This week’s challenge was to shoot a landscape in black and white. I enjoy shooting in black and white. The challenge is to have good contrasts, textures. What is pretty in colour, in black and white might be bland and flat. I expressed frustration this week that my knowledge is still lacking – especially when it comes to the technical things, like f-stops and figuring out the best settings from a shutter speed and ISO standpoint. Lately, every picture I take has been a frantic attempt to get it straight in my head. I take each shot five or six times, with different combinations of settings, in the fervent hope that one of them might actually be right. Sometimes, it works. Mostly it doesn’t.
Time to take a look:
F-Stops: the lower the number, the more light; the higher the number, the more detail/depth.
Shutter Speed: works in seconds, so 1/30 would have the shutter open for one 30th of a second, allowing a great deal of light into the shot. Anything slower than this pretty much requires a tripod because it’s difficult to hold perfectly still that long. Anything moving will be blurry. Round about 1/125 is a good setting for a bright day depending on your other settings; faster than that and you start being able to capture fast moving objects like flying birds or runners. But that doesn’t allow much light in so you need to compensate for that in other settings.
ISO: when we were using film, ISO was determined by the film you bought. You bought 100 for bright days; 400 for grey or indoors. A 100 film was less sensitive to light and you didn’t get the graininess that you did with 400. Your ISO setting on a digital camera is exactly the same thing – it determines how sensitive your camera is to light – 100 is for bright light and a crisp shot usually outside; 400 is for darker conditions, like grey days or indoor shots. You are letting enough light in with this to set a fast shutter speed to capture moving subjects.
So, since your other settings in a film camera would have had to have been influenced by the type of film you had bought, which ISO, it makes sense to start with that. I wish I could take credit, but something my husband said one night got me thinking. He suggested that I start every shot with an ISO of 100 and go from there, increasing ISO to allow more light if I needed to.Why would that be? Duh. Because the type of film you use is the foundation of the shot. F-Stop and Shutter Speed fine tune it and in the day of digital photography, it is much easier as you have the immediacy of being able to look at the shot on your camera to see if it worked.
With black and white photography, you really need to understand how your camera settings influence light and contrast. It is an art of its own and not one everyone takes to. I really enjoy it (although a part of me wants to see the same picture in colour!). This week’s shot was taken before I had my revelatory conversation. I want to take the same shot again using what I learned, but I like it: taken as we walked toward the pasture on the other side of the property.
I used ISO 250, F-Stop 5.7, and Shutter Speed of 1.32
The best advice I got this week was to stop worrying about the technical and remember to enjoy myself. I started this challenge because I wanted to learn. In the learning, however, I forgot why I wanted to learn.