This picture was taken on last Saturday afternoon on our way home from Vernonia. While the image looked great in color, I am a huge fan of black and white images, so I decided I would convert the image to black and white and viola – a picture with deep textures and darkened furrows, capturing every line, nook, and cranny possible. Some would argue well, the tree bark is black and white already. Yes and no. This statement is only partially true. The bark was black, brown, tan, and ivory and white and a further other hues in there as well. What that statement doesn’t account for is the fact that the color image fails to capture the textures and hightlights the way black and white can.
I try to compose as many of my images in black and white if I think they will tell a better story or make a greater statement. Sometimes the image screams out color, but for the most part images actually look amazing in black and white. The image becomes more mysterious and more complex, sometimes conveying conveying an entirely different story from what you originally thought. With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of our black and white images we have in our galleries and have you gather a feel of what black and white can add to a picture. While I am not going to actually compare them with their colored counterparts, (you can look in our galleries if you are interested or drop us a line if you can’t find one), the point I am making here is not many people will give black and white images the time of day. This way they may or may not find themselves more intrigued by the black and white world and why Ansel Adams was so famous. He created what we do on the computer, in a lab. Same ideas differing techniques, in the end the goals being the same, the image tells you a story. Enjoy as I take you on a little journey from more local shots to those on the other side of the world. Most of the images are mine, because Lloyd largely shoots in color, but I have managed to find some of his and tossed those in that way you can also compare to artist visions of Black and white. The second image called Dragonfish, was taken at the Chinese Gardens in downtown Portland.
Some of you will may find black and white still don’t do anything for yourself, and that is okay, others may merely appreciate it, still not caring much for it, or finally there will be the ones who love as I do. Remember It is okay not to like images in black and white. It is your opinion. It is similar to any form of art really. I am also becoming a fan of the abstract world of photography. And while I think my brain is still a bit conservative as far as art goes, and photographs, it is even for me a stretch as to why I am finding other more obscure imagery inciting, exciting, and fun.
A couple of the images that you may recognize from previous posts, only they were in color. This photo of the cyclist for example was displayed in one of my earlier blogs this week. While I love the photo of the cyclist in color, black and white adds more depth, as seen here by the shadows, and different shades of black and gray tones. The image is more dramatic and yet you can still see he is riding in the day light through a heavily forested area of trail. The sun barely protrudes through the trees, but enough such that the shadows are present.
The next image is also taken while on the Vernonia Trail. In the post the photo was also in black and white, here is where I will tell you why. At the time the sky was dark and dreary, with a slight hit of fog in the air. I found it to be somewhat mystical. I wanted to convey that mysticism in the image. The tree is obviously ill and dying. I guess I could have derived a more suitable name for the image to convey that message, but hey, you try and find names for a thousand images. Not as easy as it may seem.
I believe that Whispering Forest or something a bit more creative and sinister might have been more provocative, but at the time, apparently my creative juices where tapped at the time. It happens. As I write this post, I realize what a lame name Foggy Forest is. Oh well, like I said it is harder than one thinks to come up with names for all of your photos. I believe that is why some artists don’t name them, they merely number them. Isn’t that a cop-out? I think it might be.
The next image is one that Lloyd shot along the trail at Vernonia. The picture is fabulous. What is so unique is that you can see all of the variations or layers of plant life and each having a differing texture and color tone, and hue. The same picture in color failed to bring these characteristics to the eye.
So, in keeping with the Pacific Northwest region, we travel a bit west and south, to the Oregon Coast along the Pacific Ocean to a place south of Pacific City, Oregon called Neskowin. A tiny community of weekenders living literally the high life on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The following two photos were taken there January 16 2009.
The first photo is perfectly titled – the Stairway to Heaven. The finish is a Sepia, which adds a little hint of antiquity. I am a huge fan of old finishes, if the photo is suited, for it. We had to climb down this stairway to reach the beach and up the stairway to reach the beach house. One of the owners of the community thankfully was thinking when he built the stairway. It is about a 200 foot drop to the bottom. The beach house is situated right on the cliff complete with a 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. The beach, largely desolate. But equally as lovely as seen by this next photo.
This log as well as the tree stumps in the back ground tells a story that take you back to the 1700s when their was a tsunami that hit the coastal region of northern California and Oregon. From around Cannon Beach which is roughly 45 minutes north of Neskowin, south to Northern California, evidence of the tsunami are present with relic trees and huge rock cliffs in the middle of the ocean, the only evidence that remains of the event. Anyway, if you are interested you can find more information online if you look. The point is, in black and white, the image is very dramatic and message it conveys pop from the page largely due to the sepia finish, much more so than if this photo were printed in color.
Down the road from the Neskowin beach house, this image was shot facing a vacant lot for sale. This image was also finished with the sepia tone for effect. We recently printed this image and the Stairway to Heaven print on at 8×10 on Moab Metallic Paper, then framed in dark brown wood frames,which emulate the staircase. The golden colors of the metallic paper and the image glistened as if kissed by the sun. Fabulous.
We now change coastlines, and take journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Belgium. We will first begin in Brussels – the home to among other things Belgian Beer. This, next to chocolate, lace, and mussels are why we love the Belgian’s. And as luck would have it we were in Brussels just in time for the Annual Belgian Brewfest. Who could have asked for a better honeymoon? Not us. We couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. We had no idea. This was also a time before I knew I could no longer ingest gluten. To say I love Belgian beer is, well is there really a need for any other beer? Apart from Guinness, Belgian Beer is, well like, cover your eyes children, like sex in a glass. I love Belgian Beer. I seriously thought I died and gone to heaven, early. We didn’t plan this, it just miraculously happened. Our friends Doug and Loes were with us. Doug I believe was as delighted as I, my friend Loes, well I think she would rather have gone shopping for shoes. She loves wine, not a great fan of beer. She took one for the team. We spent a few hours tasting beer. When we arrived it, was crowded with people at 9am, no less. So you can imagine when I saw these guys wearing the LaChouffe hats in honor for the LaChouffe beer, of course, I began to laugh. Grown men in elf bright red elf hats. It is a wonder the photo turned out so well.
The image was perfect because it was finished in non-other than black and white. It almost sang black and white when I took it. As did the next image. This photo was snapped while standing in the same location as the ‘Elf Men’ facing the Town Hall. Tents with each brew vendor and they serve their beer in the proper ‘glassware’ – no plastic cups for this affair. The 400 or so brews, were set up under the white tents and served by either a bartender or a waitress would come out and take your order as you were chilling. The Beer was served in proper glassware representing the beer being served. That’s a lot of glasses. Non of the glassware was stolen from what we could tell. Amazing, simply amazing. The buildings surrounding the in the grand square are exquisite. A majority of the buildings, as you can see, are very ornate, What the black and white fails to show is the solid gold embellishments on all of the buildings (the exception is in a photo shown below). The square is truly spectacular and while I have color photos of these images as well, the black and white versions are so much more detailed.
We were in Belgium the first weekend in September, when many countries begin the Octoberfest. It is a perfect time to travel to Europe, as most of the travelers have left, the weather is great, as the dreary rainy season hasn’t started yet.
From the square we walked to the Brussels Mall which is indoors. The architecture in Brussels and everywhere in Belgium, as I mentioned is ornate and contain gold filigree embellishments on nearly all the older original buildings.
This mall was home to the Chanel, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and very expensive shops selling Belgian lace and of course Chocolates. You pay the price, very expensive but very good. You can go to a market and buy a bar of chocolate or a small box which is as good for considerably less money. Still pricey but worth the price. Lloyd also found a place which served fresh hot mussels and escargot on the street of all places. I could not stomach either. My stomach apparently is not as refined as he and Doug’s.
From Brussels we returned to Deist where our friends live. We spent some time traveling around Leuven, Deist and the Begijnhof van Dies, in Diest. Basically this was a very old convent which had been converted into homes. Imagine hobbitville.
This picture was of one of the homes in the tiny village. I am not sure what the significance of the broom over the window but, we it was September and some of the other houses had pumpkins and corn stalks outside the doors. Halloween early? It wasn’t as creepy as it sounds. The sepia finish on this photo caught the real color of the bricks and brought out the mystery of the broom stick more effectively.
If you thought the broomstick was creepy, it was merely a precursor to what we were about to find around the corner. You first must understand the significance. Before numbered house and business addresses began, a persons residence was found, by having a symbol or animal of some kind hanging above the front door. With this being said. I bring you the Headless Priest. No Kidding. Even I couldn’t make this up.
I also tell you that we have this image hanging on our travel wall. We were so amazed this was someones address we had to have it on display. I believe our Belgian friends, did not understand our American humor, they merely shook their heads. We laughed. So if you thought the last two images are weird, wait! There is more – again I can’t make this stuff up.
We then passed by the bathroom for one of the houses. The door was well, it was ajar just enough to see what was in their. I had to see more, so of course I opened the door, squealed, and shot the photos. No one would believe us if we told them about the witches broomsticks, the headless priest, and the outhouse for two all in one place. Even we were having a difficult time believing this ourselves. And we have very open minds. We were told by our friends, that the convent was built sometime around the 12th century. The creepy part – it looked like it was still being used. You decide.
Here it is in all its glory – And if you weren’t already creeped out –
Toilet for two and if you were in their at night candles and a little reading material used for?
No one can make this up. But the Sepia finish on these two photos really, added the creep, I mean the antiquity was clearly depicted with the addition of the sepia finish. Right. Each building/house was connected and dated when constructed as well, so not only did you see the . The creep factor is the photo with the candles with matches and black wicks, suggesting the candles are still being used. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad one, to this day.
Now see how much black and white can do for photography. Have I convinced you yet, that it does indeed add a little something special to each image. Not convinced. Follow on.
From here we travel to Tongeran which is the oldest city in Belgium. Tongeran is also very close to the border of Holland. This photo is of the gate house to the ancient city of Maastricht, Holland.
The stone wall encompasses the ancient part of the city which largely houses a University. The black and white imagery works so well with the image here because of the clouds, but many of those we shot in Europe because of the architecture I believe.
The adjacent image is of one of the narrow streets constructed with cobblestone, in Maastricht. It was pure luck that the only vehicle on this street was the vespa. All of the streets are very narrow and are of differing colored brick. Most of the people either drive a vespa or ride their bicycle. The bicycles literally littered the back alleys. Surprising that there was nothing but the vespa on this street. From this photo and from the Gateway to an Ancient City you can the variation in architecture between Belgium and Holland.
In Belgium, the architecture is more ornate, while in Holland the buildings become more simple with straight lines and a lot of stone, brick, and stone mixed with brick.
During another trip to Belgium we were traveling in November and December. The following two photos are of the royal palace in Brussels. We were lucky to have a bit of a change in weather as it snowed. Snow in Europe and they even were putting out Christmas decorations before we do.
But hey! We were in Belgium who cares right? It was likely cold and dreary in Portland during that time as well. So where would you rather be? Home, in Portland, with cold drizzle, or in Belgium with a bit of snow? Belgium should be your answer. If not, you have a serious problem. I have told you about the four fabulous delights that Belgium has to offer.
The Royal Palace was in Black and White with a hint of gold flecks. I wanted to illustrate the lavish gold embellishments on the tips of the gated entrance to the palace. A black and white photo, made to look like it was in colorized, but it is only a figment of your imagination. We travel on.
We have now arrived in Egypt, Cairo. Traveling to Memphis, we have a stone statue of Ramses laying in the museum There. The black and white captured the lines of Ramses’ face which I used a slight highlight to make the photo pop. I believe the black and white adds a bit of mystery to many of the photographs we have or adds interest to the picture. Each picture tells a story. This is what makes photography so interesting for me. I look at a potential subject and snap a shot, thinking something about that picture at the time. Go back and download the image, the picture may or may not tell you the same story. This is true also when you add black and white to an image. Removing color changes the feel of the image and the message the image projects. For me it is a thrill. Excitement. Each person looks at an image differently and tells them a story. It is rare if the stories are the same. I often wonder what a person thinks when they see the finished image. They may hate, love it or take it or leave it. You never know what you will end up with.
In Deir el Bahri, Egypt at the Temple of Hatshepsut, I took this image facing one direction while Lloyd captured a man fixing the stone tile (you can find this photo in our Egypt gallery) from the opposite vantage. This one I of course made it a black and white. the image Lloyd developed was in vivid color. Both images told a story. Entirely different messages. So different in fact you would never know that they were taken at the very same vantage. Only mirroring one another. These guards, like all the hundred or so guards we saw in Egypt, all equipped with AK47s or better arsenal. We were informed by our guide they are present to protect us, the tourists. Tourism is literally the bread and butter of the country. Without tourism, the country would collapse. We found it to very impoverished, the exception, the hotel districts. Many if not all the hotels were enclosed behind stone and wrought iron gates. We we lucky to get out of Egypt as we were some of the last tourists to do so, right at the revolution began.
This last photo from Egypt is that of Anubis. From first glance the photo doesn’t seem to be in black and white. This is probably because one gets the idea the sandstone or limestone, is of very light color. This is true, but depending on where you are and what type of stone the carvings were created, the colors changed. When this photo was developed in black and white, the image popped. The black and white together with the vignette, brightened the photo by increasing the sharpness of the hieroglyphs.
I hope this post was a learning experience for all, and that if you never thought you liked black and white photos this may have changed your mind. Or many be not. It is okay. The adage ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder ‘ is quite true. You either like it or you don’t. Black and white’s are for an effect. Both Lloyd and I hope you liked the photos. Please visit our black and white gallery we have on at www.landlimages.com. The colored counterpart’s are located by the type of photo or place the photo was taken. If you are interested in any please let us know. We would be delighted to share our prints with you. Thank you.