Black and White Gesture Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White

Light, Gesture and Color…Sometimes!

I was very fortunate to be able to take on of the last workshops taught in New York City by the great Jay Maisel. Jay drilled a lot of things into our heads during our week with him – and one of them turns out to be “light, gesture, and color”. For Jay, the best images had all three: great light, a human gesture captured at a moment in time, and beautiful color.

Since I’m doing more and more work in black and white, I often settle for light and gesture – without the beautiful color.

What’s interesting though is that the best black and white images usually also start from beautiful color images! In fact, using color to help separate the tonality of the grey scale in a black and white image is critical to adding “presence” and depth to a monochrome image.

This image is an example – it was shot from some distance away – so it’s been cropped quite a bit and isn’t very sharp. But the dappled light was beautiful and the gesture is really great with his fingertips lit by the light. Plus the color in the original image was lovely – making for good tonal separation in the monochrome version.

Fujifilm X-T1 Gesture Lightroom New York City Photography Photography - Fujifilm X-T1 Photoshop CC Street Photography

Unmasked in New York City

Unmasked - New York - 2014

When you shoot almost 2,000 images during a five day workshop, it’s amazing how many you initially overlook as you review them. This is one example – a very friendly construction worker with a great smile. For some reason, this image hadn’t caught my eye until just yesterday when I was looking back through my New York street photography images. It’s another example of capturing gesture.

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 and post-processed in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC.

Fujifilm X-T1 Gesture Lightroom New York City Photography Photography - Fujifilm X-T1 Street Photography

The Painted Brick Wall: Gesture, Light and Color in Street Photography

Juxtaposition - New York - 2014

This is one of my favorite photographs from my week in New York with Jay Maisel. About a block away from Jay’s “bank” (studio/gallery/home) at on Bowery is Prince Street with this beautiful painted wall. It’s a classic stage opportunity – where you stand across the street, setup for the shot and wait for the actors to appear.

In this case, these two were walking at each other. I waited to snap the image until they had crossed and captured this image. I love how they’re positioned – with the gestures of the guy on the right with his headphones, the lovely light coming down the wall, and the rich color of the whole scene.

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 – processed in Lightroom 5.

Fujifilm X-T1 Gesture Lightroom Photography Photography - Fujifilm X-T1 Street Photography

The Importance of Gesture

Hey You! - New York - 2014

In his street photography workshop, Jay Maisel stresses “go for the gesture over the graphics” when shooting images. Light and color are important – but most of the street photography we think of as “among our best” have some powerful gesture as part of them.

This image is an example. I shot this on the way to lunch at Katz’s Deli on Houston Street the second day of Jay’s workshop. We were walking up a relatively narrow street when we came upon this construction site. What caught my eye was the triangular wire shape hanging down from a crane. But what makes this picture powerful is the construction worker pointing directly at me with his finger. He wasn’t happy with me – and it came across with this initial gesture!

Of all of the nearly 2,000 images I came home with following the workshop, this is one of the best gesture images – and also the only one that I recall upsetting the subject as I was taking the picture!

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 – processed in Lightroom 5.

See also my post about this image and Jay’s workshop on