Monday, March 28, 2011

It Don't Matter if You're Black [and] White

Augh, my brain.  Things have been a bit hectic 'round here, but this blog is a nice, relaxing outlet for my snark and photo skillz.  Just...don't expect too much snark in this post, mainly because I haz teh dumbs.  I don't really know why I preface the actual post with how drained/stressed I am--as if I really need to apologize for it--but, since I usually ache for approval, that's just how it's going to be.  (Ohgod, ohgod, ohgod, you think I'm a flake; PLEASE LIKE ME.)

Although we discussed the relationship between color and light, this week's posts center more on the opposite: the effects of lighting without the backing of color.  Black and white photography is, of course, a classic theme, but there are many reasons for this:  1.) well-established lighting can be more dramatic without color; 2.) certain moments can become more powerful through the use of black and white; 3.) it's really fun, etc.  Black and white photography, of course, can be particularly tricky; to use black and white photography effectively, the blacks must be the richest blacks and the whites the most pristine whites, all the while running the risks of over- or under-exposure.

Black and white photography is treacherous.  Tread softly, else it eat you alive.  Just imagine your tiny, useless legs flailing about while your top half is engulfed by the B&W Monster's mult-fanged gaping maw.

Of course, if you stroke it just right, the B&W Monster will be your friend.

Teazer in Action - Athens, AL (Dec. 2010)
Take, for instance, this photo.  I did the B&W Monster some (entirely legal) favors, and he came through for me.  My cat, Teazer, is a neurotic Jabba the Hutt of a cat--but she's a sweetie and kind of redeems herself by being a decent feline model.  I managed to get this shot of her while she was shaking her head, but the shot turned out well enough that the action actually suited the frame's composition.  Shot originally in black and white, the lack of saturation seems to emphasize the shake of her head, and the shadow beneath Teazer's chin provides the appropriate dark balance for the cat's white chest and whiskers.  The blacks of her eyes also displays the eyes' slant, caused by the abrupt motion of the cat's head.  Thus, the balance between the darks and lights, along with the lack of color, places emphasis on Teazer's movement and makes it the focus of the photo.

Self Portrait (Feb. 2011)
I'm a bit hesitant about this next photo, as it is a self portrait.  I'm not particularly concerned that you, our lovely reader(s), know(s) what I look like, but I do, in the age of social networking shots-from-above-duck-face profile pictures, sometimes question the validity of a self portrait used for an artistic study.  (I will make an argument in support for well done self portraits in a future post, but I do want to make clear that I do view it as a sensitive issue.)  However, this particular photo harkens back to my statement about lighting and black and white photography: notice the rich, black background, whose shadows engulf the model's hair and surrounds the face, while the face itself reflects the available light--providing a counterbalance to the powerful black.  The eyebrows, pupils, and shirt at the bottom corner of the picture also compliment the otherwise-white face.  The face's angle provides further interest to the photo, which the lighting captures well.  The fact that the face seems almost disconnected from the neck because of the intense shadows further adds a dramatic addition to the photo.  Had this picture been left in its original state as a colored photo, the shadows would not have been nearly as intense, the lighting wouldn't have been as effective, and the composition itself had the potential to fall flat.  So, good job, black and white--you done good with that thar desaturatin', y'all.

Dogwood Blossom - Athens, AL (Mar. 2011)
In direct contrast to the self portrait, this photo of a solitary dogwood blossom (everything is in full bloom here--ACHOO) focuses more on the blossom's highlights, particularly the whites of the flower itself.  Though the branches provide the shadows necessary for a successful black and white photograph, it's really white's show, here.  Taking advantage of natural midday light, the blossom reflects the light, though the photograph's angle prevents the subject from becoming over-exposed, a common problem when practicing in black and white (I admit, I do have this problem at times).  The highlights emphasize the singleness of the dogwood blossom, along with the neutral grey background that further makes the highlights pop.  The bottom-most branch also presents a nice, vertical line that cuts through the greys and balances out the highlights by catching the viewer's eye.  Ultimately, this shot further displays how light--in this case, highlights--makes the photo more appealing and the blossom more striking, which is a main factor of a black and white photograph's success.

I'm currently thinking that I will make black and white photography another future mini-study, like my texture study.  That would be fun, and it will also be beneficial when considering contrast, lighting, and how to deal with certain scenarios without the safety net of color.

1 comment:

  1. Super post, Jen! It makes me excited to do mine on Friday. I'm also excited about our planned Wednesday post, too.