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How to "See" to create better photographs in Black and White
Mr. Davis continues his Creative series with "Creative Black & White", and what I found most satisfying about the book is not so much the black and white tips and treatments... but the thinking aspect of the craft.
I'm no art major, not a graphic artist, and not a particularly gifted photographer (though you're welcome to disagree ;-). The very first chapter got my attention: "Thinking in Black and White". I have learned from some experience that some images just work better in black and white - mostly - I thought, because monochromatic representation does a better job preserving the contrast and sharpness in an image. But Mr. Davis elaborates well beyond my simple observation and made me think more deeply about WHY black and white sometimes works much better at communicating an idea, thought or mood. With his guidance I think I've begun to understand more uniquely what sets apart this different choice in a predominately color world. From my Brownie days to my MamiyaFlex I shot mostly B&W because it was accessible and cheap. The advent of color digital changed that. But now I understand why black and white can be much more successful for some images - and even when to seek out such images. Black and White is not just about "nostalgia!"
Some of the visual paradoxes presented in Mr. Davis' images are seductive and compelling. I'd never have thought that a photo of a commode could look so sensuous, or an artichoke so mysterious. But by the time I arrived around page 40 I was getting it! Black and White, it turns out, is another kind of music, not just another style of music.
The book does not end with the visualization and "seeing", with shapes, shadows, patterns and forms - though it could have. It continues into High and Low Key shots (mostly light and mostly dark high contrast shots) and also includes what I had previously considered the most common manifestation of black and white: portraiture. Mr Davis includes tips on softening the harshness of a face (soft focus), how to selectively colorize or tint for effect as well as cogent tips about lighting and framing, and more. Before you get the impression that the book is just about "seeing" and portraiture, consider that the book also includes chapters on High Dynamic Range, landscapes, blending and merging, noise reduction the advantages of shooting in RAW and other photographic endeavors.
Indeed, if this book does not make it clear what is lost by shooting in JPEG mode, you must have missed a short chapter on the subject or not looked at the examples which begin on page 74!
I have not thoroughly used Mr. Davis' Photoshop and Lightroom recipes (Photoshop CS3 revolted on me when I upgraded computers), but I have had success using GIMP to follow along with his instruction and worked an image or two to a far better quality.
I'd rank this work second only to Mr. Davis' "The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing" which is seriously excellent. But, I haven't read all of his photography books yet!
Oh, and like his other books, this book includes a nice Table of Contents and an Index - bravo!
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Posted September 24, 2011
Really Good Buy
Only about 1/4 way thru but really enjoying it. Plain language, easy to read, and great photographic examples. Glad I bought it.
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