Category Archives: Photography – Black & White

Raúl Cañibano: Storyteller

Raúl Cañibano: Storyteller

Tonight I attended the talk by Raúl Cañibano – one of Cuba’s great photographers – at an event at Foothill College organized by Ron Herman. I spent a week in Havana two years ago – in January 2013 – and Raúl was one of the photographers we worked with. He’s an amazing street photographer to watch – very quick on the trigger, knows his settings and image dimensions – and makes beautiful images.

This new exhibition of his work by Ron Herman is beautifully done. If you’re in the Bay Area and interested in this kind of monochrome street and fine art photography, be sure to check out this exhibition!

A Tailor in Kolkata, India

Tailor - Kolkata - 2015

While out wandering one of the neighborhoods in Kolkata on Sunday, I came across this tailor toiling away at his sewing machine in his tiny shop. Shot with my Fujifilm X100T and processed using VSCO Film 04.

Below is a color version – processed using the Kodak Portra 400 film in VSCO Film 06.

Tailor #2 - Kolkata - 2015

The Power and Beauty of Monochrome

Arise - Klamath Overlook - 2014

2014 has been an amazing photographic journey for me. For example, my Lightroom catalog currently has almost 68,000 images in it – spanning the years 2000-2014 – with over 25,000 of those (37%) shot just in 2014. It’s almost crazy how many images I’ve taken this year!

Something I regularly revisit is the split between my earlier work on landscape photography and my more recent interest in street photography. They’re very different – but, in some sense, both deliver very satisfying feelings as I look back on my work.

Another always interesting insight is the color vs monochrome difference – how color can really enhance an image and how monochrome can to – by reducing the distractions of color. It’s a dichotomy – one that’s always fun to explore.

I recently watched a brief series of videos by John Sexton – and he inspired me to look back and explore more fully some of the landscape shots I’ve taken this year. This is one example – an image shot with my Fujifilm X-E2 at early morning at the Klamath River Overlook in far northern California as part of Michael Frye‘s Mystic Forest workshop. The color image is quite beautiful – shot as the sun was rising in early June. But I think this monochrome treatment is especially good – with its drama, composition and mood. This is an image I need to print and frame – I think it’s one of those special ones!

In the December Light at Ocean Beach with an iPhone 6 in Hand!

Ocean Beach - San Francisco - 2014

I love the light this time of year – and, for those of us who live in northern California, we also might even get some clouds in the skies! The combination of low angle light and great clouds – when we get them – is magical. This morning was one of those mornings – the skies were in “clearing winter storm” mode with lots of low clouds beginning to break up, swirl around, mixing with the sunlight in dancing patterns.

I headed up to San Francisco – originally thinking I was just going to visit the galleries at 49 Geary St. where a new Group F.64 exhibition has opened at the Scott Nichols Gallery and a new retrospective show – “The Plot Thickens” – has just been put up at the Fraenkel Gallery. My plan was to drive to Daly City BART and then BART in to the Montgomery Street station and walk to the galleries at 49 Geary.

But, as I was driving north up 280, the skies were just magnificent. I kept resisting the urge to find a place to pull over to shoot the clouds hanging along the skyline of the coastal ridge – and just let me eyes enjoy the magnificent play between cloud and light. As I got closer to Daly City, I could see that this cloud activity continued further north over the western beach of San Francisco and, perhaps, even up to the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate. I waved off my plan for Daly City BART and, instead, headed over Brotherhood Way to Sunset, then Sloat and up the Great Highway to the Cliff House.

That’s where this image was taken – shot handheld with my iPhone 6 and post-processed in Lightroom. What a beautiful morning!

That Discussion at San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Discussion - San Francisco - 2014

As I was leaving San Francisco’s Ferry Building, I came across this scene – in the bright sunshine and dark shadows I shot this image with my iPhone 6. The advertising posters provide curious backdrops to an intense discussion underway between this couple. And the guy off to the right is clearly wondering what I’m doing – as he’s looking right at me.

Jaime Ibarra told me one time that fingers in an image are all important. His background as a flamenco guitar artist influenced his view – but he’s right. Most of the best gestures in an image include fingers – including this one.

What makes a great image? Not sure I know – but I find the multiple areas of interest in this one capture my eyes. The contrast, the posters, the curves of the shadows – and the people.

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.