The End Result...?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Visuality, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. Visuality

    Visuality TPF Noob!

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    As far as B/W photography goes, I have a hard time getting the results I actually want when I take the picture. Sometimes it'll look awesome by accident, most of the times it's rather mediocre.

    My question is this: what do you do to visualize through the viewfinder what you will be getting on film? years of training??? (i've never been accused of being a patient person, so this might be tough).

    Also, what are the best reference books on B/W???

    Sorry if I'm being a little vague with my questions, but photography just seems to be such a wide open discipline with no discernable point of reference beyond aperture and shutterspeed for me to feel like I've got a toehold on the subject... I figure the more I learn, the more precise my questions will be.
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Not so much years of training as years of experience. But a proper education in the basics goes a long way.
    Visualisation is seeing how the camera/film sees. You have to understand how everything works in practice and how to apply it.
    See it as being like learning to drive. When you start to learn you stall the car, break to hard, crash the gears and so on. But the longer you stick at it the better you become until eventually it all becomes second nature. Even so, some people become better drivers than others and one or two become racing drivers.
    If there was an easy route to being a good photographer, or a way to make every one an Adams or a Bresson, believe me I would have found it, bottled it and sold it on e-Bay (I've been teaching Photography for 15 years and although I can spot people with potential they still have to be taught the same things as everyone else - they just pick it up quicker).

    As for the best books... Every time I find a good one it goes out of print.
    Most books on the subject contain pretty much the same information - take your pick. But I'm sure somebody will be along in a minute to recommend the Adams Trilogy - and you could do a lot worse.
     
  3. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yup... gotta start with the basics. Black and white images rely more on light and shadow than do color images. Without the benifit of the element of color, light direction and ratio will be more apparent. Learning to "see light" can be tough for some people. When I started out (and sometimes yet), I would squint while surveying a scene. Sorta like limiting the range of tones that I can see with my eyes. This won't solve everything, but was a good place to begin for me.
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I like the Adams' trilogy a lot, but Henry Horenstein's books are an easier read.

    Black and White Photography
    Beyond Basic Photography

    In my learning process I found that looking at lots of BW photos really helped me learn to pre-visualize. Join a photo club or class so you can see what other folks are doing. Go to art museums and galleries and see BW photos in person. Like you said, there is a very wide range of what you can do and desire as an end product, so to start with you need to have an idea of what you like. Once you have that figured out, taking notes as you photograph and work in the darkroom may help you determine how to get to the end result you desire.
     
  5. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    Hi Visuality, welcome to the forum! A good question to ask, and one which I still struggle with.

    Good advice above, hopefully I've got a couple of tips and opinions to add about B&W:

    Try and look more at the roughness, contrasts or patterns in a picture rather than the scene in general. By that I mean a standard beautiful colour scene of a beach sunset will probably not work as well in B&W. This is because the beach, sea and sky may well be the same level of brightness, tone and detail; subsequently you'll get a wishy-washy image where it all merges together. Contrast this type of shot with a silhouette or detailed image of a ruined building, tree or area of wasteland and hopefully you'll get something more interesting and desirable as a result.

    I'd say that you should try looking for contrasts of lighting, grain and pattern and capturing them for practice. This way you should be able to get images with black blacks and white whites and good, varied mid-tones. This practice should help you with learning the instinct for a good B&W image. This also explains why you see so many pictures of urban wasteland and elderly men's faces in B&W - an awful lot of the effectiveness of these (sometimes) clich├ęd shots comes from their grain and pattern rather than their original colours.

    B&W is very effective for portraits as it tends to even out the skin tone but accentuate lines and contours in the face. It is also very effective for architectural shots where there is a pattern - such as brickwork, fancy detail, shadow or other contrast.

    In answer to your viewfinder question, I need to look about three times to "see" in B&W, because I am much more experienced in colour. This is a concious action which I am getting better at, however more experienced B&W photographers will often "see" it virtually instantly.

    I don't like learning from books, lectures or similar, but I can recommend having a good look at the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Lee Miller who are possibly my favourite two photographers.

    Here's a couple of quick Googled links I found:

    For Henri Cartier-Bresson, see http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/cb/index-int2.htm
    For Lee Miller, see http://www.leemiller.co.uk/gallery.aspx

    Good luck!

    Rob
     
  6. Visuality

    Visuality TPF Noob!

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    hmmm, thanks guys. currently, i am enrolled in a basic photography class at the local art college... mondays are darkroom, which is highly addictive. i'll definitely have more questions concerning darkroom equipment in the future (the stuff's pricey and i make third world wages, so i'm saving up). Wednesdays are theory, and the professor's a quality photographer, the man knows his stuff. The downside is he doesn't have any sense of how to teach it and pretty much just goes off on a million different tangents that require a PhD in tripod management to understand. Which is why i'm turning to this forum.

    Thanks for the advice. I'll be looking into it.
     
  7. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Don't worry - there are a bunch of us here who have PhD's in Tripod Management and we have colaborated on books such as 'Tripod Management Made Simple', 'Tripod Management For Dummies' and 'So You Want To Become A Tripod Manager?'
    Ask away and we'll do our best to help in plain English.
     

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