December Flickr Group Critique: Black and White

This month's Flickr Group Critique is all about black and white work. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

This month's Flickr Group Critique is all about black and white work. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

[Note: Once a month we host a ‘group critique’ here at The Discerning Photographer based upon our related Flickr group pool. The idea behind the critique is to try and give a bit of constructive criticism and/or praise for the selected photographers’ work, and then to have a discussion about the images in the Comments section below. Please check out the following images, see what I thought about them, and tell us what you think!]

Black and white photography: do you practice it yourself? How do you find black and white shooting to differ from color shooting? For me, black and white is a wonderful area to explore: stripping color out of the imagery brings forth form, pattern, and the interplay of light and shadow in a way that my brain doesn’t process with color photos.

In our December 2011 Group Critique from our Discerning Photographer Flickr pool, I’ve chosen some black and white images for us to discuss. So, let’s get started!

‘Foggy Morn,’ by Enivea.

'Foggy Morn,' by Enivea http://www.flickr.com/photos/enivea/6498620587/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'Foggy Morn,' by Enivea http://www.flickr.com/photos/enivea/6498620587/in/pool-1182517@N23/

I think this image works wonderfully in black and white. The fog in the distance is nice and I love the strong diagonal line the tree forms from lower right to upper left,  AND how nicely the foreground tree frames the distant tree, with its similar leaning shape, a bit of nice and subtle pattern repetition.

‘Pathway to the Sky,’ by CJ Schmit.

'Pathway to the Sky,' by CJ Schmit. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjschmit/6482532521/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'Pathway to the Sky,' by CJ Schmit. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjschmit/6482532521/in/pool-1182517@N23/

The strong lines and monolithic composition – think ‘2001—A Spacy Odyssey’ – make this one work for me. The reflection of clouds on the glass surface is great too.

‘White Curves,’ by Joyce445.

'White Curves,' by Joyce 445 http://www.flickr.com/photos/joyce411/6338666661/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'White Curves,' by Joyce 445 http://www.flickr.com/photos/joyce411/6338666661/in/pool-1182517@N23/

We could probably all benefit from attempting to photograph a calla lilly. I always think about Georgia O’Keefe and Imogen Cunningham when I see good examples of calla lilies, and this one is no exception. Nicely done.

‘And Looked for a Way Out…’  by Justin Garofoli

'And Looked for a Way Out...'  by Justin Garofoli http://www.flickr.com/photos/justingarofoli/6595753863/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'And Looked for a Way Out...' by Justin Garofoli http://www.flickr.com/photos/justingarofoli/6595753863/in/pool-1182517@N23/

I like the image more than the title. This is a nice image that would be better with a more interpretive toning job, in my opinion: I’d like to see the trees darkened to enhance the sense of foreboding and the foggy vanishing point brightened in contrast to the rest.. Justin, tell us about making this photograph.

‘Guimarães Castle,’ by Ana Matos.

'Guimarães Castle,' by Ana Matos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiuinha/6522457811/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'Guimarães Castle,' by Ana Matos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiuinha/6522457811/in/pool-1182517@N23/

So of course my question with Ana’s photograph is compositional: Ana, why did you feel the need to tilt your camera? For me, the tilt adds a sense of the world ‘askew,’ everything not quite right, etc….but I’m always suspect about camera tilts: does it bring so much  attention to the act of photography that the actual results are diminished? I don’t know, but I’ll be really interested to see what Ana has to say about the image and what others think as well.

‘Little Lulu,’ by Sarah Tomlin.

'Little Lulu,' by Sarah Tomlin. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahtomlin/6546288285/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'Little Lulu,' by Sarah Tomlin. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahtomlin/6546288285/in/pool-1182517@N23/

This wonderful photograph reminds me of all the joys of childhood: here a little girl proudly shows off her missing two front teeth. Sarah, tell us about making the photograph: what were the circumstances? You’ve captured a great moment—something that would qualify for the ‘Peak Action’ photo assignment that’s running over in the Discerning Photographer Forums right now—and I love the spontaneity of this image. Great job.

‘A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world,’ by Mick LeConte.

'A single rose can be my garden... a single friend, my world,' by Mick LeConte. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mickleconte/6284769867/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'A single rose can be my garden... a single friend, my world,' by Mick LeConte. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mickleconte/6284769867/in/pool-1182517@N23/

I had to go google this to find the proper attribution: apparently spoken/written by American-born Leo Buscoglia, who wrote a number of best-selling inspirational books before his death in 1998. Mick, are you a Buscoglia fan? I like the image simply for the layered texture that the rose makes, subtle in all of its black and white tonality.

So please let us know your thoughts about these images in the Comments below, and we’ll see if we can get a conversation going, and thanks!
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Gallery

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

8 Comments on "December Flickr Group Critique: Black and White"

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  1. Enivea says:

    I’m thrilled that you’ve chosen this image Andrew. For the past few months I’ve become more and more interested in Black and White, and my aim for 2012 is to gain as much experience in this field as possible. Foggy Morn is one of the first conversions I’ve done since doing some study on techniques.
    I adore White Curves by Joyce – very inspirational! Little Lulu is not only cute and gorgeous, but I like the tones in this, a nice softness suitable for the subject.

  2. This was a fun group of images to put together. The calla lilly has given me some ideas to pursue myself.

  3. Ana Matos says:

    Hi Andrew, thanks for bringing this photo to discussion. Like the diversity and simplicity of scenarios in the shots that you choose to this theme and this time have nothing special to add.

    I agree with you when it comes to b&w photography, it´s very powerful when you want to pop up certain details or focus the attention on something particular.

    About the composition used in my photo it’s all very simple to me. This place/castle is a very visited and well known place, the photos taken here are always the same. So I shot the typical tourist photos but always thinking on other type of framing of the place.

    When I was passing by that path I saw it as a leading object to the main object – the castle. I did what I usually do: weird angles and points of view, plus the vertical format that I use perhaps 50% of the time as a way of framing what I really want. I understand the “askew” but I like to experiment and this was a good opportunity to do it.

    I worked on the b&w because of the bright sky even with -2 EV of exposure and at the same the resulting dark foreground (which reminds me the backlit assignment). This was what I managed to do with a jpeg file, not a beautiful photo but a different one that I posted on purpose to raise some comments about the tilt.

  4. Sarah Tomlin says:

    : ) Little Lulu, she’s the daughter of a really good friend and I photograph her very often. She had just lost both front teeth, and even another one after this was taken. What photographer could pass THAT opportunity up!?

    “Foggy Morn”, and “And Looked For a Way Out” are my two favs in this bunch, love love love trees.

    Thanks again for inclusion in this months critique, love your website.

  5. Thanks Ana. I think the tilt works pretty well for this image, besides what I stated in the piece because of the way it allows you to use the steps in the foreground.

  6. Hi Andrew, thanks for picking me! I’m always happy to get feedback, especially when it’s a little deeper than the “nice pic” variety. About this image; it’s part of a set I did while walking through the forest near my home. It was a foggy day, and the that really was inspiring, especially in the woods. Also, these woods had a few different feels, some areas very open with tall linear trees, others very narrow and filled in, almost like an alleyway. This is from near the end of the walk, along a forest road, near the border between France and Switzerland. I could finally see the exit.

    Some responses to your comments:

    I’m not sure what to say about the title, I haven’t heard any thoughts on what titles should be that resonate with me, so I’m just doing what I think is best. I’m sorry you don’t like the title, it’s the first thing that occurred to me. I could have been more literal, something about the road, but it fit with this title in the set that I had made. The set is sort of a story.

    For the processing, I had done many of the things you suggested already to this image, but apparently not enough for the desired effect. If you look at the other versions of that image that I uploaded (a “straight” color one, and a lighter black and white), they don’t have the dodge in the exit area. I reprocessed it again, going kind of way past what I thought I should. You can see that here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/justingarofoli/6680369077/

    If felt too dark during the processing, but it seems better now, still rather dark. That’s something I struggle with, dark images, and knowing how much work on an image is not enough or too much. Maybe David duChemin’s “Vision and Voice” book will be helpful in that regard.

    Even though I wrote kind of a lot here, I wrote a bit more on my blog too:

    http://justing-pictures.blogspot.com/2012/01/photo-critique.html

    Thanks Andrew! These are a great set of images!

  7. Hey Justin,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful contribution to this discussion, and the links back to the other versions. It’s always a bit tricky on the toning, isn’t it? Photoshop (or whatever you’re using for toning) can take many paths to get to the same end spot with so many aesthetic considerations along the way. Overall, I think I like your ‘darker’ version better….maybe with just a bit less ‘glow’ at the vanishing point…but nicely done all around. Thanks!

  8. Joyce120 says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks so much for the acknowledgement of my Calla Lilly. It is a thrill to have a professional photographer comment on this image. This was accomplished in-camera using the Nikon D-90’s red filter in the monochrome set up and an exposure compensation of -2.0 to ensure a good contrast between the white and black. The f-stop was 5.6 with an ISO of 200. No other post-processing. I enjoy the challenge of capturing an image using in-camera processes. The sculptural quality of these flowers is so appealing and I look forward to doing more of these in b&w and color. Love O’Keeffe and Cunningham! Thanks again.

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