Tag Archives: contrast

The Artistic Guide to the Campanario

Bells of the Old Mission is a striking black and white photograph depicting a dilapidated yet still working campanario, or bell wall. These bell walls are found in almost every Spanish mission in the Southwestern United States and Mexico.

Artistically this work is a study in lines, contrast, and eye movement. The bricks in this work relay a linear structure and keep the eye moving in a horizontal pattern on the page. The darkest and most definite line is the one that intersects the photograph directly across the middle.

The bell arches are a classic artistic creation in architecture to force the use of eye movement to organize and control the observer’s attention to detail. Notice how the architects chose to use archways to hold the bells in place. They could have used simple square structures to hold the bells, but the effect would not be the same.

Indeed, this was a conscience artistic decision; because when an observer views an archway the empty middle and the lines surrounding the shape to the keystone at the top naturally guide the eye. This develops movement of the eye from the bottom of the picture to the top.  The eye’s field of view is constantly narrowed from the two bells on the bottom to the one bell at the top and finally forced to rest on the main goal, the viewing of the ornate cross at the very top.

The upper section is a beautiful short brick wall with a large arched opening to support the bell. An item of importance to note is the use of the bricks as the foundation for the arch and keystone. The bricks, in contrast to the large stone, offer a series of lines that promote a quickening and energy to move towards the top.

Meanwhile, the line of the roof between the lower two arches and the upper arch effectively divide the tower in two. The bricks above the center line are in definite contrast to the large slabs of chiseled stone works in the lower sections of the photo even though they appear to have a brick shaped look to the wall face.   Possibly, the builders of the mission faced the necessity to use the larger stones in the lower archways to support the weight of the upper brick archway and it’s heavy bell.Bells of the Old Mission

Notice too that the larger bell in the upper archway is not suspended from a cross beam as those in the lower arches.   This is more than likely a result of the upper bell being the largest of the three. Yet, this bell mounted on a stand and not being suspended creates a large open space in the center of the upper archway. This in turn provides even more reason for the eye to naturally set upon the archway on its inevitable rise to the top.

It is unclear whether the builders had a primary understanding of the artistic nature of what they were building. It is, however, of no doubt the Spanish architects whom designed these magnificent structures understood all to well the power of the line and contrasting stonework to make an artistic statement.

Speaking of statements,   Did you realize how important it is that you make a statement about the arts?

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Black And White Photography in Action: The Sunning Tree

When a photographer/artist takes a picture like The Sunning Tree it only represents half of the overall work put into producing the complete work.  After the camera shutter clicks the last picture of the day, the photographer goes home and usually uploads the shots to a computer for touch-up work. This is to  enhance the magic that the artistic side of the photographer wanted to share with the world.  It is in this place that the raw picture is subtly changed into a worthy piece of art.

Now, we are not talking about or even suggesting changing major elements in a photograph to a way that resembles the modern-day fashion industry.  I prefer to stay out of that dangerous arena when dealing with my subjects.  Not that a squirrel or lizard ever went viral on the Internet protesting that they are victims of overzealous Photoshop airbrushing, at least not yet..

No, the latest embarrassment of Target Corporation The Sunning Treeshowing horribly amateurish computer edited sections of a swim model’s body on their website shows the dangers of over processing that I believe most artistic photographers would very much like to avoid.  We all want recognition for our work, but the type of recognition is important too.

It is with the choice of artistic editing in mind that I present The Sunning Tree. One of the more difficult choices modern-day photographer can face is the choice of light and the colors contained in a particular shot.

Every picture I take has a specific item or thought behind why I take it.  But, like a painter looking at a blank canvas and deciding on watercolor or oil, a photographer discovers a scene and decides on the type of post processing he wants to work with.

It is my belief that all photographers choose to use a form of processing.  There is no difference whether you are dodging and burning in a dark room or clicking on software light curves in front of a computer monitor.  Even if a photographer is a complete “only as the camera sees it” purist and refuses to use processing in his pictures that is his choice for processing.

In this case I turned the picture to black and white.   Why would I do this?  What was wrong with the color version?  Well, honestly nothing was wrong with the picture in its original state.  That is if you enjoy the color brown.

This lizard was a brown anole lizard hanging off a brown tree trunk.  Uninspiring.  Yet the thing that drew me to the picture was the lighting and I knew that only by removing the brown color could we really see the impact of what this little guy had to show the world.

The shades and textures of the sunlight both directly and indirectly give this photograph a sense of place and mood.

You see details it his face and the underside of his chin that blended and were lost in the original brown. Even his ribs become more pronounced and highlight the contrasting lines of the bark that he is sitting on.

Even the small and barely noticeable glint in his eye becomes a notable feature of this unique creature.  But only in Black and White.  So, I took this particular shot and earmarked it for conversion to the black and white print you see.

Will all of my pictures be black and white?  No.  Black and white is a method to help portray my “artistic madness”.  Sometimes it works wonders and other times a subject is best left in it’s original colored state.

There are countless times when I believe that a photograph will look lovely in Black and White only to have it lose the very emotion that made me take the picture.  It’s like a painter figuring out that they used the wrong paint for their vision.

Black and White conversion of photographs is a wonderful tool to have in your photographer’s tool belt.  I hope that you see the results when its hanging on your favorite wall.

Like what you read about The Sunning Tree

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