So with that in mind, I never expected that some of my favorite photos I've taken to be black and white. Not, that is, until a recent picture taking excursion on a recent Friday the 13th (insert creepy music here).
One of my other favorite hobbies, besides photography and hiking, is Scottish Country dancing. Whenever I have the opportunity, I like to leave work early on Friday (who wouldn't?), drive up to Vancouver, Washington, and drive out with some friends to a class taught deep in the Columbia River Gorge. To kill time in between getting to Vancouver and meeting up with the carpool, I entertain myself by taking pictures on the I-5 bridge that crosses the Columbia River. This particular Friday the 13th, there were some terrific clouds looming on the horizon. I didn't realize it at the time, but they were going to provide a perfect atmosphere for some black and white photos.
There's a rather narrow pedestrian walkway on each side of the bridge, and by narrow I mean just wide enough for a bicycle to get by if the pedestrian isn't very big and really hugs the railing. There was a man walking behind me heading back toward the Oregon side of the river and I let him pass me as I took pictures of the boats skimming across the surface of the river. As I turned back to continue on my way, the man had reached the highest point of the bridge and was about to began the gradual descent on his way to the other side. On a whim, I got my camera out and snapped a few quick shots of him as he was framed against the sky. I was apparently also blocking a cyclist because as I came out of my murky thoughts concerning aperture and shutter speeds, I heard an "excuse me" over the roar of the traffic and realized I was standing right in front of a man who was trying to ride his bike across the bridge. I snapped his picture too as he rode on, but it didn't turn out as well as the others.
When I got home, I was mildly pleased with the color version of the photo. But it was a week or so later when it was converted to black and white that it really came into its own.
After that, I was more conscious of what would make a good black and white photo. A few weeks ago, I was at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge outside of Olympia, Washington. It was a Dutch sky kind of day with more clouds than wildlife but that was fine. Clouds are much easier to get pictures of than birds any day. At one point on the trail, there were two barns side by side. Those coupled with the clouds made for some interesting subjects to experiment with (I feel like Dr. Frankenstein or Igor putting the words "experiment" and "subject" in the same sentence). In color, the pictures were either over or underexposed because of the rather harsh light I was shooting into, but in black and white, the direct light was softened and served to add interest to the old buildings and their surroundings.
Once I realized what fun there was to be had with black and white photos, I went through pictures taken in the past and converted a number of them to black and white. Not all of them make the conversion successfully, they're rather like people who are natural brunettes and try to go blonde or vice versa. But there are quite a few that can wear both color and the lack of it equally as well. I was surprised that several sunset shots fit in that category. Typically a sunset is special because of its color, but these that I converted to black and white seem to wear the monochrome mantel quite well. As much as I hate to end this post with a terrible pun, I just can't help myself. After my black and white discovery, I guess Friday the 13th really is my lucky day.