Category Archives: Photography – Black & White

That Decisive Moment – Street Photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown

Walker - San Francisco - 2014

Lots of credit – deservedly so – has gone to the notion of “the decisive moment” in photography and its origin with Henri Cartier-Bresson. The notion is a precise capture at the moment of most interest.

In late August, Doug Kaye and I went exploring in San Francisco’s Chinatown. We came across this lovely alley way that heading up hill – a perfect “stage” that street photographers love to find. Once you’ve got a stage, you have to wait for something interesting to come by and fill it – patience helps!

I got lucky – this fellow walked into my shot and I was able to capture him in mid-step – holding that coffee cup in his left hand. A decisive moment to be sure!

Playing with Sepia Toning of Highlights in Monochrome Images

Moody #2 - San Francisco - 2014

I recently got reacquainted with the beautiful monochrome work of Michael Kenna. His images have a number of striking qualities – mostly long exposure, his use of grain, and the square (and small 8×8 inch) print size. But for me it’s the light in his images that grab me.

Doing a bit of reading of interviews of Kenna, he has spoken about his he uses a light sepia toning in the highlights of his images – and how, by doing so, the mind’s eye sees the highlights as a bit forward in space while the shadows are pushed back – adding a sense of dimensionality to an image.

This is an image of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge shot from San Francisco’s Embarcadero with my Fujifilm X-E2 on a particularly moody February morning. I used it as an example for applying this kind of technique – sepia toning of the highlights. To do so, it’s an easy process in Photoshop CC. Select the RGB channel to create a selection, then add a gradient map adjustment layer – the selection will automatically be loaded into the adjustment layer’s layer mask. Then select the photographic toning Sepia 1 tone – and you’re done with the highlights.

I took it a bit further, duplicating that process but inverting the layer mask to add a Selenium 2 tone to the shadows – pushing them further back in the mind’s eye.

Below is the original monochrome version of this image – you can see the difference. Click on either to see a larger version.

Moody - San Francisco - 2014

Black and White Toning – An Example from Havana

Ready - Havana - 2013

I’m a fan of black and white – especially black and white with subtle toning. My favorite uses the platinum toning in PhotoShop CC.

Here’s an example – an image from January 2013 in Havana. I loved the light on the bicycle – and the toning adds a bit of interesting depth. This image was shot with my Nikon D600.

A Different Look: White Seamless

Ferries - San Francisco - 2014

Earlier this week, Scott Kelby posted a new portfolio of images that he described as looking like they had been shot against a background of white seamless. He described the technique he used in Lightroom to create this look – based loosely on blowing out the sky, increasing contrast and clarity and reducing vibrance.

I gave the technique a try on a couple of my images from a bright New Years Day 2014 in San Francisco. This is perhaps the best of what I tried – the Hornblower cruise boats tied up at Pier 3 in San Francisco.

Shot with my Fujifilm X-E2 and post-processed in Lightroom 5.

Carleton Watkins in Yosemite

Carleton Watkins - Cantor Arts Center - 2014

The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford has an exhibition of the photography of Carleton Watkins – a landscape photographer who was among the first to capture the essence of Yosemite.

While walking through the exhibition on Sunday, I captured this image of a portion of it – which, coincidentally, has an image of Three Brothers on the far wall just above the woman’s head. That version is from the 1860’s – here’s my version from a few years ago! Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 and processed in Lightroom 5.

A Brighter Version of Bikes at San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Bikes #2 - San Francisco - 2014

I recently published an initial version of this image – shot very quickly at San Francisco’s Ferry Building as we were heading into Slanted Door for lunch.

My friend Doug Kaye commented – gee, that image seems a lot darker than what I remember you showing me on the back of your camera! So I tried again – going back to the original and processing it another time. This image is that result – and, I agree with Doug, it’s brighter and better.

Shot with my Fujifilm X100S and processed in Lightroom 5 and VSCO Film.

Channeling Fan Ho along San Francisco’s Embarcadero

Belle - San Francisco - 2014

A while back while watching one of Kelby’s videos with Jay Maisel, Jay mentioned some other photographers whose work he enjoys. One of them was Fan Ho – who Jay thought was copying his work until he learned that Fan was older than him!

We recently visited an exhibition of Vivian Maier’s photography at a gallery on Geary Street in San Francisco – and down the hall was the Modernbook Gallery which has published a couple of books of Fan Ho’s work and had several examples hanging in their gallery. One thing that pops out when you look at his work is how often his images are shot into the light – and, as a result, have striking contrast between the bright and dark tones in the image.

This is a cheap example of a Fan Ho style shot – along San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Shot with my iPhone 5s and post-processed in Lightroom 5.

Simplicity along San Francisco’s Kearny Street

Lunch - Kearny Street - 2014

San Francisco’s Kearny Street is one of our favorite photographic stages – there are a couple of whole blocks that have no parking on the eastern side of the street – the side which is also well lit during the day. You can stand on the other side of the street and just wait for interesting things to happen.

Here’s one from a recent visit with my friend Doug Kaye. I enjoyed the shapes in this image: squares, rectangles, triangles – and cones! The simplicity is the shot.

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 and the 55-200mm zoom, I post processed it in Lightroom 5 using VSCO Film.

Another View of the Olive Grove at Filoli

In the Grove #2 - Filoli - 2014

A few days ago I published another version of this image shot at Filoli with my Fujifilm X-T1. It was somewhat unsatisfying to me – not sure why but it just was.

After asking my friend Doug Kaye for his thoughts, I worked on it again in both Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC – working to remove a couple of branches in the middle that I thought distracted from the “tunnel effect” of the composition. I also, learning from Doug’s feedback, used some dodging and burning to adjust the contrast selectively in various areas of the image – trying to improve the sense of dimensionality.

I think this one is better – but I’ve decided to set it aside for now and will likely come back to it again with another try!