Try Photographing in Black and White for Added Impact

AK-AERIAL-CHU-01844Here’s a recent photo I shot of Eagle Peak in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska. End of the day, dramatic subject matter, vibrant colors, great light, what’s not to like? A scene like this is the reason we love color photography. Imagine how this would look as a large format metal print?

Hold on a minute, though… What if we shot this in black and white?

You mean get rid of the color? Why on earth would we want to get rid of that beautiful pink light? Simple; when you reduce a scene to black and white, your bring the elements of shape, shadow and tone to the foreground. This forces your viewer to focus on the simplicity of light and form without being distracted by all the pretty lights.

Also, by removing the “realistic” aspect of color, you create a symbolic representation of your scene, which increases the mental engagement of your viewer’s imagination. No matter what you’re shooting, that’s the real power of photography. It isn’t about perfectly reproducing a subject, but rather representing it in an artistic way that matches your own creative vision.

So, by removing the element of color, you can actually increase the impact of your photograph and create a more powerful image. Basically, if it works in color, it should work in black and white, because drama is drama, and great light looks just as good in BW as it does in color. At least that’s what Ansel taught us.

With that in mind, here’s the same scene shot in black and white. What do you think? I guess the important question to ask is, if you looked at this version only, would you miss the color?

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Of course, there are some scenes that look strikingly better in black and white. These are usually scenes shot under less dramatic light.

Here’s a mountain I shot a few hours before the good light hit. It doesn’t do much in color, but the black and white version is a little bit better. Add in some adjustments in Lightroom, and suddenly I’ve got a much more remarkable image!Aerial photo of Bounty Peak at the top of Whiteout Glacier, Chugach Mountains, Alaska

Aerial photo of Bounty Peak at the top of Whiteout Glacier, Chugach Mountains, Alaska

Aerial photo of Bounty Peak at the top of Whiteout Glacier, Chugach Mountains, Alaska

Of course, this is all subjective. Ansel Adams shot in in black and white. Galen Rowell shot in many of the same places, but exclusively in color. There is no right way, there’s only what excites you and your passion for photography.

Whether you shoot in black and white mode on your camera, or if you shoot in RAW and convert on the computer, the next time you have a dramatic scene, try creating some black and white images, it will make you perceive the scene a little differently, and that can help improve your creative eye and your images.

FUJIFILM TIPS and TRICKS – My 10 Favorite Settings for the X Series Cameras

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FUJIFILM TIPS and TRICKS is a 5,000-word eBook that’s designed to help you get the most from your Fuji X Series camera, no matter what model you own.

Not only are the Fuji X Series cameras extremely fun to use, they’re amazingly capable tools that produce professional quality results. They’re also very easy to operate, since many of the primary controls are easily accessible via top-deck dials, Fn buttons or Q Menu items.

While some of the main features are fairly straightforward, these cameras contain a number of extremely useful and powerful features that may not be apparent to you.

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With that in mind, I’ve put together this in-depth guidebook to help you get the most out of your Fuji X Series camera. With almost five years of use with Fujifim X cameras and extensive experience with a number of models, I’ve gotten to know the system quite well.

During that time, I’ve figured out my favorite settings and modes that help me capture the best images possible for the style I’m shooting at any given time, and since I love helping other photographers succeed with their own image making, I’m happy to share them with you.

While the exact specifications vary between the particular models, all of these 10 tips apply to all of the current Fuji cameras, from the X-Pro 2 to the X70. Some of them are available on the X-M1 and X-A2. With firmware updates, some of these settings and modes are even found on older models, like the original X100.

The guide is free, and all you have to do to get it is to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get the Fuji guide, and you’ll also get a monthly digest filled with free outdoor photography tips and insight, news about my upcoming workshops and recent work, and a variety of exclusive deals, content and links that are all designed to help you become a better photographer.

That’s a fair tradeoff, right? If you already get my newsletter, you can still sign up here to get the guidebook. The system is smart enough so that you won’t get duplicate copies of the newsletter emailed to you.

Last thing, please make sure you confirm your subscription. After you sign up, you’ll get an email. Simply click the link in the email and you’ll be taken to the page with your download link.

What Camera Would Galen Rowell Use if He Were Still Alive Today?

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Galen Rowell was undoubtedly the father of modern day adventure and outdoor photography. He pioneered the style of going light and fast with small cameras in the mountains and paved the way for guys like me.

Having started his career with manual Nikon F bodies, he later moved up to the higher end pro Nikon SLRs like the 8008, N90, F4 (sans grip) and the F100. However, he wasn’t a huge fan of the F5; he considered it too heavy for fast and light use since it didn’t have a removable battery grip. (Here’s a complete list of his preferred camera gear.)

Unfortunately, his untimely death in 2002 meant that he wasn’t around to see the photography world move to digital. Ironically, he was once quoted as saying:

“Small, portable digital cameras that exceed the performance of an off-the-shelf Nikon using 35mm slide film are further away from current reality than the proposed NASA manned Mars mission, although I expect both to happen sometime during my lifetime.”

Well, we haven’t gone to Mars yet, but small, portable digital cameras that exceed the performance of film-shooting Nikons are the norm today. The reality is that just about every digital camera on the market these days out resolves film.

As someone who has been heavily influenced by Galen over the years, I’ve often wondered how he would have navigated the digital camera world. For years, I always assumed that if he were still alive he’d be shooting with Nikon DSLRs. After all, he was a longtime Nikon guy.

However, Galen was also a huge Fuji guy. Anyone who’s familiar with his work knows that Velvia was his favorite slide film; he loved the bold color palette and rich blacks it produced.

You can see where this is going, can’t you…?

Given his style, what do you think that Galen Rowell, the father of light-and-fast photography would think of a camera like the Fujifilm X-T1? It’s small, rugged, weather-sealed, highly capable, simple to operate, with its top-deck dials and SLR-inspired body, it takes gorgeous, incredibly sharp photos and has a Velvia film simulation mode built right in.

I’m betting he’d be pretty intrigued.

As a former mechanic, constant tinkerer and creative visionary, Galen wasn’t the kind of man to remain beholden to any one brand, he used Nikon SLRs because that was the best gear available during his time.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he would have always stayed with using Nikon gear in perpetuity. After all, he once switched from Kodak to Fuji, so it’s entirely plausible that he might have switched camera systems at some point if he found something that better matched his style.

So here’s my question, and I’d love to get reader input on this. If Galen Rowell were still alive today, what do you think he’d be shooting with? More importantly, if the digital photography industry had evolved with him still in it, what kind of influence do you think he would have had with regards to innovation and modern camera design?

Here are the options I’ve come up with. Feel free to comment and add your own.

Scenario #1: He’d Still Be Shooting with Nikon Cameras

Given their current lineup, my guess is that in this scenario, Galen’s camera of choice would be the Nikon D750. It’s their best non-battery grip full frame DSLR, it’s lightweight and has a number of pro features. For some subjects, like wildlife and extreme telephoto sports, he might even use the new DX sensor D500, although the D7200 is WAY lighter, and it still has lot of pro-quality features.

Scenario #2: He Would Have Switched to Fuji Cameras

Given the size, weight and performance of the Fuji X Series cameras and lenses, and the fact that the cameras have Velvia built right in, it’s easy to see why Galen might be really attracted to a camera like the X-T1. Or even the new X-Pro2, which has an even higher megapixel sensor.

And don’t discount the X-T10, which has the same sensor and image processor, and most of the same features as the X-T1, but in a smaller, lighterweight body. Or even the X70, which has the same APS-C X-Trans sensor as all the higher end models, but in a body that fits in the palm of your hand and has a fixed wide angle lens.

It’s well known that Galen often ran with his camera inside his Photoflex chest pouch. Some of his favorite images were shot during his quiet morning runs when he carried just one body and lens. He also loved using wide angles, so how could he not like a camera like the X70, or even the X100?

There are a lot of reasons why Galen might have been drawn to the Fujifilm X Series cameras, and to mirrorless cameras in general. This brings me to my next point.

Scenario #3: He Would Definitely be Shooting Mirrorless

Even if he still used DSLRs, my guess is that Galen Rowell would be very intrigued by mirrorless cameras. Not only are they smaller and lighter, they offer a number of very useful features, including a full-time Live View LCD screen. As someone who often shot in tricky light, he would probably appreciate the benefits a live view screen offers. It’s quite possible that he would have used both DLSRs and mirrorless cameras, each for different activities.

And if it weren’t Fujifilm, maybe he would have been drawn to another system. In my mind, Sony would be the next logical choice, although Sony cameras don’t have Velvia mode. Still there’s no question that Sony cameras and sensors produce high quality imagery.

That said, even if you mirrorless with a full frame Sony A7, your lenses don’t really get any smaller, so you’re not going as fast and light as you could. At any rate, I just don’t see Galen switching from Nikon to Sony. And Olympus cameras have even smaller sensors than APS-C, so unless you can think of another option, we’re back to Fuji.

…Which brings us to my last point.

Scenario #4: Galen Would Have Influenced Nikon to Build a Better Mirrorless Camera

Galen had a huge influence when he was alive, and I think that if he were still around, he would have pushed Nikon to come out with a mirrorless camera that would fit his style. At least something way better than what they currently offer, none of which seems to appeal to very many serious outdoor and adventure photographers.

Perhaps Nikon would have gone back to their “F” roots and pushed them to innovate in an entirely different direction. What about a digital back for their film cameras? Swap out the film door for a digital back and you suddenly have a 16MP digital FM2, F3 or even FG. This could actually create a huge market for all the people out there who still have their film cameras tucked away on shelves, unused for decades. I’ve always thought this would be a smart move.

He might have pushed them to invent something more like the X-T1, which actually looks and feels more like an FM2 than all the little Nikon 1 models they keep coming out with. At the very least, perhaps the Df might have been a better camera.

Or, perhaps he would have worked closely with Fuji and influenced the design of the X-T1. At any rate, his presence in the industry would have undoubtedly made a difference, at least with Nikon.

Then again, maybe not.

What do you think?

 

Happy 69th Birthday to My Little Yellow Cessna 120

Cessna 120 parked on frozen Lake George in front of Colony Glacier, Alaska

On April 11, 1947, N3102N rolled off the assembly line at the Cessna factory in Wichita, Kansas. That means my little yellow Cessna 120 celebrates her 69th birthday today. Introduced in 1946, the C120 was one of many light airplanes that emerged the … Continue reading

Go Mobile with a USB Charger For Your Camera Batteries

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Nearly all electronic devices these days come with USB chargers- except for cameras. While some point and shoots and mirrorless cameras feature USB charging capabilities, most cameras on the market only ship with AC battery chargers. This can be problematic when … Continue reading

Modern Cameras are Just Too Damn Complicated!

Photographer shooting photos of sunest over Anchorage and Mt. McKninley from Glen Alps

I recently taught a beginning photography class with fifteen very enthusiastic participants. Everyone was so excited about the prospect of entering this new realm of visual creativity and learning how to take great photos. There was just one big problem. Noone know … Continue reading

Shooting Aerials Over the Chugach Mountains of Alaska

Aerial photo of Organ Mountain at sunset, Chugach Mounains, Alaska

  These days, “aerial photography” usually means “shot with a drone.” For me, it means a lifelong love affair with mountains and dramatic terrain, a pilot’s license and a little yellow Cessna 120 that rolled off the production line in April … Continue reading