A Study in Black and White

Jan 17, 2009 by Lisa Newton

I love black and white photographs. The contrasts between the colors and the shades of grey draw me into the lair of the subject. As a matter of fact, the winner of the Digital Photography School’s best 2008 photo contest was a black and white picture.

Although shooting in black and white is somewhat new to me, I know my passion for it is matched by the greats—Ansel Adams, Brassei, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, etc. So my visit to the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden located on the UCLA campus, put my black and white shots to the test.

On the right, The Nest, an outdoor classroom with semicircular bench seating, was constructed by the Garden staff and dedicated in1996 to the memory of Hazel (Lisa) Kath McMurran, a UCLA alumna.

Later that year a massive effort was undertaken to build new paths on the western side of The Garden.

The gently sloped paths and entrances provide access to The Nest and special collections to all visitors.

The concept of an outdoor classroom doubling as a rustic and artistic refuge is something we can all relate to. Who doesn’t want to get away from it all in the middle of a busy day, or in the middle of school or work?

The spiraling and effervescent limbs and branches of this tree are both inviting and a bit intimidating; asking its visitors to behold its magnificence while enabling you to seize your day.

Hopefully by Travelin’ Local your appreciation and enjoyment of life’s simple and satisfying offerings will oblige you to keep finding those sanctuaries that you enjoy; whether it be a black and white study in contrasts—or an afternoon get-a-way at U.C.L.A.’s botanical garden—or Travelin’ Local to your local favorite sanctuary.


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12 Responses to “A Study in Black and White”

  1. Lance says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I love the B&W look here – it’s something I like to experiment with when taking pictures, too. My favorite – the last one looking up in to the tree – like a web of branches intertwined…

    If I were to take a picture today…it would be white (as in snowy!)…

    Lance’s last blog post..This Is A Day Of Joy


  2. LisaNewton says:

    I love to see pictures of snow. After living in the Midwest and East Coast for most of my life, I miss the look, but not the cold……………………:)


  3. Evelyn Lim says:

    I love pictures in black and white too. The different shades of grey show up to make a picture. Strip away the color and we can see the intensity of what each part represents. I enjoyed your pictures of the trees and the branches. Great job!!

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..Mouths Are Flapping


  4. Daphne says:

    Hi Lisa,

    I have always liked B&W photos. My favourite of your three photos was of the outdoor classroom. Without colour, I could focus on the light and it was beautiful to see the outline of every pebble and leaf on the ground. I felt very Zen just looking at the photo!

    Daphne’s last blog post..The Illusion of Right vs Wrong, Good vs Bad


  5. Trey Baird says:

    I enjoy black and white pictures too. I also enjoy black and white movies as well. There’s absolutely no other way I would have Night of The Living Dead, Clerks, or The Munsters. Black and white just lends itself to some forms of art in a way that color simply can’t. I think that it taps into the very root of our subconscious, away from the rods and cones of our eyeballs.


  6. LisaNewton says:

    @Evelyn Thank you. You’re so right about the shades of gray; just like life. Nothing is really black and white.

    @Daphne Zen is a great feeling to have.

    @Trey When they started colorizing films, I thought they were taking away part of the film. I totally agree with your black and white assessment.


  7. Hump Day Reading for the Restless Soul says:

    [...] A Study in Black and White at Travelin’ Local [...]

  8. D. Travis North says:

    Wow…glad you pointed me to this post from your latest post (Visiting LA in June via January). B+W photography is by far my favorite and that first shot is probably my favorite shot of yours to date. The textures are great, but the thing that does it for me is the shadows that the tree canopies are casting on the benches and the bright rocks in the top-left. Good contrast, and I”m viewing with my junky monitor at work. Can’t wait to check this out on my corrected monitor at home (contrast will be far better, I”m sure).

    D. Travis North’s last blog post..Photographers are Funny


    LisaNewton Reply:

    @D. Travis North, I hope the photo didn’t disappoint when you got home. I haven’t shot any black and white since that day. I need to do more of that. I really like it.

    Too often I find the colors so great, it’s hard to go to black and white.


    D. Travis North Reply:

    @LisaNewton, B&W is an art all its own. There are certain circumstances where you could shoot in either color or B&W. But most of the time, photos shot in B&W wouldn’t look good as color. Take this shot, for example, from Jim Talkington: Day 170. That wouldn’t have much impact if it were in color.

    On film, B&W was certainly harder – you had to have on-camera filters and what-not to make it look good. Now with digital, you can add the filters as part of post-processing. But you still have to look for good contrasting subjects in order for the final product to look great.

    If nothing else, B&W really trains you to notice contrast in color – something that is very difficult for most. This is, in part, why most early photography courses focus on B&W.

    D. Travis North’s last blog post..SMBC Pokes Fun at Photojournalists


    LisaNewton Reply:

    @D. Travis North, I remember when my daughter was taking photography in high school. She did start with B&W. I’ll definitely have to take another stab at it.

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