Featured Photo: How Black and White Photos Are More Captivating

The Poignancy of Black and White Portraits

Portrait of a Tibetan Man

Portrait of a Tibetan man, originally shot in color but changed to black and white (technically, duotone since it’s tinted slightly, but you’ll give me a pass on our discussion of black and white now, won’t you?).  Although a strong portrait when viewed in color, the photo takes on an added poignancy by eliminating distractions and focusing on the man’s kind visage and the lifetime of events seemingly etched on his face. Naturally, as discussed in a previous blog, I focused on the eyes.

There’s simply some times when an image feels stronger in black and white.  Not everyone feels this way.  Some feel it’s limiting.

But there are times in which a black and white photo can be more captivating, poignant, and emotional than its color counterpart.  Black and white photos can refocus the attention on the subject by eliminating colors that may serve to distract more than enhance. By eliminating colors, black and white photography can place added emphasis on shape, form, texture, contrast or pattern.

With digital photography, one may not even have to “think” in black and white when photographing, although I do feel this is a fantastic exercise in strengthening one’s awareness and appreciation of shape, form, texture, contrast or patterns.  Or even lighting.  Try experimenting with the monochrome settings in your camera so you can receive instant feedback in your LCD screen.  If you shoot in RAW, you can even switch your image back to color.

Or if working in an image editor such as Photoshop, try viewing the image in black and white.  As with all photography, lighting and composition and attention to form all still matter, and in some instances, perhaps more so.

Earlier blog about focusing on the eyes.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens

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Nikon D90 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DX-Format Digital SLR Cameras

Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release Cord for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

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Photo Link: Photographs of North Korea

Gallery

Arirang Festival, North Korea, in the world’s largest stadium, with 100,000 people performing. That is not a typo.  Photo from Trek Earth. As I mentioned, every once in a while, I’ll link to something that I think you’ll find fascinating, … Continue reading

Photo Link: 100 Year Old Photos of Old Russia — In Color!

As I mentioned, every once in a while, I’ll link to something that I think you’ll find fascinating, whether it’s camera equipment or photos.  This time, it’s photos.  And this feels almost like time travel.  Note that I said “almost”; it’s without that slightly nauseous, disorienting feeling one gets from time travel.

These are some amazing hundred year old photos of Russia, all in color, all from the Library of Congress!  I know…all of us thought that everything was in black and white a hundred years ago.  But the high quality of the photos as well as the vibrant colors make it seem as if these were taken recently, not before World War I or the Russian Revolution.

An Armenian woman near Artvin in present-day Turkey, part of the old Russian Empire photos

An Armenian woman near Artvin in present-day Turkey, part of the old Russian Empire photos, 1910.

The Emir of Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan, 1910.

The Emir of Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan, 1910.

A group of Jewish children with a teacher in Samarkand, now present-day Uzbekistan, 1910.

A group of Jewish children with a teacher in Samarkand, now present-day Uzbekistan, 1910.

A group of women in Dagistan, 1910.

A group of women in Dagistan, 1910.

Young Russian peasant women offer berries to visitors to their izba, a traditional wooden house, in a rural area along the Sheksna River near the small town of Kirillov.

Young Russian peasant women offer berries to visitors to their izba, a traditional wooden house, in a rural area along the Sheksna River near the small town of Kirillov. Click on the photo to be magically whisked to Prokudin-Gorskii’s photos of Russia’s ethnic diversity.

At this point, you may be asking, “Hey…that was a long time ago, but these look *incredible*!  How were they photographed?”

Turns out that photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was a pretty bright apple who figured out how to create images in color by shooting three different negatives, using either a red, green, or blue filter, photographing them in fairly rapid sequence.  He then recombined them, showing them in color through a projection system using the same three filters.  Read about it in more detail here.