Landscape Photography with Monochromatic
Black and white landscapes aren't just
color views without the hues. Photographing landscapes in monochrome
requires a mental discipline that is completely different from that
needed when there's color in the image.
Monochrome landscape images rely for
their strength on differences in tonal values, irrespective of color.
Since our eyes do not automatically separate these values from hue,
making the break is difficult at first. To make the distinction
clearer, try turning down the color control on your TV. You'll see
color contrasts fade away, so subjects that usually stand out clearly
from one another begin to merge. A blue tie disappears into a red
shirt; green letters blend into their orange background. Brightness
differences remain; though, so that shadows stay dark and
brilliantly-lit areas still look white on screen.
Another more subtle effect occurs when
you drain a scene of hues. You begin to notice aspects of the picture
that are normally masked by the color. In a color landscape, the
brighter greens of spring leaves catch the eye, but a black-and-white
image of the same scene is dominated by the patterns of light and shade
cast by the woodland canopy above.
Black and white photography is something
that film photographers like, the attraction of using black and white
lies in the degree of control that is possible. Black and white film is
very easy to process in a home darkroom, and printing is equally
simple. Furthermore, the process of translating a monochrome negative
into a print allows the photographer an extraordinary degree of
interpretative freedom. For example, brilliant sunlit hills and puffy
clouds can be turned into a dark, menacing landscape on the brink of a
storm. Visualizing and balancing these tonal values as they will appear
on the print is the essence of making great landscape images in
monochrome. It's a different form of expression, related to color
photography, but with a new set of rules.