The world in black and white

I love March! It’s when nature and I come alive. The quietness of winter is gone and the air is filled with music again. Is there anything better than to stand outside in the crisp air with your face to the sun and feel its warming embrace? There’s an odd charm to anticipating pale nature getting dressed in all the colors of spring.

We who like to shoot in natural light are delighted. Not only because there actually is light again (speaking of Finland here) but it has such an attractive tone that you can almost shoot whatever and be a great artist. One thing I like about shooting in natural light is that it’s not static. It has different tones and colors depending on the season, time of day and so on.

If you’ve visited my Facebook page you have probably noticed that instead of the traditional spring pastels (there will be those, too) I’ve posted a lot in black and white lately. B&W is actually my first love in photography. I fell for the timelessness it has. Even though nowadays I mostly do color photography and love it, from time to time I get a hunger for monochrome and its story-telling beauty. I sometimes get asked whether I also shoot in B&W. The answer is no, I shoot everything in color and then convert to B&W. This is how most photographers work in this digital age.

There are many opinions (some quite extreme) out there regarding B&W photography. Some (not me) argue that it is the only true form of photography due to its long tradition. Others feel it’s gloomy and sad. Without going into this lengthy discussion I’ll tell you why B&W is close to my heart. Since it is an interpretation of the world as we see it, there’s more room for creative choices and for the mind to process. Sometimes a picture in color can feel distracting, like there’s too much going on – especially if the colors don’t match. Once converted to grayscale, it suddenly becomes alive. It’s like the way that excluding one human sense fortifies the others. After removing color you can see the forms, textures and expressions that escaped your attention in the color image.

But as you might have guessed, converting to black and white is not a quick fix for any kind of photo that just seems to be lacking in something. Only some types of images work well in monochrome, and knowing which are the ones is the thing. Go and explore – you might end up loving it!

If you’re interested in fine-tuning your B&W photography, there’s one book I can recommend: Michael Freeman’s The Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography.