Landscape Photography with Monochromatic Color

Landscape Photography with Monochromatic Color

  • 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.

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