In this article, I will be analyzing the meaning of black and white through the way we conceive the photograph.
SHORT INTRO – FUTURE PLANS
I’ll be in London in a couple of weeks to film a series of lectures and tutorials on black and white Fine Art Photography for a prestigious UK photography school where I’ll start teaching very soon. More details on this very soon, but what I can already say is that it is going to be a very exciting experience that I’m looking forward to, also an honor, since this school chooses its instructors very carefully and they work only with the best photographers and authors of best-selling photography books, with international distinctions in the field of photography.
The lectures will be based on my book “From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography”. Right now I’m working on a few images, some landscapes too, to present there next to my architectural work. This is one of them.
ABOUT THE IMAGE – CONCEIVING AND SHOOTING
It’s been a while since I published my last landscape, so this was a good moment to post one.
I’ve shot this image at sunset, end of summer, in Western Greece, close to the historical town of Messolonghi, in the Messolonghi Lagoon, an area where nature is magnificent and where I’ve shot many of my landscapes. It is one of the images I’ve shot for the Formatt-Hitech Fiecrest 16 stops IRND filters review (don’t forget that you can use my code JULIA10 to get 10% discount on any filter or other Formatt-Hitech product from www.formatt-hitech.com), and it is shot with a Firecrest 16, the circular version. You will see in the review that the RAW version of the image was so clear and showed such perfect color, with no color cast at all, something you can only get if shooting with a Firecrest filter. I hope you’re already using one to shoot long exposure, if not, you should do it. Read the review to see why.
Speaking of long exposure, since this is one of the techniques I use extensively in my photography, if you want to learn it you can read my Long Exposure Photography Extensive Tutorial that is a complete guide to this fascinating technique, and you can also purchase my video tutorial Long Exposure, Architecture, Fine Art Photography – Creating (en)Visionography that comes with my 50-page eBook “Advanced Black and White Processing” where I present in detail my workflow for black and white photography and long exposure photography.
This image is one of the many landscapes that I intend to work on this year. Nature is calling me and I need it, so you will see me more out in the open and working on landscapes from now on. Not forgetting my love for architecture, I couldn’t live without it, but I need a balance, and nature, especially the sea, is always giving me that. It keeps me “down-to-earth” from all points of view and it is soothing my soul.
I’ve already posted a color version of this photo a while ago, and I like it a lot in color too, and you can see it below.
THE MEANING OF BLACK AND WHITE
Even if I liked working on it in color, from the moment I shot this image, I envisioned it in black and white. The play with light was so amazing on that day that only a black and white image could do justice to this scenery: an image that would focus on light and not on color, so I can reach the essence of this light.
BLACK, WHITE and the GRAYS in-between are not colors, they are not shadows or light. They are FEELINGS
What is the meaning of black and white? As I was saying for the first time in an interview I’ve written for Nathan Wirth a couple of years ago, the color of light is white, or rather light has no color, since black and white are considered ”non-colors” in the theory of art, or in the theory of painting, to be more precise. The color of light is white, the color of darkness is black, and in between, in the gray tones, we can find the entire range of intensities of light, or intensities of darkness.
I like to think of black and white as FEELINGS, and the grays in-between are the entire range of human feelings.
This is why I use black and white in my work, because this is how I can recreate feelings. I can recreate no matter what feeling just by using the right shade of gray, by using black or by using white.
More ideas about how I see the creation of a good black and white photograph in my complete guide to black and white fine art photography.
THE MEANING OF PHOTOGRAPHY
This is actually how one should look at my work, this is how you can “read” it. I “draw” with black and white on the canvas that is my image, but, in essence, what I do is to draw with feelings. This is why I need photography for: to be able to express these things that can’t be expressed otherwise.
I’m not interested in showing the world, I’m interested in showing my own self and how I react to this world.
This comes from a need I feel and that I have to fulfill. It is an almost subconscious act and it is a very personal and internalized act, the moment I work on an image. I do this by using images taken from the world, but they are only my basis, my starting point and I’m only using them to show “my” world.
As I have said before, my work is entirely autobiographic.
My work could be an auto-biographic novel if my mean of expression was writing and not photography. Who knows, maybe one day I will write a book where I will tell the real story behind all my images and not only the “making of” as I’m doing now.
SMALL PIECE OF ADVICE – DO NOT FORGET YOUR VISION
I’ve said in the past that, in order to choose the best photos to edit from a stack we have shot with the same subject, the best is to try to detach yourself emotionally from these images.
I want to add something to this piece of advice now. You should detach yourself emotionally from the images you shot to be able to judge right the composition, the framing and other technical aspects, but do never detach emotionally from your image as for the feeling they are showing – that is your VISION. This is what you want to show to the viewer if you are creating fine art photography and not documentary or travel photography.
There is a big difference between these styles of photography and it has to be obvious in the way you create them. Fine art photography is in the first place about yourself and then about the subject, while almost all the other styles of photography are first about the subject and then about the photographer. If you understand this at its essence you will always know what fine art photography is.
Long exposure image shot at sunset in low light.
– Camera settings: 484.0 sec. @ f/3.5, ISO 200
– Neutral Density Filters: 16 stops Formatt Hitech Firecrest 16 stops IRND Filter – circular version.
– Shot with Canon 5D MK3 & Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II
– T/S settings – no tilt, ~8mm – shift (rise)
WORKING WITH LUMINOSITY MASKS TO CONTROL LIGHT AND EMPHASIZE DETAIL
In this image, I have used extensively the Luminosity Masks technique by Tony Kuyper. It is a technique I’m using very often in landscapes as it gives you very good control of light in the cases where you cannot make easily hard selections to process the image selectively. Luminosity Masks can be used in many combinations and can give you a really subtle control of the tones, even in the most difficult image to work with, selection-wise.
TOPAZ LABS 15% DISCOUNT FOR MY STUDENTS AND FOLLOWERS
The folks at Topaz Labs were so kind to not only feature my work so many times and participate in my workshops, but they also gave me a discount code for my students and followers who are reading this blog and want to use the best software available in their post-processing work. You can use my special code JULIAG to get 15% discount for any of the Topaz plugins, separately or the whole collection. You can use the code by ordering at this link. Enjoy!
FURTHER STUDY RESOURCES
FINE ART BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURE PHOTOGRAPHY, LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY
You can find more resources about fine art black and white photography, (en)Visionography, long exposure photography and architecture photography in my extensive collection of photography tutorials. To receive my future tutorials directly via email you can subscribe to my website.
Learn more about how to create fine art photography, from vision to processing and the final image in my book From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography, in my video course From Vision to Final Image – Mastering Black and White Photography Processing and in my video tutorial Long Exposure, Architecture, Fine Art Photography – Creating (en)Visionography, or by attending one of my workshops.
To study with Julia Anna Gospodarou personally, find out about our
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Julia Anna Gospodarou – Founder
Julia Anna Gospodarou is an internationally acclaimed award-winning photographer, an architect with a Master’s degree, a best-selling author, and a highly sought-after educator, teaching workshops and lecturing around the world. Founder of (en)Visionography™ and creator of Photography Drawing™, author of the best-selling book From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography, multiple times awarded in the most important photography competitions worldwide (Two-Time International Photography Awards IPA Photographer of the Year 2016 & 2021, World Photography Awards SWPA Top 10 Finalist, and Hasselblad Masters Top 10 Finalist, as well as 100+ more awards), widely published internationally in books and magazines, Julia is passionate about art and photography and striving to spread the ideas of fine art photography and (en)Visionography all over the world.