Whether it’s a color or B&W image, the color white is simply the most powerful of them all! While it is the most challenging to also control. But by doing so, you can force the viewer of your photograph to look anywhere in your photograph you want them to look first and then over and over again.
At the same time, white is an anchor color to our vision. Our mind’s eye goes out and finds white and from that, it then determines what all the other colors are. The amazing thing is that both of these “white powers” happen without our knowledge or control. But we need control both of these and put the power of white in our corner.
One of the simplest ways to do this is knowing we can make something white, brighter by making elements around it simply darker. In this case, the clouds at the top of the frame and the ground and the bottom of the frame were made darker in post. By association, the mind sees the white and brighter goes to it first and then travels around the frame over and overcoming back to, the white.
This is the kind of mind trivia I’ll be covering in my landscape classes next month on The Landscape Conference. Come and join a passionate group of instructors to learn so much, especially about the how white pulls the eye!
I’m up in WY working with Rocky Mtn Bighorn Sheep, so why am I posting snow clouds? There are 1200 heads of sheep in these hills but with the tremendous winds that have been blowing for the past week, most are hunkered down and we’ve only had a band of thirty to work with (which has been great!). With their routine of coming down and going back up during the morning hours and the light on the slope, the late afternoon we tend to turn our lenses to the landscape. It’s gorgeous so the challange is not the landscape photograph, but which landscape to focus in on. There are a ton of options. This afternoon, we decided to point our lenses towards the floatin snow … them clouds that were racing by.
Wind River, WY captured by Z7 / Z24-70f2.8
The clouds would go by at great speed and as they floated by, they were simple, gorgeous puffies. As they came up to the mountain tops, they pilled up and that’s when they began to release their snow. To take in the landscape and speak of that snow load floating by, I went wide at 24mm. To share the release of snow, I went in tight at 400mm. Bringing out the drama in the clouds and the landscape, B&W for me was the obvious choice. And if there was a wind option on the web so as you read this you could feel that fierce wind, I’d have that turned on. Hopefully, it’s coming through the photographs!
Like most shooters, I have locales across the globe I’d like to shoot at someday. One of those is Thor’s Well. Totally on a fluke, I found myself there one evening when Sharon & I were traveling with dear friends. Serious photography was not even on our minds, there was zero planning involved when we found ourselves at Thor’s Well. We didn’t even know it was in the neighborhood. It just so happened our timing was good for the tides and the sky were OK. And while we had a great time, great time, the photo is at most just a quick click of all that fun. But when it comes to the photographic moment, I missed it. This photo is just OK, it could have been so much better and does that knowledge bother me? Na, because it was not a photographic journey, it was a happy moment. And that’s OK! What this photo does do is not only remind me of that evening but put a fire in me to get back and do the photo right. Next time you don’t come home with “the” click, remind yourself that is was only a missed moment.
I was very fortunate to take a leap back in time to what once I thought would be my photographic career, architecture. I had just finished my first year of school and architecture photography really appealed to me and I was pretty good at it. Obviously that’s not how life unfolded but I still have a sweet spot for it. This past weekend in Austin I had the opportunity to revisit the old flame and a few things came back to mind.
Downtown Austin captured by Z7 / Z24-70f2.8
The photo we were after is what you see below, what we used to call a Dusk & Dawn, a photo just when the sun sets and the lights come on. It really only takes a few moments to make that photo but you always arrive early just because. Because you wanna find the right spot, make sure everything is how you imagined it and to simply enjoy the passing of light. There is a time though when you’re waiting for that Dusk & Dawn when it’s great for B&W but not for a color image. Until I was standing on that knoll, I had forgotten that piece of trivia. But as you can see above, the B&W photo though shot at the same time as the color photo above, the B&W has a heck more snap to it. It’s a small thing that you can now tuck in the back of your shooting mind.
There are times that you just gotta shoot! Time is everything and waiting and takin time to make everything perfect, you lose the shot. But those times when you do have time, one thing that can often improve your photograph is simply takin one step forward. Literally, place one foot in front of the other and move forward. How can something so simple work? It comes back to what I call the dance. That’s excluding elements that take the eye away from the subject while including those elements that support the subject. Taking one step forward is just one method of doing the dance that works.
Here is a simple, gorgeous, sweeping vista that was literally right alongside the highway. I stepped out with the Z7 / Z14-30 that was in B&W (Monochrome) mode as it was that kinda light and drama. I took the first shot (bottom image) as things were moving quickly. I didn’t like the bush on the left and felt I wasn’t inviting the viewer into the landscape. Then I took a step forward and that all changed. Seriously, I give photographers this tip all the time. Try it!
I have a thing for barns, especially lonely old barns. And in Montana, it’s pretty easy to find them. The challenge is finding them when light and mood makes it worth stopping and photographing them. In the past week, I’ve been able to photograph over a dozen as the skies just keep performing. And they all have ended up being dead center in the photograph. Dead center you say? I thought that was bad!
You’ve probably read or heard that dead center is bad. Did you know that dead center is the most powerful form of composition we have, if … if the elements in the frame support it. In photographing the lonely barn or building then, being lonely in part supports being dead center. The sky is what really makes it all work. I wish I had a formula for you when it comes to the skies, but I don’t. The main element in skies I look for is mood which is a combination of lights and darks. Character in the barn, the landscape and the skies comes together, dead center is really your only choice.