I was inspired recently by a visit to the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA where they had an exhibit of Ansel Adams photography. The exhibit concentrated on his work with water and this was the first time I had seen actual black and white prints made by Adams. Up until then it had all been in books. I was struck by how the books didn’t do justice to his work because he printed his images, especially the early work, very dark. The shadows were almost dark but still contained detail that the viewer could see, provide a sense of mystery to the image. Later prints were a little lighter, but still had the high contrast and beautiful tonal range.
So I’m not going to pretend to be Adams by any stretch of the imagination, but I can certain grab inspiration. It’s great to be able to see these images close-up and so how light and dark they are, how the shadows are handled and what details are enhanced. Contrast is quite high and the tonal range is beautiful.
The picture above shows something from Monterey, CA. I had wanted to be able to show the strength of the waves that were quite strong that day. But the color version really didn’t give me what I wanted. The sky was almost as bright as the waves so they disappeared into the background. I wanted the wave to stand out and be able to make it jump off the page. When I tried black and white I was able to darken the blue of the sky and bring out the clouds and the waves. In color if you tried this it would look extremely unnatural, but in black and white it works. Then you can boost contrast and bring out even more detail.
The second picture is also from Monterey. Again, I darkened the sky which gives it a more dramatic look and brought contrast into the rocks. Even though it looks like it, the world wasn’t about to end but you can control the mood really well in black and white. What is also doesn’t show is that there was a lot of wave action and when you don’t pay attention closely you can easily get yourself soaked. It’s a bit of a shock when you look through the viewfinder to see a wave rushing at you and all you have time to do is pickup up the tripod and let the cold Pacific water rush in over your ankles. And, by the way, the water is always cold in Monterey!
I’d like to leave you with a couple of last images that I hope you enjoy.
Point Lobos State Reserve – Carmel, CA
Halibut Point State Park – Rockport, MA
Thanks for looking. Others can be found on my website here.