How to Improve Your Black and White Photography

On June 14, 2017 I attended a Photography Meetup with the Montgomery County Photographers Meetup Group. The meetup was hosted and organized by Lester Picker.

Picker started off the evening talking about why even bothering with black and white photography. He mentioned the historical case for it — it started a long time ago. However, it wasn’t really until the Civil War photographer Matthew Brady that it took off and became popular. Then, he mentioned several pioneers in black and white photography. Those pioneers included Edward Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, and Ansel Adams.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams

Picker then mentioned some of the modern masters of black and white photography. Those include Sebastio Salgado, Nick Brandt, and Patrick Demarchelier.

Picker also talked about color as a distraction, abstraction in black and white images, how black and white photography reveals the soul, and how black and white images are evocative.

Finally, he gave some tips:

  • Immerse yourself (read, go to exhibits)
  • Practice shooting in black and white
  • Practice looking at the light
  • Go way too far; have fun
  • Make “Test Prints”

 

Glen Echo Park – Atop

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Yesterday I went to Glen Echo Park with a photography meetup group that I belong to. Glen Echo Park, located not far from Washington, DC, in Glen Echo, MD, was first developed in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly, “to promote liberal and practical education.” The Chautauqua lasted for just one season, and by the early 1900s, the site had become Glen Echo Amusement Park — the premier amusement park serving the Washington area until 1968 when it closed. These days the site hosts arts programs, but many of the art deco amusement park structures are still in place.

While I was exploring the grounds I found a spot where I could walk up a ramp to a roof and take a picture.

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Cherry Blossom Time in DC

Photographers, charge your batteries, clear your memory cards, and get out your tripods! The cherry blossoms are nearing peak bloom along the tidal basin in Washington, D.C. and I know you’re just itching to get that perfect shot, just like I am.

The National Park Service has announced the peak bloom date and has projected peak bloom, when 70 percent of Yoshino cherry blossoms are open to be March 19-22, 2017. 

This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival will be held March 15 through April 16, 2017. With amazing bursts of pink and white the cherry blossom trees create a dazzling array of color.

Over the next few weeks, more than a million visitors will flock to the nation’s capital to see the city’s famous cherry blossoms and take photos of them. With the tidal basin being so crowded, how does one get that perfect shot without several dozen people in the frame?

Here are some of the lessons I learned from going last year:

  1. Get to the tidal basin early, at dawn, or late, near sunset, to avoid the crowds and get the best light. This cannot be stressed enough.
  2. Go on a weekday. Weekdays are your best bet, as the Tidal Basin is swarming with people on the weekends. This also cannot be stressed enough.
  3. Bring a tripod. Photographing at dawn or sunset makes for beautiful light, but requires slower shutter speeds.To reduce camera shake and allow for longer exposures, be sure to bring a tripod or a monopod.
  4. Go beyond the basin. If you want to avoid the crowds, there are plenty of cherry blossoms at the National Arboretum and the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. You can even go to the National Cathedral. Additionally, visiting the cherry trees in the Bethesda neighborhood of Kenwood is another alternative to the crowds on the tidal basin.

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August is Fair Time

August may mean still sweltering temperatures and the approach of the end of summer, but it also means time for the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. A multitude of food vendors, lots of carnival rides, animals, home arts, arts and crafts exhibits, and assorted livestock shows make this event one of the outstanding affairs of August. The fair runs now through August 20th.

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McKee-Beshers Sunflower Fields – That Time of Year Again

A few years ago I heard about these sunflower fields that grow in the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, MD. The state plants the fields primarily to lure doves – which come after the flowers are mowed down – for hunting season in September. For the few weeks each year the fields are in bloom, it attracts photographers like me, artists, hikers, and birders.

Last week I made several visits out to the sunflower fields with two different photography http://www.meetup.com groups that I belong to. In previous years I have just gone by myself and I have gone late in the morning (10 a.m., but at least it wasn’t high noon, which as any photographer knows, harsh sunlight is a no-no). It was a very interesting experience to meetup with my fellow photographers and talk with them about their shooting styles and methods, and what equipment they use.

Here are some tips and tricks from my visits to these fields, as well as the pointers I learned from talking to the other photographers:

  1. Be sure to take bug spray, as there are bees and other bugs in those fields that you will be swatting at.
  2.  Take a step ladder with you. This is so you can get the wide sweeping views of the fields. This was my first year of bringing along a ladder (I kept forgetting to take it along the last few years I’ve been), so I was able to get the sweeping views of the fields I had heard so much about. I not only got the wide sweeping views of the fields, but interesting perspectives of the flowers as well. IMG_6488
  3. As I mentioned earlier people mainly go there to photograph the sunflowers, but the flowers are not the only subjects you can take pictures of. For instance, in a past year I have gotten a macro shot of bee on a flower. This year, a member of one of the meetup groups wanted to take pictures of birds, such as goldfinches, so she was using an app on her smartphone to attract the birds. Further, I saw another person taking pictures of a spider web. Additionally, while there one day, I had the opportunity to take a picture of a dog.IMG_6477
  4. Lastly, I did a little Facebook Live (I had been wanting to do one for a while,  as I love technology and trying new things, so I figured this was a great time to try my hand at doing one). Anyway, I interviewed one my fellow meetup members and his advice was to practice, practice, and practice. Just keep going out there and shooting. Find what you like and hone in on that and keep trying new things. In terms of macro photography, the key is to make sure everything is in sharp focus.

 

Habitat for Humanity Home Dedication

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Last weekend, I had the chance to photograph two home dedications for Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland, a nonprofit that builds simple, decent, energy efficient, and affordable housing for those living in substandard conditions in our community. I’ve volunteered for Habitat for Humanity before in many capacities, including photographing their ReStore products, so to be able to photograph these home dedications was a privilege.

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2015 Year in Review

Well, 2015 has been quite a year! I have been more active on this blog, which I will continue to use in the new year.

So, without further ado, here is my 2015 year in review.

January: Gettysburg

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February: Deer in woods

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March: Drip from Recycling Bin

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April: HMX-1 Helicopter

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May: WWII Flyover

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July: WWII Memorial at night

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August: Montgomery County Fair

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September: The National Zoo — Bao Bao

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October: Harper’s Ferry

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November: Eggnog Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

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December: Loch Ness Monster at Brookside Gardens

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