Tag Archives: black and white fine art photography

What does Pinwheel Flower Mean?

Most people played with pinwheels as a child. It’s a whimsical toy consisting of a windmill type device pinned loosely to the end of a small stick.   As the wind blows, the multi-colored paper or plastic spins creating a mesmerizing display of colors and movement. It’s simply captivating to a child or adult.

Pinwheel Flower
Pinwheel Flower

Perhaps that toy is the orchestrated result of some influential pinwheel flowers viewed by some forgotten toy maker in history.  The long powerful floral petals form curvasive fingers out from the center as if to catch an imaginary wind and perform some impossible bouqueted ballet.   Drawn to these whimsical yet vibrant shapes, a sublime reminder of childhood reaches back from the echoes of our half remembered past.  Can you imagine the petals spinning like a toy of your youth?

Only now, as adults, with greater experience and perhaps a more cynical eye, we understandably view the pure white petals as a quantitative measure of purity in our lives. A view of grandest desire and design.  For who does not like to think themselves pure?  Yet this view is not without it’s own danger.

The exciting glowing petals suddenly take on an air of smallness. The blackness surrounding each petal pure and full of vibrant life represents our own bleak mortality. Indeed, aware that these pinwheels will not spin with the cheerful abandon of our youth, we wishfully attempt to view them with the hopeful ideal of mobility.

However, the persistent lack of motion results in our metaphoric experience that as we become older we indeed become more fixated and inflexible in our ideals. A view soon encroaches portraying each of us as pinwheels no longer able to spin with the winds of passing time. Yet each of us remains a flower. Our capable beauty exists in a dignified and artfully desirous form, if only for those briefest of moments that make up our lives.

 

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How We Took A Flower From Ordinary To Extraordinary

As I mentioned last week, we are looking to take this photo of a typical tea rose and turn it into something fabulous. It is a good photo with the subject clearly

Tea Rose Original
How can we improve this?

defined and focused. But, it looks like thousands of other photographs of a tea rose.

Artistic is not really a word I would use to describe it as much as ordinary. Ordinary is not bad, but we are making art here!   Yet, it does have some artistic value. Centered in the shot, the rose falls in line with the traditional rule of thirds. However, there is too much space on the outside of the rose.

If you look at the white of the rose and the dirty white in the background you’ll discover that the rose tends to disappear into the background. If it wasn’t for the reddish tint on the tips of the petals, one might not even realize it is there. That is not good.  The answer is to crop the picture so that the flower becomes more focused as the one and only item for the viewer’s perusal.

Next, we need to create a mood for the picture. Since the subject is a flower, we can easily follow one of two routes for creating this mood. We can soften the flower by blurring it. This will give the flower a dreamy  like quality. Doing this kind of visualization reminds me of the Hallmark cards you see for sick people or weddings. In my opinion this is best done with a color photograph.

Or we choose the second mystical mood creator known in art as visual punch. This choosing of one technique over another, probably more than anywhere, is where the visual message of the artist gets to be expressed in photographic art. It’s a choice. You must factor in different element of the picture to make your choice wisely. Personally, I’m thinking this flower needs visual punch. Punch is power.

The reasoning behind this decision is the color of the flower. Since the shot happened during the mid afternoon with the harsh sunlight moving in and out of the clouds, I used a UV filter to act as a sort of sunglasses. I don’t like the amount of color I had to lose to make sure I capture the detail in the flower. Therefore, I chose the visual punch of a black and white image.

Further, the shot just doesn’t seem romantic and “soft” to me.  However, flowers always show a certain sense of passion and passion is power.  So, we have passion and visual punch able to combine into a true statement.  My vision of what route to take when creating this work is now complete.  Now we just need to visually bring it to life.

Since there is no color to attract the eye, we can only use the shading naturally provided by the sun and the colors as they turn from various colors to numerous shades of blackness. The result is a powerful visual image.

Pink Petal Tea Rose
Passion and Punch always work together.

The flower is actually enhanced in its detail by losing the color and the cropping helps bring out the graininess of the flowers leaves. The result is a powerful combination of light and dark, grainy and smoothness that will look good whether framed or printed on canvas.

We go from ordinary to extraordinary.

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What Makes The Image Of A Stretching Pelican So Powerful?

If there were ever a case about the sheer visual power of a black and white image it would have to include “Stretching Pelican”.   Color is popular in the art world; there is no denying it. After all we see in color, dress by colors, and each of our world cultures have, in their own way, given colors specific meanings.

So why then is there such artistic fascination with the unseen world of black and white? What is the draw? We are able to see an object painted black or one colored white, but we don’t visualize the world in such a way.

This lack of an ability to simply turn color in the visual world off truly belongs to the realm of the artist. Artists love to take that which cannot be seen but by definition must remain imagined and bring them into the forefront of our understanding.

Thus we have Stretching Pelican.   This is a typical brown pelican. Very much like its name, this bird really isn’t much to look at in its natural color. Its weird shape and large size draw more attention than the plain brown of the plumage.  For lack of better commentary, it’s just  a large brown bird.

Don’t misunderstand; the bird is graceful and powerful in its own right. There are plenty of fish in the sea that fear the mere presence of such a creature. Its wings spread out in the tropical sun, gliding over the surface of the water with eyes fixed upon the fish below.

But, the color! The color is a burnt brown. The wings are brown. The head is brown. Even the magnificent beak is nothing more than a shade of boring brown.   Yet, if we take this image and remove the color an incredible sight opens before us.

Stretching Pelican
Stretching Pelican

The feathers of the wings become these awesome shades of blackness slowly contrasted with brilliant peaks of white. The feathers of the tail and body almost look rigid with the white sharp contrast set against the black interior of the feather.   The feathers almost look like a metal armor.

Indeed, each feather suddenly renders a level of detail and structure previously hidden to the human eye.   Such detail brings new ideas and thoughts into focus. We see armor plating where there is none; we see rigidity where there is only softness. The bird becomes artistic and open for interpretation. The feathers, wings and even head suddenly take on a new atmosphere. It’s up to the viewer to decide the overall meaning, but that is what photographic black and white photography is all about.

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Red Crowned Crane: A Splash of Color Makes the Difference.

This incredible bird is a Red Crowned Crane. Cranes are birds of elegance and beauty that very few other species can match. The natural colors for the bird are simply a bright red crest on its head, a blackened color plumage to the face and a long, tall elegant body with further white plumage.

Red Crowned Crane
Red Crowned Crane

As you can see, it’s not very far off what this work intends to demonstrate. However, placing a black and white filter over the bird allows the bringing out of  finer nuances in the beak and head area. You see detail that would otherwise be lost to color. So, in an essence you gain parts of the image by promoting black and white.

This also works the other way around.  The black and white filtering of the image causes the background to disappear in a sea of darkness.  The result is a loss of distractions from the subject of the work and adding visual stimulus from the clashes of the white feathers of the bird against the black unseen background.

Normally, this opposition of black and white would take over the photo. But what makes this crane stand out, what grabs the viewer’s attention more than any other aspect, is the brilliant red color of its crest.

I took a chance by introducing the color to a black and white image.   Adding color to a black and white work of art has become very commonplace in photographic art communities. Generally though, like HDR style photographs, overproduction of these colored images has led to a bit of abuse.  More often than naught, the artist will color in a wide swath of the picture to try to highlight a large feature like a car or bus. Usually, the object takes up so much of the picture it becomes unclear why the artist changed it to black and white in the first place.  But in our case, the bird only needed that small flush of brilliancy.  So the overall effect of the color is a punch of visual impact that centers the bird as the sole object of attention. The impression is cleanly made.

To overdo the color in an image destroys the artistic flair of creating the black and white image in the first place.   It is proof of the concept that a little burst of color goes a long way to developing something special.

See the rest of the show here.

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Art Show! Opportunities with Animals

Welcome to our new online show!   Opportunities with Animals is a fresh view of animals from the lens of our resident photographic artist Andrew Chianese.

This show will remain online from June 1st – June 14th 2015.  All prints, and more, are available for purchase here or here.

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Enjoy…

Download our Free Catalog here!  (26 mb)

 

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