Upon initially reflecting on photography, it’s easy to think of it as a very realistic portrayal of reality. You see something, you fire your camera and you’ve got what you saw. But that notion isn’t as true as it first seems. Photography takes a three-dimensional world and compresses it into two dimensions while freezing a single moment out of a time continuum that is perceptually moving. Black-and-white photography takes it another step by simplifying a world of color into shades of gray. That’s a lot of distortion and we haven’t even gotten to dark room manipulation and Photoshop techniques.
That said, for whatever reason, I typically like for my photos to have a documentary framework. Perhaps it’s partially related to the fact that I’m a journalist by trade. We fancy ourselves people of fact, truth-tellers. Even if I’m capturing images that I’d consider more “artistic” as opposed to photojournalistic, I typically sort of like for my pictures to be grounded in reality. I like to work within something like traditional photographic boundaries and capture “what’s really there.”
But recently, I’ve thrown off those constraints a bit to play around with what you can do by manipulating different characteristics of black and white photos, such as contrast, highlights/shadows and color regions. I’ve also been pushing the clarity tool. I’ve included four examples of this approach below. Most if not all of the processing was done with Adobe Lightroom. Here we go (click on the images for a larger view.)…
We’ll start with the most recognizable icon in Fargo, the Fargo Theatre sign. The image is high contrast, with bright brights against hard darks.
This second photo is an image I took at the Red River Valley Fair in West Fargo in 2012. The effects really made the sky pop. Of course, it’s a long exposure taken at night. Actually, all of these images are taken at night.
Another very recognizable image from downtown Fargo, the Hotel Donaldson sign. Even after it converts the image to black and white, Lightroom still keeps all the color information, which allows you to control the character of the image, by changing how the colors are portrayed. One of the ways I blackened the sky in this image is by turning the blue saturation way down.
Finally, here’s a little image of a classic American dairy bar with a familiar name, the Tastee-Freez. This one’s actually across the river in Moorhead.
If you enjoyed these images, feel free to check out more of my photos.