Ansel Adams, and my love for black & white photography

As someone who loves colour and has a hard time resisting anything that involves a rainbow of bright, rich colours, I feel like I should dislike black and white photography. But, I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated by it and other monochromatic arts. That said, I feel like it’s really easy to do a bad job of it, so I’ve always been hesitant to try it myself. Some b&w photography is incredible and makes me want to drink in every pixel of the picture, but some of it just feels like a regular, boring photograph that was made b&w in hopes of making it more interesting. I often feel like my attempts fall into the latter to group, probably because a lot of them were colour converted to b&w (though, some were done on b&w film). But, I’d really like explore it more.

Thinking about b&w photography reminded me of my old love for Ansel Adams. I can’t remember when I first discovered his work (I think it was a random discovery at Mount Allison University, but dad might have introduced me to his work), but I do remember that Mount Allison University Library had an amazing (to me) photography section in one of the back corners of the basement level and there were a couple of books with Adams’ work. I think I loved his work from the start. There was something about the mix of rustic looking pictures and pictures with the most incredibly crisp lines that made me want to see more and more and more.

A couple weeks ago, I discovered an Adams book in Audrey’s Bookstore. I almost bought right then and there, as I had a gift certificate burning a hole in my wallet, but I resisted, thinking that my newly rekindled love for his work would wax and wane like so many other flirtations. But, the other week, I broke down and bought the book. And, I don’t regret it at all. That lunch I spent almost an hour barely able to move from picture to picture because I just wanted to devour every square inch. When I finished going through the book, I promptly started from the beginning again, this time reading all the text, as well. I’m not even a quarter of the way through the book, and already I’ve got half a dozen images book marked because they inspired me with ideas for stitched or painted art.

The book, in case you’re wondering, is Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs. It includes work from when he was just a teenager. It’s quite wonderful being able to see works from the start and not just see all the best of the best. Some of the pictures are what I would call “not very good” – though I recognize the beauty of the scenery and the value of the work, they simply aren’t to my taste.

One of the nice things about seeing such a large variety of his work is being able to see a large variety of b&w photography. I was surprised when I looked at one of his earlier pictures and found myself trying to figure out the colours – there was something about the way the picture was taken that made me more interested in what it would look like in colour. And, that made me realize that I normally don’t care. So, yes, I love colour, but with some b&w photography, I’m too interested in the lines and textures to even care about colour. It’s an odd thing, when I think about it, but it doesn’t seem odd in the slightest when I’m admiring good photographs.

I think that I need to pull out one of my film cameras and some of my b&w film. As spring approaches, I’m getting the itch to spend more and more time outside with a camera, so why not try some b&w photography?!

You can see some of his incredible work on the Ansel Adams Gallery website.

Big snow and a weird photo filter

… for Edmonton. The snow that is. It was a big snow for Edmonton, which usually doesn’t get much more then a few centimetres at a time.

Last Thursday we got as much (more?) snow in one day as we usually get in all of March. That’s Spring for ya. Shows up, and tosses us some winter weather. Spring can be a real bastard.

Surprisingly, we weren’t sent home early. Random managers started telling people who lived far away to leave (especially after highways and major roads started being shut down), and my team was eventually told to go, but for me, it’s actually better to wait for most people to be gone as it means fewer cars to try and run me over. By the time I left, I knew I was in for a hell of a walk – lots of crappy snow on slick ice. Fun! So, why not just make it worth my while and hike down through the river valley trail.

O.M.G! It was so slippery. Even with my ice grippers on, I nearly wiped out every few metres. I was so relieved to get to the part that was flat (where wiping out means landing on your butt, but without the risk of then sliding on your butt several meters down a slick slope). Even on flat trail, I still struggled with slipping. And, deep snow. Holy smokes, I’d forgotten how hard it is to fight through deep snow (a clear indication that we rarely get more than a few centimetres at a time). By the time I got to the stairs, which I can usually manage with only one rest (I can do about 60 stairs at a time), I barely had enough strength to make it up 20 or 30 stairs at a time. I was so tired by the time I got to the top that I nearly wailed in despair when I saw/remembered that there are 7 more steps to go up after you reach the top platform. Once safely at the top, I resolved to go straight to Planet Organic and buy a meal that would require nothing more complicated than 30 seconds in the microwave, because I was done for the day. Spent. Exhausted.

…despite that, it was a really great walk. It was so quiet on the trail, I saw a number of berautiful dogs taking their owners for walks, and I stopped to enjoy the birds at the bird feeder. I do not regret taking the slippery trail, but next time I might head for the stairs so that I can avoid slipping down hill. Also, I took pictures with a really odd filter (Reto Camera app, Hipsteroku filter option – it turned everything weirdly pink and I don’t think that I be using it very often, if at all).

Snow, as far as the eye can see:

Quiet, snowy trail:

There are birds in this picture, honest! Actually, I did take a video, so you could hear their lovely chatter and the lack of traffic noise, but I forgot that I have to hold my cell a certain way because with video, there is only one way up :/
Hidden birds

The snow was mostly mid-calf, with areas of nearly knee deep and these few rare bits of shallow snow:
Covered in snow

Random things in downtown Edmonton

Last week we got a lot of snow and I had to walk around in it. On Wednesday, I walked over to a building on the far reaches of the edge of downtown (my employer owns/rents buildings all over the place, so I get to explore different parts of the downtown regularly). It was a relatively short walk and I wasn’t sauntering as I was on work time, but here’s a few random things I saw on the way to and from (all taken with the Retro Camera app, using The Barbl filter).

Creepy eye wall. This is only a small section of it. Some of the pictures creep me out everytime I see this wall.

Creepy wall of eyes

Churchill. He seems to be in every major city I’ve ever lived in (all two of them) and always near the library.


Yarn bombed tree. I bet this was really pretty before be subjected to the dirty, greasy downtown air.

Yarn bombed tree

Playing with black & white

I have a new(-ish) app on my phone: Retro Camera. It’s one of those hipster apps that takes pictures and adds filters to look like the pictures were taken with retro cameras. I have to admit that I absolutely love these kinds of apps. I love playing with the different styles/filters and I love the element of surprise (especially with the better apps that put in the effort to make every picture a wee bit different – which seems to be very rare). So far, I have been loving using this app (except for the unfortunately small viewing screen … on the other hand, it just means that there’s even more of an element of surprise as you’re never really sure you got what you planned to shoot).

I used the pinhole setting for last weeks Flick Friday challenge. I used the FudgeCan option this week, while heading home from work and out looking for a few pictures for this weeks Flick Friday challenge (this week the theme was #OutOfReach). I decided to take advantage of the fresh, bright white snow, the bright sun, and the black & white option. I’ve always meant to play with black & white, but just keep not getting around to it. I could post-process pictures into black & white, but it’s a bit more complicated than just making a picture grayscale (plus, I keep starting to learn Gimp, but getting bored and/or overwhelmed pretty quickly). So, I just set put with the intention of finding some interesting patterns and contrasts. My random pictures were far more interesting than the one I took for Flick Friday (it was the one that I shouldn’t have done in black & white). Here are some of my favourites. The rest can be found in my Black & white set or my Retro Camera set on Flickr.



Shadows on the rail

Shadows in the snow


Flickr Friday: Walk 50 steps and shoot

I’m just not engaged in my attempt to do a photo a week. I think that part of the problem is that I didn’t make enough of an effort to think of some picture ideas before I started and I’ve been really busy, so I would forget to take pictures of things throughout the week. I defaulted to frantically taking pictures on the way home from work or randomly taking picture of anything I could think of when I happened to remember the project. It ended up being more stressful than fun and not the kind of challenge I was looking for, so I stopped after just 7 weeks (though, I did take pictures every week, so I could claim that I was still doing it).  I still wanted to do something, but I think that I prefer either going all out and doing a photo a day (like I did in November) or having a challenging aspect to it, like having to do a theme picked by someone else. Fortunately, I stumbled on Flickr Friday. They give you a theme each week, and you get a few days (the weekend, really) to take a picture and submit it to the group. There’s no pressure to do it every week and no guarantee that you’re picture will be accepted, but it gives me something to work on. I may not do it every week, or I may do it but not submit anything. It’ll just be something fun to do.

The March 8th, 2013 theme was: Walk 50 Steps And Shoot. I took this as literally taking a picture after walking 50 steps, though I suppose it could be a dual as well :) I did a bit of a walk along the River Valley, as I did a few errands and until my cell phone battery died. I started 50 steps into the start of Victoria Promenade and I used a new (to me) app, Retro Camera, with the pinhole option. I wandered down a set of stairs, accidentally pissed off some squirrels, hit 50 steps in or near the middle of a street a couple times, got in trouble with a grocery store employee, found out my cell phone doesn’t like to focus in the dark, and had countless pictures that could have been better if I’d been able to take a few steps to frame the subject better. You can see the full set here, or just enjoy these few random ones.

1: Curved

8: Flutter-copters

14: Guard rail

21: Half red

22: Old, dead grass

37: Lights 2

46: Broccoli

56: Easter glitter globes

62: Branches by street light

Day 30: In motion … or not

I’m doing a photo challenge for the month of November, despite it being from August 2011, I’ve decided to use this list for my daily prompts.

Today’s prompt is “in motion” which I found a bit coincidental as today is the last day I will have a bus pass. After this, I walk (or use bus tickets, if I have to go somewhere far away). I walk nearly 30km per week, just getting to and from work. So, I may not be using the bus any more, but I’m definitely in motion.

End of an era? Ok, maybe not, but this is my last bus pass. After this it's walking all the time. Go me! #photochallenge

Day 29: Purchased

I’m doing a photo challenge for the month of November, despite it being from August 2011, I’ve decided to use this list for my daily prompts.

I bought tea today and I was going to take pictures of the lovely bits of leaves and flowers in my delicious loose leaf tea, but then I found this in my mail box. I love this fabric (Echo by Lotta Jansdotter). I do not love her more recent collections. They’re no where near as bold.

Bought these recently. Don't need them, but they are some of my all time #favorite #fabrics. I'm sad that I don't live the designer's more recent collections any where near as much as I live these. #photochallenge

Day 28: Daily Routine

I’m doing a photo challenge for the month of November, despite it being from August 2011, I’ve decided to use this list for my daily prompts.

Today’s theme is daily routine. I nearly forgot, but snapped this shoot from while I was working on making super and packing stuff for tomorrow’s lunch. Oh, the excitement. In the picture I have hummus, nuts, tea, and my re-usable veggie bags.

Working on getting lunch for tomorrow and supper for tonight ready. Just part of my riveting daily routine :P #photochallenge

We finally got a new kettle at work, which means that we can go back to our normal tea routine. Hooray!

We finally have a new kettle at work!!

Day 27: After dark

I’m doing a photo challenge for the month of November, despite it being from August 2011, I’ve decided to use this list for my daily prompts.

It gets dark before I arrive home each day, at this time of year. And, it’s dark while I head to work. Sigh.

Anyway, the moon was out and bright as can be, so I grabbed a quick shot for today’s picture.

La #lune / the #moon. #photochallenge

And, I can’t think of the lack of daylight with out thinking of how much my plants appreciate the full spectrum light I provide for them.

Keeping my #plants alive one full spectrum lightbulb at a time.

Day 26: Something old

I’m doing a photo challenge for the month of November, despite it being from August 2011, I’ve decided to use this list for my daily prompts.

22 years doesn’t really count as old, at least not to someone who grew up in a city where houses where built before her grandpa was born. But, I pulled out my Christmas ornaments to try and foster a little holiday spirit (and remind myself that I have to figure out where to put the tree), and I had to check on some of my favourite ornaments. This Christmas train may be the oldest I have. I’m not really sure, but I know it’s from 1980, so I was just 4 years old when it was given to me.

Does 1980 count as old yet? #Xmas #ornament given to me when I was but a wee thing #photochallenge

And, this lovely embroidered cat was from 1984. The colours are a bit faded and she’d getting a bit dirty, but I love her. She is quite possibly my favourite ornaments, which is impressive considering how much I love all the ornaments I have.

One of my favorite #Xmas #ornaments. #embroidery #cat