The value of contrast

I shot this image yesterday, and posted it here in response to a terrific photo I saw at the exhibit last night called Kiva (shown at right), by photographer Morley Baer.

Note: "Kiva, San Ildefonso, 1972"
Photograph by Morley Baer.
©2012 by the Morley Baer Photography Trust, Santa Fe.
All reproduction rights reserved. Used by permission.

Though you can see how some of the shapes are similar, you can also see what a comparatively huge role light plays in Baer's photo.  He was an avid student of Ansel Adams, the master of light, and that is surely apparent in this photograph.

But the other thing you can see in both photographs is the importance of darkness and shadow: you can't really get the full effect of the light without the balance provided by the darkness and shadow (and isn't THAT a life statement).

And -- just so you know -- a lot of the work of providing that contrast has always happened in the darkroom; it's not just about how we see the original piece; there's also something in how we present it.  It was true in the physical darkrooms of Ansel Adams' day, and it's true now in the digital darkroom -- and just to show how that works (since I was greatly inspired by Baer's photo), I'll share with you the stages of my image:

Original color photo

Black and white conversion

First draft with highlights

... and of course the final is the one you see at the top of the page. They're none of them bad pictures, really -- it's just that the one at the top has more... oomph. So the next time your life is feeling a little gray or dull, just beware: if you want some more life and vitality, light alone won't solve the problem: you're probably going to have to put up with some dark as well!


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