Been There Done That

The Earth is Art, The Photographer is only a Witness. –  Yann Arthus-Bertrand

There is a special excitement visiting a place for the first time. The anticipation of what you might see and the joy of creating a new image is certainly exhilarating, but having the opportunity to return over and over to a favourite destination can be just as memorable.

In the center of Saint John near the industrial and shopping district is this jewel known as Silver Falls. Hidden in a valley is a twisting waterway that has several small falls but the main attraction is a wider  horsetail falls at the upper end and a tiered cascading falls at the bottom.
The falls are beautiful in any season but a bit more challenging in winter due to the steepness of the hills down to water. Each season creates a unique view. Changes throughout the year precipitation and temperature mean that you may see anything from a gushing veil to a cascading trickle.
Each visit allows me to bring home images, from different perspectives and new angles. Changes in the water flow, the color of the surrounding greenery and wet or dry rocks makes each time unique.

Once in a lifetime trips are something that every photographer hopes for but don’t overlook what’s in your own backyard and one visit is never enough.  Been there done that, doesn’t apply to photography.

Reviving the Monoscape

We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium. – Ansel Adams

I discovered something, not only about my photography, but I think photography in general. I have unintentionally abandoned shooting images in black and white. I have a black and white mode on my camera and I had one on my previous DSLR, but I don’t recall ever using it.  I don’t remember the last time I used any of my Cokin colored filters. It was likely when I used black and white film. In reading the 5 most recent magazines on my desk I noticed that black and white images are become rare.

A monochrome image seemed so appropriate for this lonely tree next to a rural highway in Nova Scotia.

Prior to shooting digital, Ilford HP5 and FP4 rolls of film were easier to find in my refrigerator than ketchup. On occasion a roll of XP2 or SFX could be found in the butter compartment as well. Before converting to digital I also shot a few images with the now discontinued Agfa Scala-200 slide film, which was magnificent. In general, if you wanted to create a monochromatic image 15 years ago you had to plan before releasing the shutter (I have made B&W prints from color film but it’s not the same).

One of my most recent images that I decided to convert to B&W after shooting. I think it suits the mood better than a color image would

Digital has so many advantages over film, but at the same time I feel as a photographer it has made me more dependent on my PC than my camera. Part of the photographic process is planning, imagination and creativity. Deciding to take a photograph in black and white instead of color was a decision I had to make prior to hitting the button. Now it’s so easy to make a black and white image after the fact and I generally don’t think about it before I take the photograph.

My first experience with Agfa Scala B&W slide film was ironically at The Silver Falls in Saint John, New Brunswick.

As a nature photographer, waterfalls, trees and macro subject are perfect for black and white images.  I find this especially true when the scene is naturally monochromatic already. Flowing water or a solitary tree are subjects that I have traditionally sought out for making the centerpiece of an image.

One of my favorite monochrome images. The tide coming in on The Bay Of Fundy.

I’ve decided that before the month is over I’m bringing my Cokin filters back out and I’m going to rediscover the black and white mode on my camera. Years ago, there was a certain amount of anticipation in taking a roll or black and white film and waiting for it to return from the lab.  In some ways, I miss that. I also think that as photographers we all go through periods of creative droughts for one reason or another.  Isn’t ironic that in the era of digital and unlimited software choices, that something as old as photography itself might be the way to revive our creativity.  And it’s right in front of us in black and white.