Typical spring weather middle-of-this-week blasted the Wyoming high-country with snow, but the snowline never reached down to my cabin in the Wind River Canyon; it was just too warm down in the "bottom-of-the-freezer." The next morning as the Sun tried to warm up the mountains high-altitude fog rolled into the canyon. I was told by a few elders long ago that before the Boysen Dam fog was a rarity in the Wind River Canyon. It's not all that common now, but when fog occurs it's an event worth photographing.
With newly fallen snow in the upper reaches of the canyon, and fog swirling through the valley, the Sun was like a laser at times, which makes for uneven exposures. I've got blue sky and now I don't, there's the Sun, now it's dark. Weather changing by the second is challenging even for digital photography. I had blues deep and dark, and whites beyond bright, all in the same photograph. What I really wanted was that mysterious fog swirling around the pine trees, with the tall canyon cliffs in the background.
Going through all the digital files later-in-the-day revealed one picture that caught my artist's eye; this file had potential for mystery. It had all the elements I'd searched for in thousands of files over the years, but it didn't move me! I played with the sliders in my camera's software till I tired and finally went to bed. At it again the next day and, trying black and white, revealed possibilities. A green filter brought out the hidden trees on the far cliffs, and made the closer trees stand out more. I took down the brightness of the fog a little and opened up the shadows, then took down the contrast and brightened the entire exposure----saved as a Tiff file and quit for the day.
Yesterday I opened up the picture in Lightroom and sharpened the image a little, then hit the button for B&W Contrast Low. Tweaking the black and white sliders revealed details in the image and the swirling fog. The pines on the far canyon cliffs can be seen through the high-altitude fog. The photograph shows a bit of the magic the Wind River Canyon has in abundance. Why did monochrome (black and white in photographers language) please the eye? Why does it work this time and not all the time? How do I know when to use black and white? A black and white image has always been easier to accept as fine art. When taking portraits of people I always work my favorite file in monochrome, and it's amazing what black and white can reveal. There's a timelessness to a black and white image, be it nature or person. We all know black and white pictures are from long ago, and this it seems is the real magic, and the reason for the resurgence in the popularity of these images.
Courses on photography and film always start out in the age of black and white; many schools still teach the ancient photographic art of black and white with all the stinky chemicals. In the twenty-first century a black and white image is different, and you notice it, and this is what advertisers just love and why you are seeing monochromatic pictures more than ever before. But is it ART and who gets to choose if it's color or black and white? Since it's common knowledge that everybody is a critic, the answer is everyone!
There is no ART RULE #6 that can teach you when to use b&w, sometimes it just seems appropriate and works great, and then there's those other times. You may be wrong, but you'll never know unless you try it. I personally love the monochromatic image, but without color the black and white images would mean nothing; they wouldn't be special anymore.
Always shoot in color, and this is for two good reasons. If you shoot pictures in black and white you cannot make the image in color later, even if you want to. A color file can be worked both ways, a monochromatic image cannot. The other reason is that most "experts" teach that the color digital file makes for a better black and white image. Depending on how severe you work the color file the monochromatic image will change appearance; you can add as much mood as you want for the b&w conversion later. Experiment with monochromatic images for yourself and lets see what happens.......but is it art?
Wind River Canyon Blog and all images by Michael John Balog/Hogbats Photography, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.
Visit www.HogbatsPhotography.com for award-winning hummingbird photographs and other birds and wildlife images from the Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.
Thank you for taking the time to peruse my work.