Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is B&W Nature Photography dead?

I wonder if B&W nature photography has gone the way of film...basically dead. I also wonder why more people don't shoot in B&W with traditional nature photography. It is something that has really mystified me in the last few years. I also wonder if digital isn't partially to blame for certainly is a possability I suppose, but at the same time, it has also come full circle in a sense. I see a lot of kids these days who shoot retro themed images, mimicking the look of old skool Polaroid's using Polardroid software (a great free stand alone program by the way) and I see a lot of great Lightroom and Photoshops that many are using on their work these days. But in the traditional nature photography realm...not so much.

I was rather astonished a couple years ago to hear some rather very high profile and well known nature photographers say on deviantART that they simply don't like B&W images. This had me scratching my head, knowing that they all have Ansel Adams listed as one of their favorites, and I kind of wondered if maybe this wasn't more or less a result with being frustrated with the medium itself. Make no bones about it, B&W is harder than color photography, without question, it takes a different eye, and different train of thought, and a different take on a scene as a whole.

I firmly believe that one of the best things that someone can do to better themselves as a photographer is to buy an old manual SLR like say a Minolta x370 which you can have for a song on ebay, and a roll of Tmax and go to town. You gain a lot with knowledge about exposure this way. You also gain a lot with training your eye in seeing things like it hasn't before, not to mention it is just a good creative exercise.

I just wonder what Ansel would say today...and I wonder why more don't shoot B&W. The same goes for seeing photographs which are done in tints and tones, like sepia. I remember reading how Ansel was shown a copy of Photoshop before he passed, and was completely taken by it. . All I can say is thank goodness for photographers like Clyde Butcher who keep the spirit alive. He, in my humble opinion, is the second coming of Mr. Adams himself.  The next time you are out shooting, make yourself a promise to process a few on B&W (don't shoot in B&W mode in camera...just say no to lacks in so many ways I won't even discuss it here) and try it out and see what you get! Who knows, maybe you will find a new love in a whole other style with photography.

"Moonset Over The Towers" Garden Of The Gods Park, Colorado
I wanted a shot that spoke traditional, something that seemed very nature, so I decided to shoot this scene using my Sony a550 and my Minolta 18-200mm, with the sole intention of converting to B&W inside Lightroom3 and a tad touch up with Photoshop CS 5. I really liked how teh scene looked in the viewfinder, and how it had a very almost alien landscape look and feel about it.

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  1. I myself like color, but also do B&W though not as much.

    Great read, I still need more practice on my nature photography.

  2. My 2¢: Personally, I see (photographically) in color; I'm attracted to color and the lines and shapes created by those colors. To be honest, and likely blasphemous, I've never been a huge fan of Ansel (though I certainly have heaps of respect), because I've just never been too attracted to nature as seen in b/w. I think the most spectacular moments are those moments of intense or extraordinary color, and so that's what I try to capture.

    Though many people perceive b/w photography as the true root of photography, in my mind there's always a layer of artificiality. After all, nature is in color! The one exception to this is winter/snow scenes, which are often very close to b/w anyways, and usually benefit from b/w capture/conversion.

    I do wish sometimes that I was more into b/w photography, as it could keep me occupied throughout the day, when color photography is more tricky or sometimes impossible.

    Anyhow, to each their own, but it's fun to ponder about...