Just around the corner from Bryant Park is the main branch of the New York Public Library – the one with the lions out front! Inside is a nice small cafe – it was a lovely place for a couple of tired street photographers to rest their legs for a few minutes and enjoy a bit of liquid refreshment.
While we were waiting there, this lovely young woman came in and sat down across the room from us. The final image above – in black and white – was edited in Lightroom on my iPad, exported to the Camera Roll, imported into Snapseed, tweaked a bit further using Snapseed’s vignette and framing tools and then exported for posting on Instagram. This workflow took about 5 minutes start to finish.
Below is the original image in color straight out of my camera. It’s lovely on its own – and the slight tilt actually adds a bit of drama to the image. But I prefer the more portrait look of the black and white image.
One of my favorite places to photograph people in New York City is in Bryant Park. Over in one corner of the park there are a couple of ping pong tables which are usually occupied by enthusiastic players. Just watching them play can be mesmerizing! Trying to capture a good image from the scene can be challenging.
In this before and after sequence, the final black and white image above was created from the original below by editing in Lightroom on my iPad. I converted the image to black and white, adjusted the color sliders to get the tonality satisfactory to my eye, and then cropped and straighten the image to eliminate the distracting elements and focus in on just the player and his intensity – about to hit the ball back across the net.
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.
During my recent Santa Fe workshop on black and white photography, we made a field trip to Plaza Blanca – also known as the White Place. The location is near Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexico home and was one of her favorite places to visit and paint.
I was handicapped a bit – hobbling around with a cane resulting from breaking one of my legs a couple of months earlier. The sandy soil was challenging but also provided a good workout – and, hooray!, I didn’t fall down!
I had brought along a brand new camera – a Sony RX100M6 – which turned out to be the perfect camera (along with my iPhone Xs Max) for my photography that day. I couldn’t have handled a heavier bag of gear nor a heavier camera around my neck. I mostly did one-handed shooting – and the zoom lens of the RX100M6 turned out to be perfect for my needs – as “zooming with my feet” was not much of an option that day!
As we were finishing up late in the afternoon, the sky darkened in the distance with these striking clouds – and the sky seem highlighted most dramatically in this image shot in portrait mode. The image was post-processed in Lightroom, Photos (iOS 13 Beta) and Snapseed.
Here another portrait image from my recent workshop in Santa Fe on “The Language of Black and White”. Our group worked with model Puja Goel I several settings. In this portrait we took advantage of her standing in a corner window with a curtain behind and an open window to her left. The light was magical!
This image was taken using my Sony RX100M6, edited in Lightroom, Photoshop, Portraitureand Snapseed.
Here’s another photo from a recent walk along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I came across this fellow obviously looking to rent one of the two scooters behind him. He seemed a bit frustrated – going back and forth while poking at his mobile phone – undoubtedly trying to activate one or the other.
I enjoyed the juxtaposition of him in front of the two scooters and the layers including the railing behind, the pier and then the bridge in the distance. Shot using my Sony RX100M6. Post-processed from the original RAW file using Lightroom Mobile and Snapseed.
Along San Francisco’s Embarcadero is an outdoor sculpture titled Cupid’s Span by married artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. According to Wikipedia, it sits in Rincon Park and was installed in 2002. The sculpture is made out of fiberglass and steel. The artists said that the piece “was inspired by San Francisco’s reputation as the home port of Eros.” See the artists’ website for more information.
As I was walking by on this particular morning, the fog was just beginning to break up and the sun beginning to peek through. I looked for an interesting angle to try to catch the sun just behind the bow – and took this photo with my Sony RX100M6. Post-processed in Lightroom and Snapseed (to darken the image and add some drama) before posting to Instagram and here on my personal blog.
The San Francisco Embarcadero has become a wonderful venue – ever since the decision was made to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway following the 1989 earthquake. One of the many new features in Pier 14 – a pedestrian pier that is eminently walkabout from along the Embarcadero.
One of my favorite spots to shoot an image is this one – where the pier and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge “converge” with Yerba Buena Island in the distance.
The original image was shot with my tiny Sony RX100M6 at f/4, 1/1000 sec. and edited in Lightroom Classic. In Lightroom I used the range masking feature to selectively adjust a gradient in the sky portion of the image. Range masking allows adjustment of the tonal range (or color) to which the gradient is applied. In this case I wanted to darken the drama in the clouds without also darkening the bridge or the island itself.
I’m just back from a weeklong workshop titled “The Language of Black and White” held at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. Taught by Cira Crowell, the week involved a deep dive into the key aspects of black and white photography — a genre that I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy very much. Cira (@ciracrowell) is a superb black and white photographer who I met last summer in a workshop taught by photographer Christopher Michel (@chris_michel)
Each day of the workshop had a theme: Who, What, Where, Why, How and When. After introductions on Sunday evening, Cira asked us each to share what black and white photography means to us. “I’ve come to appreciate the timeless quality of black and white photography,” was my comment. Others shared insights about the simplicity of black and white, how dropping away the color helps add clarity to a photo, and more.
We began each day with a short reading from a wonderful Georgia O’Keeffe book: “Some Memories of Drawings” to help us set a mood for the day. O’Keeffe comments on many of her early drawings describing what was in her mind as she moved from concept to drawing on the paper.