TALKING IMAGES 11 – JOHN LOENGARD ON NOT LIGHTING IT ALL

 

Some black and white images (B+W) are not to my taste because I find them rather insipid.  OK, they are B+W images of something, but that something has been faithfully reproduced in B+W without any attempt at further creativity.  In particular, care has been taken not to have any pure whites or pure blacks, presumably because areas of these pure tone do not contain any details – they are featureless and thus, to some, unthinkable, a photographic heresy.  I’ve already mentioned this issue, here.

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Perhaps you know my mantra – we are all different, all individuals, and in our visual preferences we are no exception.  Hence, I can only talk about my visual preferences – while making absolutely no claim that they are, or should be, universally held.

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My taste is for greater adventure and creativity when using B+W, and this trait seems only to be increasing.  I’m writing this post to mention two things that have recently reinforced my feelings about this.

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John Loengard (photo credit: blog.joemcnally.com)

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First, Amateur Photographer magazine (24 Jan 2015), my great photographic standby, came up with a quote from John Loengard, a former picture editor of Life magazine:

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“If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.”.

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There it is, don’t light all of it, let’s have some darkness in the shot, some mystery.  Now, I never think about mystery in shots, or shots telling stories either for that matter, I just try to create photographs that I like the look of, and if they’ve got some darkness, well that’s how I want them to look.  But I know that others think differently, and this was mentioned  recently when I posted this shadowy scene from the Somerset Levels:

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Tadham Moor sunrise
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The picture proved popular and comments included the following from Philip Vergeylen, a blogger I’ve been following for years :

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“… I love the dark areas that leave a lot to the imagination of the viewer.”

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I’m grateful to Philip for his appreciation of this image, and especially interested by his thoughts on the “dark areas”.  As I say, this is not how I think, I think the dark areas just look good compositionally, but I do understand that many do see things as Philip does and so, getting back to John Loengard,

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“If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.”.

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Here are some other images that incorporate darkness – and the image that I posted earlier this morning, the post preceding this one, contains another example:

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Sunrise and Glastonbury Tor 3
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34920002X
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IMG_2989
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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

13 Responses to TALKING IMAGES 11 – JOHN LOENGARD ON NOT LIGHTING IT ALL

  1. bluebrightly says:

    Great to think about, and so well demonstrated here.

    Like

  2. Mathias LK says:

    Well said. The last close-up portrait really nails it; profound darkness.

    Like

  3. dave says:

    Adrian, I started a short series in which I am going to attempt some of the techniques that you use – greater contrast, deeper shadows/blacks – on some of my photographs. Hope you don’t mind that I titled the series “After Adrian” since you are sort of the inspiration. 🙂 I put a link on it to your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dave says:

    In the days of darkrooms, shooting was great fun but I was always on pins and needles until the film dried. I couldn’t wait to put the negative into the enlarger so I could begin manipulating it.

    I had not read Loengard’s quote, but it is reflective of a large body of his work & I am intrigued not only by his words but also by the way his images are informed by his fascination with the shadow regions.

    I also really liked what you said about all of us being different in our visual preferences. And isn’t it rather surprising, and gratifying (not sure if that is the correct word) that artists can appreciate the work of others even though they may express themselves differently in their art? For example, my work is pretty conservative while yours is dramatic and bold. Even so, we both enjoy visiting each other to see what’s new.

    I think what I like best about you is your passion for creativity that fuels your images. That boldness of yours challenges my own preferences, and that is a good thing. It makes me a better artist, makes me willing to try something new, gets me out of the ruts.

    Your sunset (above) and Somerset Levels 206 (recently posted) are two of your bolder images that have really struck chords within me.

    I enjoyed Athyfoto’s comment above so much that I am headed there next, to look for more challenges.

    Best wishes, Adrian. Push the envelope!

    Like

  5. Nelson says:

    I find that sometime he is right, just a little light will do best but on other subject, enough light will make a whole difference

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Oh yes I think this is the thing, Nelson – I’m not suggesting use of this technique for all photos, but rather saying it does work with some photos – and that therefore this technique is something to be kept in mind when considering how to process an image. Thank you for your thoughts. Adrian

      Liked by 1 person

  6. athyfoto says:

    I absolutely agree with the thrust of your post here Adrian, as my three most recent post would bear out, and the very succinct John Loengard quote made me smile.

    If we leave all the decisions to the camera to ensure the darks don’t block up or the highlights don’t blow out then we give up some of our creative input at the shooting stage except for the framing.

    Since we work in such a subjective medium there can be no right or wrong way to make a picture. We all see something different and feel different emotions when looking at the same thing and that is what makes photography such an interesting hobby / pastime / passion / business.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Frank, thank you very much for this comprehensive endorsement! To say that I agree with you is vast understatement – we are certainly travelling along the same road! I especially like and agree with your third paragraph. Adrian

      Like

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