The Black and White Photo Challenge

The recent seven-day, black and white photo challenge got me thinking about the old days (i.e. college) when I was shooting nothing but black and white. Film, even! That we processed on our own and then printed in a dark room. Goodness! It’s such a stark contrast (pun not intended) to how I do things these days. Anyway–instead of doing new pictures, I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at some of my images from that era. I certainly won’t critique them too hard, because, hey, I was just getting my footing with this stuff, but maybe a little retroactive constructive criticism.

I hadn’t really though about it until recently, but when you’re learning, shooting B/W is the perfect place to start, because you’re forced to focus on composition, the interplay of light and shadow, and exposure. And in the end, that’s what matters most, because those are the building blocks of solid photographs–all the filters and post-processing in the world can’t save your images if they aren’t so hot to begin with.

Which, if we’re being honest, is something I occasionally have to remind myself. Anyway–on to the images!

 

Before I even took a photo class, I made this Rayogram in one of my intro to media classes. Definitely a lot of fun, and a great way to experiment with composition. The weird pattern here is from a dryer sheet I put in front of the light. The spool is, I believe, some fishing line. Did I bring it in for  this purpose, or did I happen to have it in my car that day? The latter is probably more likely, truth be told.

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This strikes me now as a very “Photo I” sort of image. It’s probably not the sort of thing I’d do now, or if I did, the depth of field would be a lot shallower. The filed-out negative carrier makes for a more dynamic presentation, and seeing it again for the first time in ages, I still like it.

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I was never that good at printing, really. I couldn’t get the hang of making sure the exposure and contrast were just right. I guess I had a pretty flat negative to work with, so I was probably off to a bad start. The image itself is, I admit, on the plain side, but I think the title gives it a bit more oomph. Also, I was really into working with high depth of field back in the day. I don’t remember if that was something that came from class, or if it was personal preference.

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Hey, I was in to light painting before I even knew what it ‘officially’ was! I still like this shot. The starburst patterns on the street lights are cool, and the lack of color drives more attention to the patterns of the lights. If I had it to do over, I might put the camera up against the fence so it doesn’t clutter up the front, just to see how it looks.

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This is still one of my favorite pictures. I never realized how big a box car was until I was standing right in front of one. Thing is massive! This is one of those times when I didn’t have to think much about composition–the scene did all the work for me. I’d like to see it printed a bit better, but for the most part, I wouldn’t change a thing about this.

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Another grey day–I really don’t know why I shot when the lighting was so bland. Maybe it was just when I had time (the curse of being in college).  This was from a project I did focusing on the wonders that could be found just by looking around in the back yard. I still try to keep that approach in mind–the ordinary can prove to be pretty extraordinary if you stop to look around.

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I spent a couple years working for the school paper, and shot a lot of sports, especially soccer. It was always dicey, because the action is fast, and you have to trust your instincts and be ready to react at a moment’s notice. I’d like to think I got pretty good at it after a year or so. There was, of course, the joy of processing a roll of film and finding a shot like this waiting for you (and, of course, finding that shot you thought you nailed was a bit of a dud). I don’t remember if this was something I knew I captured, or if it was a happy accident.

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After looking through these, and some others, I can see hints of the style I use these days. It’s subtle, but there if I squint! A fun trip down memory lane, to be sure, and a reminder that there’s a lot to be said for the strengths of black and white.

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