INSPIRING BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS

As my journey into photography is progressing, some of my most inspiring images are black and white. With color photographs, the light creates the image. The colorful clouds of the sunrise or sunset, maybe the light glowing through the fog creating atmosphere, or any other reason. With black and white, it’s up to the artist to create the image. Using dodging and burning, the eye is drawn through the image with light and dark areas.

Many photographers use the black and white button in Lightroom or Photoshop, move the sliders around, and call that black and white. They don’t create a figure and ground relationship. Creating an inspiring black and white photograph takes lots of time and patience. And sometimes editing the same image multiple times to get it right. Some of my images have 30 plus hours of editing to create. A lot of photographers aren't willing to work that much for one photo. I don’t blame them. It makes your eyes cross.

1. JUSTICE

inspiring black and white photographs

The halls of justice can invoke a myriad of emotions. Whether in color or black and white, everyone sees the justice system of America in a different light. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Either way, be proud of who you are and always try to do good in this world. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

State capitol buildings have a great look to them. I was in Olympia Washington during a cloudy day and had this image in mind. JUSTICE took many hours to edit because each part of the image was edited separately. That is what makes my black and white photographs inspiring. They're not just shades of grey. You can see the pillars near the top are lit from the left. I was trying to convey the light coming from the left but slightly behind the building. That is where the sun was coming up so it made sense.

2. BECOMING GOTHAM

most inspiring black and white photographs.

The iconic view of Seattle from the Jose Rizal Bridge. I wanted a different look so I thought about how I could make Seattle look like Gotham. Most photographers photograph this location at sunset. In the summer, the sun sets behind the city. Built in 1911, it was one of the first permanent steel bridges in Seattle. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

BECOMING GOTHAM is the image I'm most proud of. Over 30 hours went into this edit. A mask was created for every different part of this image. Each building was edited, the light posts on the highway, the sky, trees, etc. to create the 3D look. Most photographers aren't willing to put in this amount of time but I enjoy the editing process. It took about 2 weeks with a few hours a day to complete. After a few hours, my eyes crossed and I had to stop. I think this is the best black and white image of Seattle I've seen. But I may be a bit biased.

3. PALACE OF FINE ARTS

Most inspiring black and white photographs

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Built to hold the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibit and is now used for weddings, corporate events, etc. During our 2 week road trip over Thanksgiving, we learned San Francisco is a cloudless city but the 60 degree temps sure were nice after leaving Seattle. I wonder if the foggy images I see are Photoshopped. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

During the pandemic, we took a road trip to San Francisco over Thanksgiving. Having never been, I did some research and found the PALACE OF FINE ARTS. Although the skies were clear, a long exposure black and white photograph fit the scene perfectly. The long exposure removed all the people walking around to clean up the image. What I like about this scene is the symmetry. No elements on the left or right over power the image.

4. BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE

inspiring black and white photographs

Where does this bridge go for you? So many choices and each one is up to you. You get to decide where the road is taking you. Wherever you want to go figure out how to get there and take it one day at a time. No excuses, no blaming others. Follow your path and make it what you want. I have been driving past the 21st Street bridge in Tacoma, Washington for years and as I learn more about black and white editing, I finally have a vision of what I want it to look like. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

Driving south on I-5 through Tacoma Washington, I thought about this image a lot. Waiting for the right conditions is tough in the summer. I needed clouds but it was nothing but blue skies for a long time. BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE finally came together in the early fall. The streaking clouds gave the sky just enough interest for an inspiring black and white photograph. As the bridge goes across the image, I can only imaging where it takes you. The destination is different for everyone.

5. MOUNT RAINIER BLACK AND WHITE

Inspiring black and white photographs.

Mount Rainier reflecting in Reflection Lakes during a cloudy, rainy morning. Converting an image to black and white removes all the distraction cause by the many colors of the scene. A 4 minute exposure creates a sense of movement in the clouds and calm in the lake. Black and white images are about the Figure and the Ground. The "Figure" is Mount Rainier since that has the most contrast and the "Ground" is everything else. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

Arriving to Reflection Lakes for sunrise, the clouds proved to be too much for the sun. However, for an inspiring black and white photograph, it was perfect. The minutes long exposure streaked the clouds and smoothed out the ripples in the water. I knew right away how I was going to edit this image. Of course, sunset the night before was one of the best I've seen. It's not often you get images from sunset then sunrise the next day.

CONCLUSION

Black and white photography is one of the more difficult to get right. It's not as easy as clicking the black and white button in Lightroom or Photoshop. Each one of these inspiring photographs took days to edit. Creating hard masks, luminosity masks, and combining them together for the editing process takes many hours. A lot of photographers don't want to spend that much time editing. Personally, I enjoy the editing process. My hope is to inspire you to get into black and white or learn to appreciate it more.

black and white fine art print of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens State Park.

A perfect cloudy day to shoot a black and white fine art image of the bones of the Peter Iredale. The ship ran aground in a storm in 1906 while navigating to the Columbia River. No casualties among the 27 crew but the ship was never salvaged. After a couple weeks on the sand, the hull became damaged and was left alone. It has since become a major attraction around Astoria, Oregon and Fort Stevens State Park. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

Wenatchee river in the Tumwater canyon in black and white.

The Tumwater Canyon in the fall is some of the best fall color in Washington State but sometimes it has to be shown in black and white. Show the area in the simplicity and timelessness that is black and white photography. It makes me wonder what Ansel Adams would do with the digital camera of today.