B & W Landscapes?

I was speaking to a photographer a while back, and I have forgotten who, but what he said has always resonated at the back of my mind- “I don’t get Black and White landscape photography”.

Maybe its because he sees the world in colour? I mentioned the greats such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The argument followed that they only had B&W film at the time.

1.     Pig route

However on Googling the question Ansel Adams did shoot in colour. In fact over 3500 shots, but this represented a very small proportion of his work. He mainly used colour for his commercial work to bring in some income to support his family and his creativity.

However he found the colour medium frustrating as he had no control over the final print. It was definitely hit and miss those days. Even today if you get a digital print made the colours are never consistent if redone at a later date. Imagine what he could have done with a digital camera and photoshop at his disposal? And naturally he would have very exacting colour calibration tools as well!

B&W is the medium in which I started photography in the late 1960s. I had my uncles enlarger and printed in mums laundry with the windows blocked out with black plastic. I learnt to see the world in B&W. When I went to work in Hong Kong in the early 80s, only colour film was available. I had to learn to see the world in colour. To get control back in producing a print worthy of exhibition I taught myself colour printing . Those days it took over an hour and lots of test prints to produce one acceptable result!. B&W didn’t even feature much in my work apart from reproducing old work done in NZ. I was concentrating producing work without the usual colour imagery clich├ęs

Now when I do B&W it is after the fact rather than originally intentional. When the image has lots of contrast, emotion, texture, B&W can really emphasize the feeling the photographer wants to achieve.

Today, though, their is a pining for things retro.

Vinyl is back in truckloads. Film is back , why? That could be a topic for a blog another day. Over ear head phones are popular now as opposed to earbuds. Movie theatres are back, but alas no video stores. And of course B&W is back. One of my friends sent me some images taken with his Leica monochrome. Leica make a couple of cameras which only take pictures in B&W and normally retail north of $10,000 ! The blacks were gorgeous, and it had more shades of grey than the book – that made me blush ! Pentax have also brought out an SLR that only does B& W I was tempted for a few seconds….In home theatre the best projectors boast of the deepest blacks. Better whiskies have a black label. Black cars in movies have a sinister or aristocratic value. Black tie means formal and important. I love black jellybeans. Get the picture, Black is Back…….

Here are my interpretations of NZ landscapes in B&W taken on my South Island road trip 2022.


2.      Glenorchy
3.     Glenorchy


4.     Glenorchy
5.     Glenorchy
6.     Pig route
7.     Pig route
8.     Rangitata

4 replies on “B & W Landscapes?”

What a fantastic set of BW images.
Cinematic, foreboding landscapes – truly a land of unease.
Reminds me of the wonderful BW film Nebraska by Alexander Payne (Sideways, the Descendants).
BW has made return to cinema with several blockbusters in recent years getting black and white versions derived from the original colour releases with varying success; Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Logan, Mad Max Fury Road, Parasite – not seen. It’s like the 80s/90s fad of colorizing BW films in reverse.
For some real BW cinema checkout Nebraska, Roma, Raging BUll, Clerks, Ed Wood !

lovely images Chris I can see why black n white has its place in landscape photography it can enhance the features more dramatically and turn an otherwise dull flat scene into something credible with more punch but you still cant beat a well light colourful scene.

Thanks Brent.
Yes I agree with you. But the challenge with colour is to get that point of difference rather than that pictorial image look you see in tourist books all postcards and calenders.

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