Black and white photographic art remains as powerful today as any past era in photographic history. The crispness of duality cannot suffer any doubts and there is no greater duality than that of untainted black against the pure white.
It grabs the eye with a tenaciousness of a large dog locking its jaw on a favorite chew toy you are holding. It is an event you cannot help but notice not only through mere imagery but also tactile sensations.
Artistic photography is no different. Once you see the results of artistic imagery founded in black and white you are permanently changed. The primordial dance between sterile whites, subtle grays and powerful blacks leave an impression on the soul that is not easily removed. It takes us to a special place in our thoughts that influence our emotions and response.
Indeed, this power to influence our internal emotions allow such an image as Rose Petals to reach into the very fabric of our being and calm our idealization of beautiful art. This is a rose that, devoid of color, does not lose any of power for expression on any level. On the contrary, this simple rose only gains the power of influence over our minds and hearts when its striped of color. The color of the rose no longer portrays an endless cycle of distraction from the lines, shades and integral power behind the image. It’s very soul is laid bare and we are the happier for it.
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
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.
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.
If you live anywhere in the state of Texas then the subject of their new work really needs no introduction. Visiting the Alamo at some point in your life is almost a culturally required pilgrimage.
Staying in a city like San Antonio with over 1.4 million people has a profound effect on the things you notice day in and out. I love to take shots of unusual historic buildings to send a unique message of mankind’s progress, or lack thereof, in its continual struggle to understand science and ward of the effects of nature.
A historical structure of slowly decaying history, such as the Alamo, speaks volumes to me about the impermeability of man and his toys.
With the Alamo, I chose to focus mainly in black and white. The tonal blacks give a definite age look to this magnificent structure. The real color of the mission is various stony shades of brown placed against a stone tiles that people walk on. The picture in color loses some of the definition as the dominant historical feature that it truly is.
The features of rough stone, brought out to the viewer using the classical ideas of dodging and burning, are then coupled with a more modern approach of adding slightly colored filters to give it the final characteristics I was looking for.
( Artist Note:) San Antonio is fabulous historical city to visit and the nearby Menger Hotel is literally within walking distance. It’s the place to stay on your Alamo adventure.
Around my humble place of residence are scores of unseen plants and animals living, or trying to, in complete harmony with the humans and their industrial machines. Flowers and trees, birds, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, even coyotes and hawks are found living wild in our urban areas.
It is very rare to see the larger animals but finding them are a challenge that I enjoy. Often, these animals learn to approach humans in a cautionary way. One such example is our friendly kitten (baby rabbit) featured above. He was not real sure about me and never stopped looking in my direction during our little visit.
In fact, a small ballet soon ensued of him moving a foot away, and me slowly following. We’d stop, eye each other, and then continue to move another foot. This went on for several minutes until I finally lost the little guy under some brush. Unfortunately, this is only half the work.
The other half of producing a work of art is in its production. While most of the time the choice of whether to use black or white for a picture or full color is an easy choice for the photographic artist, sometimes the shot forces a specific choice.
For example, our cute bunny presented all forms of difficulties for a color shot. The rabbit has earth brown fur and he is sitting upon a small pile of flattened medium brown tree mulch while enjoying the protection of some dark shade from the sun wafting through the trees above. The result was a small cute rabbit no one could see. Obviously, what is great for the rabbit vs. predators is not so wonderful for the photographer.
It’s these very limits on what the picture will look like in color that makes photographic art no different from many of the other arts. For instance, In sculptor the rock forces the sculptor to use the rock he is given in a particular way to create his work. It’s the same for photography, while I can manipulate the image in a variety of forms and fashions; I’m forced to use the underlying picture as nature gave it to me. This is the creative challenge that I love about this art.
Since it is Chinese New year, I thought it proper to introduce one of my new works. This is MaleFoo Lion. Sometimes referred to as a foo dog, foo dogs are really lions. Foo Lions are very important symbols in Chinese culture and references to them are easy to find. The most famous being sets of Foo Lions from the Ming and Qing dynasties found in the Forbidden Palace in the center of Beijing, China.
I wanted to bring forth and center upon the emotion in the statue by giving a close-cropped view of the terrifying teeth and eyes of the lion. I envisioned the lion launching out of the frame at the viewer with its ferocious intent. The image was desaturated of color and various dodge and burn techniques are then applied along with a cool blue filter to enhance the whites and boost the blacks in the image.
Traditionally, Foo Lions offer protection from negative energy or Qi. It does this in the same way gargoyles work. The scarier or more grotesque the figure is the better. This frightening visage protects its owner by scaring away the negative energy. It’s also important to place the Foo lion so that it is facing a door or window from which the owner of the lion believes negative energy may come.
The male lion usually has a ball under his paw representing the world and is always located towards the left side of an opening looking out. The female lion is found with a cub under its paw representing support. The female lion is always located towards the right side of the opening looking out.
This particular image is that of the male lion. So, if you wish to feel the full effects of its protection, place it on the left side of an entrance hallway, door, or window.