Black and white photography has endured decades of competition with colour. Even during the last forty years while the popularity and quality of colour has exploded, and more recently, throughout the digital revolution which has brought colour processing via the digital-darkroom within easy reach of all of us; black and white has retained its magical lure.
Banishing colour from our images has several advantages for creative photographers. Firstly, it removes distraction; tone, texture and contrast assume a greater authority, and composition is transformed as intensity of tone, rather than colour, becomes the overriding influence. Secondly, the unadorned black and white image has less perceived pretence, there can be no accusations of over-saturation and unnatural reproduction of colour. The unquestioning viewer is left to enjoy the starker qualities of geometry and tone rather than concerning themselves with more mundane concerns about appropriate use of Photoshop. Colour images elicit a more variable response, depending on the varying tastes of those viewing them; this can cloud the photographers artistic intentions. The use of black and white removes such confusion.
When we make our first steps in to the world of black and white photography, there is a gradual realisation that although seemingly so simple, it is enchantingly complex. A great colour image may not work at all when rendered in monochrome and vice versa. This is because very different hues which provide startling contrast in colour, may be rendered as exactly the same tones once converted to black and white. In order to create great black and white images, a different way of seeing is required; we need to look at the world with tone-tuned “black and white eyes”. This additional element in the process of visualisation can be incredibly demanding.
I arrived on the beach at Abergele late in the afternoon when the sun was low in the sky; brightly illuminating these wind turbines on the horizon. I composed the image to frame the ‘z’ shaped cloud formation above the glistening turbines and chose an exposure time that would reveal some movement in the blades but still separate them rather than just creating blurred circles. The image was captured in Raw format, enabling plenty of room for dodging and burning and allowing me to optimally emphasise the brightness of the turbines and the texture within the stormy clouds.