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Air Force Memorial - Tradition

By DanGirard  
Now that winter has come around in my area, this seems like a great time to try and learn some B/W techniques. Here is my attempt at trying to show the contrast in the sky, as well as with the monument. I thought about lightening up the monument so that it stands out a bit more, but that made it blend into the background. What could be done to provide more "pop"? Should a black and white photo have a lot of both elements or should it lean more towards grey with a few pure black and white scattered throughout?

ISO 100

Tags: Sunrise Architecture Black and white Usaf Tradition Virginia Va Honor

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This photo is here for critique. Please only comment constructively and with suggestions on how to improve it.


Sooty_1 Plus
7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
29 Dec 2013 9:54PM
First of all, why does winter seem a better time for black and white than any other time of year?

Black and white, in common with any other image, should contain what it needs to succeed in portraying the subject as well as it can do. Whether that is "soot and whitewash" or a full range of tones, or even greys with no blacks or whites. The subject and your interpretation of it will determine which.
As with most photography, light is the key. This image doesn't pop because the light is fact it's almost abstract. You have deep blacks and bright highlights, but the majority of it is dark silhouetted and hard to make out. Not sure why you needed such a long exposure in order to show sky has blurred the clouds reducing definition and contrast.
More exposure might have helped, but judicious processing might bring out the contrast between the monument and the sky. It looks like it should be quite striking, but it's all a bit dark at the moment.


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Thanks for the feedback.. The reason winter (IMO) is best for black and white is because it's usually very dark and dreary in this area so you tend to have a lot of grey days. That with most tress being without leaves also adds to the effect of the days.

As for the rest of your post..."in fact it's almost abstract. You have deep blacks and bright highlights, but the majority of it is dark silhouetted and hard to make out" So you think it would be more striking if I brought out more of the monuments by increasing the shadows??

The long exposure was to get the movement of the clouds which I'm very happy with, it's just the monument and the overall processing of the area that has me baffled.

Again, thank so much for the comment, I'll play around with my raw file and see what I can do for the monument itself.

Sooty_1 Plus
7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
30 Dec 2013 12:25AM
I'll have to disagree with you on that one. Any day is a black and white day, not just the grey ones, which are often dull and low contrast. The light is most important, and more great b&w pictures have been taken when the light is good than taken on grey days.
Those days are better spent shooting other things more suited to the conditions. I'm not saying don't do it, just don't expect a picture to work in mono just because the weather and light are poor.

If you want to do good mono work, you have to remember that colour is gone and tone is everything. Different colours may have similar tones, and you will usually need filtration to separate them. Shape, form, lines and other devices become more important where colour is absent. You need to look at it differently....not as a colour picture you can convert, but as a b&w image from the start.
If you set your camera to raw+jpg, you should get a b&w image on screen, but you have the raw to work on later. That will give you a good idea if the mono image works, and the basic tonal relationships.

I don't think you need to darken the monument. I think if you want it to stand out, you need to lighten everything else. It doesn't stand out as everything is too dark.


I went back and re-edited it and added more light to the monument.

I also brought out more of the shadows in the grassy area in front of the monument.

I really do appreciate the feedback.
Sooty_1 Plus
7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
30 Dec 2013 1:08AM
The picture you link to is much better.

You can add modifications here by going to the tab above your description and uploading. It also allows others to copy your image and play with it to demonstrate what they say in their critique, though it's pretty lo-res.


Ps. You have some good stuff on your flickr.

Thanks for the tip... I uploaded it per your guidance.

Appreciate your looking at the rest of my pictures on flickr.
paulbroad Plus
10 123 1216 United Kingdom
30 Dec 2013 8:33AM
A good black and white is one which looks good, just like colour. It's simply the end product that matters. Ideally there should be a full range of tones with a white and a black, bearing in mind 256 tones rather than millions. But, sometimes a compressed range works in mono.

So many mono shots can look flat due to everything converting to near mid grey. That is why auto mono conversions are not a good idea. The grey tones should be managed with respect to the original colours. Mono suites certain subjects better than others. There seems to be a fashion trend to use mono without thought, just to be in vogue.

As you say, mono is best for reportage, street shooting, gritty grimy stuff. Not natural history though!

This is quite striking but fails to hold the interest for long. your EXIF suggests you were going for the blurred sky, which works, but the column bases are burnt out, then disappear in the middle section. I think I would try some careful dodging in that area to lift a little demarcation from the sky.


Thanks very much for the feedback. Did you look at the modification that was uploaded?
I think it solved your concerns with the columns being burnt out in the mid section.
paulbroad Plus
10 123 1216 United Kingdom
30 Dec 2013 1:20PM
I hadn't looked and should hace done. The mod is very well done and is a rather better mono. After a lot of years shooting mono film on both ease of processing and cost basis, I now always shoot colour. Mono then being available as needed in software. Depends what ths images are for I suppose. Exhibition or hanging on a wall, then the right mono image can look stunning.

If shooting for libraries, as I often am, then always submit colour. The client can change to mono if they wish.

mrswoolybill Plus
11 1.2k 1850 United Kingdom
30 Dec 2013 2:26PM
There's a fascinating discussion going on here, I've enjoyed reading it.

My tuppence-worth... For a lot of us who grew up with mono, it is still a/the natural way of seeing the world. All my early memories are in b&w, colour doesn't come into the picture until the 1960s.

Colour matters in some images; it can also be so beguiling, so beautiful - and like a lot of beauty, skin-deep and distracting. B&W is about what lies beneath, the lines, structures, spatial relationships, as well as the simple truth of light hitting surfaces.

B&W also engages the brain and makes it work harder. Back a few years ago someone (I really should have kept a note of the details of this) conducted an experiment whereby a photographic exhibition was set up with broadly similar compositions in both colour and b&w, and CCTV recorded the amount of time that visitors spent in front of each picture. On average, viewers spent twice as long looking at the b&ws as at the colour equivalents.

So - light, lines, involvement, but also atmosphere. The original here has that for me. The contrast of the softly drifting clouds with the crisp lines below (long exposures don't usually work for me but I reckon this is inspired); the light hitting the lower parts of the memorial and creating those wonderful shadows from the trees; and the sharp dark spikes penetrating the softness of the sky.

I think my preferred choice would be somewhere between the original and your Mod, but with the upper parts of the monument a little bit darker. Incidentally I cannot even imagine this in colour.

Please feel free to down load and play with it. I'm always curious as to how others can adjust my pictures and show me something I'm missing. That's what I love about this medium, so many ways of interpretation.

I can upload the original if you're really curious and you could play with that one as well.

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