Trixie and I went on a little hike this morning and, as per usual, I took my camera, this time giving myself a challenge: only shoot in black and white. That challenge probably had something to do with browsing some Ansel Adams photography yesterday.
We live in a color-filled world, and limiting oneself to seeing in black and white forces one to look at the world differently. Because black and white really isn’t black and white – It is dark and light. And that’s how one has to see, in darks and lights.
Composing a shot in color means paying attention to the color palette, paying attention to the color texture and mood of the background, how the sun distorts or realizes the color of the subject. Shooting in color means that the foreground and background actually have to “match” or complement one another, without splashes of distracting color forcing the eye away from the focal point. Shooting in black and white, however, is a whole different ballgame. Instead of composing colors, one has to compose lights and shadows and textures and contrasts. Highlights and lowlights, sunlight and shade.
The delicateness of the flower has to be conveyed not in the delicacy or whimsy of the color, but in the transparency of the petals, the shapes and contours and contrasts. Those things obviously are important in color photography, but they become the essence of black and white photography. The pale green of the sprig of leaves might catch your eye, but in black and white it is the stained-glass quality of the leaf with the sunlight behind it that defines that leaf, not the color. Just a different way of marveling at this wonderful world.