if you are satisfied with everything you shoot?

Hurricane debris Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/800 sec. f/5.6 ISO 500

Hurricane debris

Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/800 sec. f/5.6 ISO 500

This is a broken down pier near the Quintana Jetty. Oh, that visiting barge (still for sale) is just out of frame to the right. Bill had taken a some great shots with his wide-angle lens a while back; last time we were there I tried my luck. Wide angle shots are all about getting really close to the subject and making sure the foreground is in focus. It is a new mind-set for me; I am so used to the telephoto and zooming in on small details.

And it helps to get really low. That is not as easy as it used to be. Bill has a new remote shutter gadget I might try. My camera does have an articulated screen so it is possible to set up some interesting angles. 

Brown Pelicans looking for a handout Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1250

Brown Pelicans looking for a handout

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1250

Most birds photos don't lend themselves well to B&W. An exception is raptors like eagles and owls, perhaps for their strong features and unblinking stare. For most other birds, I think we expect color. We like the shadings and subtle graduations of their colorful feathers. But, pelicans have strong geometry with the long bills and high contrast coloration, so sometimes it works. This pushy bunch of Brown Pelicans were begging near a shrimp boat at the Texas City Dike.

My photographic goals for next year are to get out of my comfort zone. I want to do more wide-angle shots, so look for me to visit downtown and odd areas. I also want take some trips. Galveston for sure (birds and the historic district) and South Texas. Spring migration will start late February and that means all those colorful warblers plus High Island and the Rookery. 

Do you have any requests? Let me know in the comments; subject matter ideas are always appreciated. 

Was that a Willet?

Was that a Willet?

Curlews for Christmas

Curlews for Christmas