What happens to green leaves when I turn them into black and white? Again and again I photographed ferns. During a hike in the Black Forest I photographed groups of different leaves with different shades of green and brightness.
The result was clear to me beforehand. I had found such an idea in the images of Ansel Adams.
Less subtle is the following motif with a wooden bench for tired hikers. In this image the fern, the bench and the stone marker are the brightest objects.
Different hues of green lead to different levels of brightness in the black and white cosmos. Our destination for the day was Lake Buhlbach, which unfortunately could no longer be circumnavigated on foot in the newly opened national park.
With the first cable car to the Schilthorn I started at 7:40 am in Mürren. Unfortunately, as a tourist I couldn’t go up earlier. On the terrace of the mountain station there were two cardboard figures with shooting irons in hand, which appeared to me on the pictures of the webcam as strangely motionless guests. The temperature at 0 degrees Celsius was not friendly for the hands, so I was mostly alone on the platform.
How do you photograph mountains ? At distant mountains the colour disappears into a dull blue, which is why I prefer black and white in these cases. Then a gripping dynamic may develop that draws you into the image.
The technical side of a cable car has always fascinated me. A cable car is a workplace for drivers, technicians, engineers and many others. The first ride in the morning is a cheerful encounter of these people, who have known each other for along time and take turns doing some work on the machines. That’s why we were allowed to listen to music for the morning gymnastics during the drive uphill.
In fact, the construction of a mountain station on the Schilthorn before it became the location for the 4th James Bond movie starring George Lazenby was certainly controversial and economically questionable. After the movie, everything was clear. Today you can admire many scenes and their making of on a separate floor, as well as 10 minutes of impressive films about the local landscape and the film.
It was only while processing the images that I noticed the many airplane tracks in the sky that had not been there for so long.
The mountain range of Eiger (left), Mönch and Jungfrau also looks better in black-and-white technique. The imminent change of the weather is already clearly visible on the image.
The cross-country trip to Lucerne with a 20-year-old navigation system took me along many country roads, which used to be the only connection to this city. It’s hard to imagine how the traffic might have moved then. That’s why the system guided me down from the motorway through beautiful Swiss landscapes.
A little tired I arrived in Lucerne and went to sleep. Just in time for sunset I made a tour through the old town to Lake Lucerne, on which wonderful sailboats were on the way.
Ansel Adams was a pianist. There’s even an edition of recordings of him from the 30s. For a long time he struggled whether he should become a pianist or a photographer.
Reading his book “The Negative” not only gives me insight into the technical processes that the “analogue” photographers had to struggle with. His often short sentences or comments on the image evaluation are an inspiring source, which always evoke in me the image of a qualified musician from Ansel Adams. He didn’t loose the spirit of music when photographing or processing.
His comments on infrared photography inspired me to rework a color image of the northern part of the island of Sylt and to study the effect of different color filters on contrasts and tonality.
The contrasts in the color image are weaker, the color also distracts a little from the mood of an impending thunderstorm. A bit of luminosity or radiance comes out better in the clouds in the black and white image.
The basic question of the creative photographer is, wether the representation of a photograph is literal or a departure from reality as projected in his „mind’s eye“. An expressive image is photographer’s goal. When the interaction of the different factors of exposure, aperture and camera characteristics is well understood, creative freedom knows no limits. Positively speaking: the sky is the limit.
The scenario of an almost threatening thunderstorm cloud, which, however, is still in a protective distance, is sometimes surprising on the beach. The tetrapods on my image will protect the island from flooding, but not us from rain.
A colored picture blurs this impression completely. Black and white rendering clearly shows the energy inherent in a thundercloud. We came across this cloud at Hörnum and it accompanied us all along the beach.
Just a short time before, I managed to capture the impression of a constantly beautiful weather with a cool wind and gentle waves. A strong sun pushes away all dark thoughts. On the horizon, the clouds are raining a bit.
Many times we are waiting. We like to draw strength from contemplation. Time is passing by imperceptibly, almost a little too fast.
With color photos expressive images can also be created. The true brightness values of a color image like to deceive our eyes. Quantitative estimation with the help of Lab color display is a great help in the accurate determination of brightness values. To make an image look like I had it in my „mind’s eye“.
An idea of Ansel Adams regarding the reality of a photo keeps me captive. His best photos, as he writes in hisbook “The Negative”, are often described by viewers as truly realistic. But they’re not. On the contrary. These would often have been the most intensively worked on by him.
He repeatedly insists in this book that the best images would have been those in which he left reality in the processing to show what he wanted to show or felt.
I am often impressed by the clouds passing by or the play of clouds in the sky. In a colored picture, I don’t quite succeed in directing the weight of the picture to the clouds in the sky. Despite the use of filters with and without gradients, the color image is beautifully colored and bright, but the desired focus is lost. With black and white pictures, it seems to be easier.
Ansel Adams suggested in his book „The Negative“ a plan for practice in awareness and visualization to improve skills in black and white photography (Chapter 1, p. 3). „Take nothing for granted“: Black isn’t pitch black, but consists of many dark gray values, white isn’t pure white, but consists of many light gray tones.
One of his further suggestions to improve learning visualization of a subject could be the use of Polaroid Land black-and-white films. He made this suggestion 1981, long before LCD monitor and live view. With these tools our learning curve on each subject and imaging situation is steep.
Using Slow Shutter app I’m able to compose an image in live view mode and integrate a period of time to a single image. The app tends to capture the bright whites first, and doesn’t change them very much while integrating the whole image e.g. for 8 seconds. Therefore, I start my exposure at a moment, where the bright values come close to my visualization of the composition – and then I enjoy the completion. I believe, this feeling is close to the moment, when a print came out in the darkroom.
Ansel Adams didn’t have an electronic optical system. His recommendations were aimed at having a trained eye and with a few measuring points an idea of what the distribution of gray values would be in reality, in the negative and in the print (the positive).
This distribution is nowadays given by our cameras as a histogram. Each pixel of a capture is included. Thus, the distribution of gray values is not estimated by some 3 to 10 measurement points. With each pixel of a photo included and millions of them in a single capture we get a quasi-continuous function from the lowest to the highest brightness values: a histogram.
Let’s look at the following photograph of a chessboard from a common game collection and its histogram. (The chessboard was already old and slightly bent.) The chessboard consists of mainly two gray levels: the black and the white chess fields. Each individual chess field consists of slightly differing gray levels. The two peaks in the histogram represent this inhomogeneity of the photographed „black“ and „white“ chess fields.
Departure from realism is a significant contribution to creative imagery if you know to influence your result.
The darkroom was the centre of analogue photography. In a darkroom were created the copies of a picture on photo paper, which had been planned when shooting with camera and film.
The “digital darkroom” is in a way the continuation of the darkroom from analogue times. Nowadays, the role of the film is taken over by the RAW image. The development of the film was linked to chemistry, intentional light and shadow effects and fine feeling. Each print was unique.
The “digital development” or postprocessing is non-destructive, repeatable and delivers a result, which at least theoretically can be printed as often as desired. In the digital workflow no print is unique anymore.
With a dark background and systematic shading of daylight, my photo studio became a darkroom where I could photograph flowers. Exposure times became longer, almost like a long-term exposure at night outside. The saturation of the colors came out surprisingly strong.
The creation of a floating cloud with the help of white tulle did not require shading to achieve the effect of a darkroom. As my friend Lorenz mentioned, looking closer you can see nice interference patterns (Newtonian rings). I’m happy with this image idea: the image got two days later a Flickr in explore.
The soft variations of light and shadow fit well to a soft vetch.
I wanted to study shadows of simple bodies again today. It all started with an egg last week. The shadow of last week’s egg photo was ring-shaped. I noticed that, but it didn’t bother me. Could the ring shape of the shadow be overcome by skillful selection of light and would the backside of the egg lie entirely in the shadow? This assignment was given to me by a school friend, who himself is a professional photographer.
The shadow looks better today, with a little help from Photoshop.
A neighbor had given me simple bodies, which I placed like an egg on the white background. First of all as a play with form and shadow, where I had to think of the X-ra image of a human hand.
The small wooden blocks were wonderfully colorful. Unfortunately, I didn’t have as many as my imagination would have liked. Arranged in concentric circles, they are delightful to the eyes. At the suggestion of a friend, I arranged, the number of blocks into Fibonacci numbers. The processing of the shadows leads to an exciting image, similar to solarization. Since it is a kind of negative, I named the picture after the impression it makes: „Flow of light“, although in reality it was the shadows of the blocks.
Shades of grey in interaction with light: this is a theme for monochromatic images. For a long time I wanted to photograph an egg against a white background. The idea was stimulated by photos, mostly of people I know personally. Geometric, white-colored bodies from the mathematical collection would also be fun for me. Unfortunately, access is not as easy for me as with an egg.
On the left side the egg is brighter than the background, on the right side it is the other way round. The background itself loses a little brightness from the left to the right, but is brighter than the the egg on the right. The contrast changes. There is no clearly defined shadow for this setup. The same is true in the next photograph.
With the help of a simple light source whose color temperature does not matter after conversion into a black and white image, a soft shadow can be achieved if the source is not point-shaped.