Learning in Mono

I thought I’d follow on from the first post with some musings following a Black and White workshop I attended at Lakeland Photographic Holidays.  I’m not going to profess to being an expert or to comment on the best way to convert to mono – probably the subject of an essay rather than a quick blog!

What draws me to mono images?  Why do they have such power?  Why is it a good discipline to learn in this age of easily manipulable digital colour images?

Mono images have always been manipulated to move the eye of the viewer through to the subject, by dodging and burning to lighten or darken different parts of the image.  But the photographer often observes the scene, looking for an image with this process in mind.

This process certainly leads me to focus more on the subject, the essence of the photograph; to look to remove similarly bright (or dark) objects from the composition, in essence to simplify it.   Our eyes are mostly drawn to the brightest part of an image; bright colours can also grab your eye and are a great tool in colour photography, but they can also distract.  In mono photography you have to remember to think in light and dark, a process which often improves both my colour and mono photography.

The picture of Dunstanbrugh Castle from the ‘cannonball’ beach is a much photographed view and has three key parts, the ‘cannonball’ rocks on the shore, the sea cliff and the castle tower.  In my version above, the rest of the image has been ‘held back’ to emphasise these.  However, when taking the shot a low viewpoint bringing a group of the rocks strongly into the foreground helped simplify the shoreline, as did the long exposure in removing the waves.

The challenge for me is to do that in my colour images too!

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Some good photographers who are also friends say that they most like my more abstract photographs.

Why?  What makes people react more strongly to them?

I’m largely self taught.  By that I mean I go out, take pictures, put them up for critique (worthy of a separate post) and try to understand what people like about them. Finding common threads through this process can be difficult, learning comes slowly.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been on photo holidays and short coursed.  I’ve picked up some great tips and usually learn something every time I’m on one.

One top tip on composition, which make some sense of where I started this post, was to select a subject and work outwards from it, deciding how each element adds to the picture or not.  Stop as soon as you start adding elements that are not adding anything.  Minimal, simplistic images by their nature must do this; you have removed all non essential elements and distractions that might lessen the impact of the subject.

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Hello world!

Right – I’m going to have a go here at building a bit of a blog on my thoughts on photography.

I’m an amateur photographer, most interested in our environment, be that landscape or wildlife, but keen to learn from all genres.

I’ve had a bit of success with my photography, getting a Highly Commended with my photograph ‘Footprints’ in last year’s (2009) Veolia Environnment Wildlife Photographer of the Year.  I’ve been overwhelmed by its reception, being voted number to no 1 in the visitors vote.

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