Capturing the feeling of warm in a B&W landscape?
I'm getting ready to head out on a trip that will see me spending a week touring about British Columbia. I usually bring mostly C41 film when I travel because I am easily seduced by colour (not always to the benefit of my photos). Space is limited, and I'm moving my film shooting a purely B&W optical workflow, so I decided for this trip I'll only bring B&W film (I will also have a digital body with me).
For city shooting and portraiture, B&W won't be a problem. It's the landscape stuff I'm worried about. Now, in fairness, I have never ever managed to make interesting landscape photos; but that doesn't mean I've stopped trying.
I've flipped through landscape images that I like, trying to understand why I like them. One thing I noticed today is that very few of them made the scene feel warm or inviting. Dark, ominus, cold, intimidating, powerful, silent, lifeless, those adjectives seem pretty easy to convey in a black and white landscape. But feelings of warmth, comfort, welcoming, vibrant, etc seem much much harder.
While searching I saw an photo of what I expect was a wonderful sunset in the mountains, shot low with the tall grass glowing. But without the colours it utterly lacked the feeling of warmth and peace I've come to expect from that type of photo. In fact, I found the response it got from me was simply "that photo would be better in colour". Not exactly the most enlightened response, but it's what I got.
Reflecting on it, I convey feelings of warmth, comfort, peace, etc entirely through colour/tone selection and people's facial experession / body language.
So, here's my question: If you shoot landscapes in B&W, and you aim for positive, uplifing, vibrant feelings, what are some of the things you do to reach that goal? I'm more interested in seeing/composition/lighting answers technical ones.
Alternatively, are there any B&W landscape images (online, links please) that bring about those feelings in you?
Last edited by MattKrull; 07-20-2015 at 10:31 AM. Click to view previous post history.
The feeling of 'warmth' comes in the printing. Use warm tone paper/developer combination and toners.
“What is a master but a master student? And if that's true, then there's a responsibility on you to keep getting better and to explore avenues of your profession.”ť
If you want positive uplifting vibrant feelings in your landscape shots, maybe you should continue to use color. BW seems to handle form and shape, relationships, etc. the best. If you're getting darker more foreboding shots with color, switch your shooting time to the magic hours after sunrise and before sunset.
What a great question! How to convey warmth and peace in a black and white landscape. I had never really thought about it consciously before because mostly I like landscapes that are somewhat cold. However, I often tone in selenium which gives a very subtle soft plum purple look, if you don't leave it in too long.
However, I think Rick A has right. It is in the printing, not the shooting. For really warm landscapes, I use warm tone paper. Perhaps you are thinking "colour" and then shooting black and white, a mistake that I sometimes make. Take a landscape that you like and explore it with warm tone paper and different types of toners. You will find a huge difference.
For online examples, take a look at the work of Tim Rudman. He is an awesome printer and a master of toning. http://www.timrudman.com/
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If the tone of the paper imparts the desired effect you could also consider platinum/palladium printing. You would have to enlarge your negatives though. I have made many pt/pd landscape prints but never actually thought about imparting a feeling of warmth although the images are of warm tones. My pt/pd prints from pinhole capture have a slight softness as well as the warm tones. I now wonder if those viewing those images experience a feeling of "warmth". Something I will have to check out.
Image tone, flare, high key, and diffusion all contribute to feelings of warmth.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Try warmtone paper. I have been using Ilford Warmtone lately and love it with B&W landscape. Also consider toning.
It is an interesting question that can be taken in more than one way. You said warm and inviting so I think you are using warm as in welcoming and friendly rather than yellowish. It is something I sometimes think about and finding ways to compose that allow a viewer a path in. Even if it is a real path. Or just part of the photo is not obstructed so that you could see if you were in the photo a safe or interesting way to enter. I think it is possible that warm yellowish color actually is too muggy and even claustrophobic for some photographers, they need cool tones to feel like it breathes. Other people do feel more comfortable with warmth in the print color.
Is this photo inviting? It has a walk path and is on warm tone paper..
dpurdy, I am not the type to go for walks - there has to be a destination - but this photo is definitely inviting me to change my ways. Very nice, and makes the point very well.