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What do you know about the “Group f.64”?

Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and the Community of Artist who revolutionised American Photography Excerpt from the Book Group f.64 by…

What do you know about the “Group f.64”?
Black and White · Camera · Landscape Photography · Photography Blog · Productivity · Tips

Landscape Photography: A League of its Own

‘Zigi, Cyprus: a quintessential and a picturesque fishing Village.’ Mono conversion in Photoshop with additional levels and sharpening adjustments were made.

Last post, I discussed the genera of black and white photography and as I was prepping for my next blog I realised, why not continue the thread and share some of my own black and white work and also discuss landscape photography. For many people new to the world of photography, one of the easiest and most accessible area first explored with a new camera is the great outdoors. One doesn’t need a ton of gear or a fancy studio set up ! There is plenty of available natural light, which according to my own experience is the best kind. So put on your best walking shoes and on a beautiful spring morning equipped with your camera, let’s begin our adventure. But before you do, why not take a quick look at our essential photography tips.

Although there is no right or wrong to shooting landscape, there are a few tips that can elevate your shot and have them stand out against the general background noise of countless dull photos.Landscape are an excellent subject to convert into black and white. Look at the work of Ansel Adams and his iconic black-and-white landscape images which helped establish photography among the fine arts.

Landscape Photography Tips

  1. Research your location
Photo by Vojta Kovau0159u00edk on Pexels.com

Take time to research your shooting location if you have not been there. Google Earth and google street view are good options. Not all information that comes up may be useful but some images of other photographers may pop up and that will give you a heads~up as to whether it is an easy or difficult place to reach. There may be tips concerning local regulations and best places to photograph~ so do your research before you hit the rubber !

2. Use appropriate app

Image courtsey Sunset Magazine

There are apps available that can tell you where the sun will be at any point on a given day. These apps can overlay information on a map of your given destination, showing where the sun will rise and set. This is good to know information as you can work out the best time to shoot . Shooting near sunset is a good idea especially black and white photography as shadows are long and contrasts are high. There is also the possibility of dramatic silhouette. Sun Seekers for IOS and Sun Surveyor for Android are a good options.

3. Always be prepared

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Make sure you dress for the condition you are shooting in. Travel light as possible, and a purchase of a good quality rucksack or a rough terrain camera bag will stand you in good stead for your journey. Make sure to carry extra batteries and back up camera in case you are planning a long day trip, not to forget that you tell someone you’r out there and have a phone with you all times.

4. Visualise the shots

Photo by jasmin chew on Pexels.com

Take time to actually look around the landscape you are in, before taking any photos. Scan your surrounding and try and visualise where the best shots can be taken from. Sometimes it is a good idea to scout the location a day before you shoot, just walking through the landscape, taking note of the best positions, angles and viewpoint for future reference. Keep in mind the key requirement that the image needs to be converted to black and white. Form, composition, light and texture will define your shot when seen in black and white.

5. The Magic hour

Zigi Village, Cyprus at the time of sunset. Removing the color gives you the chance to absorb the details in the sky and rock.
Nikon D7200~35mm~f:2.8 ISO 100

In photography the golden hour is a common terminology. For gorgeous landscape shoot at sunrise and for an hour or so after that, or at sunset and a hour or so before it sets.The light has luminous quality and the shadows are long and shows off the counters of the land, which is ideal for black and white images. The sky is bright with various hues and if you catch a sunrise or subset with an interesting set of cloud formation, and more texture and details, the better the mono image. Watch your local weather forecast for a better shoot.

6. The Blue hour light

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People also refer to the “Blue Hour”, which is the twilight period you experience at the end of the day when the sun is below the horizon, but its influence can be seen in the sky.This light is idle for cityscape where you can capture the city lights against a deep blue, inky sky. You need to be aware, though, the window of opportunity is relatively small before the sun sinks and renders the sky black.It usually last 45 minutes after sunset and before sunrise.

7. Stable with a Tripod

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

A tripod is a must for a landscape photography. You may be working in low light conditions and a handheld shots are not going to be sharp. You may also want long exposure time to render water soft and misty, or show clouds moving for added drama.An effect that works very well in black and white images. there are plenty of strong, lightweight tripod to choose from, and is a good investment.Couple a cable release with it and you are taking big step in reducing any unwanted camera shake and vibration.

8. Shoot RAW

Salt Lake~ Cyprus

Try and shoot RAW and get out of the habit of shooting jpeg.If you want the best from your shots, you need to switch to RAW format. As the name suggests, is the uncompressed, unprocessed image data straight from the camera sensor. The files are much bigger than jpeg, but give you much latitude when it comes to processing the final image. Details lost in the shadows in the original shot can be revealed through processing. You can also enhance the image contrast, tonal quality and exposure.

9. Use Filters

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

Think about investing in filters. A circular polarised is a useful one. It can boost the contrast in a blue sky and white clouds which is useful when converting to mono. Just be aware that polarisers work best when the sun is behind you, or at least over your shoulder. If you are serious about landscape photography, probably the single best one you could purchase is a natural density graduated filter. If you are shooting a scene that has a lot of variation in the tonal values between the land and the bright sky, the ND grads will help stop the sky from burning up.

10. Long Distance Shot

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Landscape does not always have to be the widest lens. Some time a long focal length is great at picking up distance detail which a wide~angel lens cannot. Zoom lenses are also a great way to zoom in and out, allowing you to crop your shot and alter the composition without having to move long distance. Lenses in the 24mm~105mm range are a good intermediate wide~angle zooms which gives you lot of framing choice. It is not uncommon to use 70mm~200mm lens as well. Don’t forget to shoot in portrait orientation too~experiment.

11. Framing and composition

Zigi Village ~ Cyprus. The curve of the line along the boats and the sky make for an interesting composition.

Composition is a very subjective thing. What looks good to one eye may not be same for another.If nothing else, keep the “rule of third”as your main composition tool, along with leading lines to draw you into the shot.Imagine that your frame is split into lines of third, both vertical and horizontal.Placing an object of interest in one of the points where these lines intersect means you are creating interest and also balance to your shot.Not to say, that rules can’t be broken. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

12. Mirror Lock up

When you are set up and ready to shoot, consider the stability of the tripod.Even the sturdiest tripod can shake in the wind or soft soil. In addition, the movement of the camera’s mirror flipping up and down with each shot can also create vibration that can effect the shot’s sharpness.If you set your camera for mirror lock~up, it will flip the mirror out of the way long before the shutter opens up to take the shot, giving time for any vibration to cease. Couple this with cable realise or a remote trigger to fire the camera without you needing to touch it.

13. Don’t fear the Histogram

Image Courtesy Purple 11

Most cameras today have the option to display the histogram of the image you capture. A histogram is the graphic representation of the total value in the shot and how they are distributed. If the graph is bunched at the far left, then your shot is underexposed and you risk the loss of lot of details to shadow area. If it is sliding to the right hand side, then your image is over exposed and the details will be lost in highlight area. The more dynamic range you can capture in colour, the more scope you have when you do the conversion in black and white.

Final thoughts

Always review your shots after you take them. It can be very disheartening to take what you think is a wonderful shot, only to get home , process the shot and see that it is out of focus or badly framed. Use the camera LCD screen to zoom into the shot and check them for sharpness and detail, and confirm the composition is looking as you had imagined. Bear in mind that not all cameras show you 100% of the frame in the optical or electronic view~finder, so reviewing the image on the LCD screen or on~screen is very important.

Black and White · Camera · Natural Light · Photography · Tips

Top Black and White Photography Tips:What I Wish I Had Know

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I first started photography with a single minded dedication around 8 years back. I started with a entry level starters kit, a Nikkon D3500. I had just enrolled in a photography course and a DSLR camera was going to be my lens to the world. At that time I knew nothing about photography, using the camera, post production ,and finishing prints.Black and White photography always had a special place in my hear, however the course did not dive much onto the nitty gritties of monochrome photography.

There are plenty of things I wish I had learned sooner than I did, a few things I wish I had done differently, and plenty of thoughts and opinions I had back then that have completely changed.  For those of you who are just starting out in the realm of monochrome, I hope that by sharing a few of the tips that I wish I had known sooner in the learning process, it can help accelerate your learning curve to a speed a bit faster than my own. 

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR BETTER BLACK AND WHITE IMAGES

  1. Shoot in Color and in Raw
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Today, the cameras have a lot of creative functions that give you the option to capture your image in black and white at the outset. Doing this may actually result in loss of tonal range. It you shoot in colour and especially in Raw format, you will be capturing the full range of tonality that your camera’s sensor can see. This is a much better starting point than an in~camera mono image. Most cameras can capture photos in two different file types.  In short, RAW files are larger than JPEG and take up more space on your hard drive, but they provide you with unparalleled freedom to edit your photo non-destructively, meaning that you can do what you want to it without risking a loss in image quality.

2. Keep your ISO low

Photo by Lu00ea Minh on Pexels.com

The lower the ISO, the less grainy the image will be. If it means using a tripod instead of hand holding in case of slower shutter speed, then that is a good thing. Too often the camera ISO will be left on auto, pushing up ISO speed to make sure there is no camera shake. The downside is that high ISO equals higher noise in your image, which will only be exacerbated by post~production stage.

3. The BEST CONDITION FOR SHOOT

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Truth be told, there aren’t necessarily any best condition to shoot black and white. Some mono shooters actually prefer to take their shots on an overcast and generally dark days. The low contrast seem to be a draw for these photographers. Certainly, a grey cloudy sky can be made to look very moody and dramatic, as opposite to a blue sky. A lot of it comes down to your personal preference and mono conversion technique.

4. LIGHTING IN YOUR SCENE

Photo by Tomas Anunziata on Pexels.com

Your image can stand or fall on the quality of light in the scene. It is generally held that midday sunlight knocks details flat and creative process is more limited. For landscape particularly, the first light of the morning or the last light of the evening is much more dramatic and prized. Light glancing across the land picks up details, throws long dramatic shadows and enhances contrasts. You can use this light for mood and dram that is absent when the sun is at its zenith.

5. CONSIDER YOUR SUBJECT

Photo by Sanaan Mazhar on Pexels.com

Trying to think in black and white~that is to say, trying to visualise the scene in front of you with all its colours absent ~ is a good skill to try and develop. The question you have to ask your self is that whether the resulting image will improve by being in black and white, or whether colour would be the best option. Not every image will work in black and white. Sometimes the removal of colour can also remove the differentiation between objects that could easily be distinguished were they in colour.

6. COMPOSE YOURSELF

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Pexels.com

The basic rules that apply to colour photography also apply to black and white. The rule of thirds, golden ratio, leading lines, framing and viewpoints are all well established guidelines that can make even the simplest scene stronger with some care and attention given to the composition of the final shot. Now, having said that, sometimes rules can be broken. If you find your scene not compliant with the rules, but aesthetically pleasing, no harm in going for it.

7. Look for shapes and forms

Photo by Takeshi Arai on Pexels.com

In black and white particularly, shape and form become very important to the success of the image. Converting to black and white means you can no longer rely on colours in the scene to define or differentiate your subject from the environment. You need to be able to take the shapes, lines and forms available in the shot, and use them as the method by which the image is given an obvious focal point or point of interest.

8. Emerging Patterns

Photo by gdtography on Pexels.com

The shift from colour to black and white often revels details that might otherwise have been hidden under the clock of colour. Colourful items in a shot can be distracting, as we’ve already mentioned, sometimes to the point of masking very interesting but perhaps subtle patterns that can only be appreciated once striped off its colour.

9. TEXTURE ADDS INTEREST

Photo by Gilberto Reyes on Pexels.com

Can you imagine how flat and featureless our world would be without texture? Keep in mind when you shoot for black and white. A mono image and texture are inexplicably linked, and part of the overall success of an image depends on the elements that can show the depth, dimensions, and contrast. Textured objects reflect light in interesting ways and draw the viewer’s eye into the scene

10. COLOUR your image

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Black and white images do not need to be in just one tone. Consider a duotone image where shades of black and white is replaced by two other colours. Sepia toning is one of the main staples of a black and white image. There is also the cyanotype or the split toning technique. All these results can be very exciting.

11. DODGE AND BURN

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Just relying on a simple desaturated image is not exploring the potential of black and white photography. The tonal quality of an image can be enhanced by a few simple adjustments to brightness and contrast. By using dodge (lightening) and burn (darkening) techniques in specific area of your image, can work wonders in improving the overall quality of the image.

12. Consider HDR

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

‘HDR’ stands for High Dynamic Range. The term originates in photography, and refers to a technique to heighten a picture’s dynamic range – the contrast between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks.Usually two or three stops apart, these LDR’s when fused together, capture more light data in a scene than a single shot. Perfect for scenes with lots of texture that you can bring out in the conversion stage of your workflow.

13. Watch the Skies

Photo by MOHAMED ABDELSADIG on Pexels.com

Be aware the grey overcast can produce some spectacular moody shots. However, watch out for skies that are one single tone of grey with no cloud formation showing. When converted, this will make for a fairly boring looking sky with no texture or point of interest.

14. Shoot as often and learn

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Guess, it all boils down to the fact that you have to be out there and shoot. The more you shoot, the wider the range of subject you experience, and the greater the variety of lighting conditions you encounter. This will all help to train your eye and your brain to “see” that perfect black and white image through a sea of colour. Experiment and have fun.

Social media is the go-to way for most people to get their work out into the world, and for good reason.  Platforms like Facebook and Instagram give everyone the ability to get their work in front of thousands of people that would never see it otherwise.  However, consistently posting on social media and replying to those interacting with you can be a part-time job in itself, and for most photographers, the benefits are rarely proportional.  If you want your photos to be seen in a meaningful way (as opposed to most on the internet who will scroll past it within literally two seconds), network the old fashion way.  Join camera clubs, reach out to other photographers, and meet with prospective clients.

15. SEEK INSPIRATION

Image by Sally Mann on Pinterest

Take time to familiarise yourself not only with the work of some of the greats of black and white photographers, but also your contemporaries. Flickr, the image sharing website, is a great place to gain inspiration and see what other photographers are doing. Also look at images by yesteryear photographers like Ansel Adams, Man Ray, Richard Avedon , Michael Kenna, Fan Ho and Sally Mann to name a few.

Final Thoughts

Discover through trial and error the great potential of black and white photography. It takes time to develop a knack for seeing through the clutter of colors. I am still learning and by no means even close to perfection and the list is far from a comprehensive, but hopeful it will bring you a little closer in honing your skills as a black and white photographer, and every insight may be able to give budding photographers what they need to continue to progress.