Masters of Black and White – Extreme Contrast

Many of the B&W prints of the “Masters”

Are characterized by extreme ranges of B&W tones

Often mostly the Zone System’s bottom & top three zones

& minimal amounts of mid-tones (zones IV – VI)

In general, these extremes don’t occur naturally (rarely)

The extremes are created by dodging/burning

To match the maker’s visualization of the subject


D300_100203_074441__DSC5936_orig nx2 dl b-w-CP sep2+curves cep4detextr

Fresh Snow
2 minutes from my front door (2010; no snow this year – yet)
1     2     3
Click for full screen

12-19-2012 5-49-53 PM#1 – By John Sexton (I love this image).

This image is totally dominated by blacks and whites

Less than 5% of it is made up of mid-tones (IV, V, VI)

Looks like an engraving

#2 – My poor snow-covered pine imitation (as captured)

This shows typical tonal ranges; nothing like #1

I’d bet the tones in captured version of #1 were similar

#3 – #2 after the digital equivalent of dodging & burning

Still doesn’t come close to the impact of #1

(That’s why Sexton is a master & I’m not 😉 )


I was planning to do more on this today.

Dealing with an auto dealer interfered

Yesterday I was in a dentist’s chair for 45 minutes

Almost all of it with something or other grinding away in my mouth

Of the two days, I preferred the dentist

Honestly. I’m not kidding.


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0 thoughts on “Masters of Black and White – Extreme Contrast”

  1. Composition is 1/4 of the equation. The other parts are Craftsmanship (technique as you called it is part of this), Creativity and Communication (does it sing to me). A good image requires all four – see the subtitle at the top of my blog. And, yes, it all

      starts with a vision

    or it goes nowhere.

    Good luck on your learning journey and plan to spend lots of time behind your camera. Reading alone won’t get you very far without lots of practice, practice, practice….

    While reading – here’s one of the best on photographic composition. Eventually, if you’re really serious, you will spend more time looking at paintings of the masters than you do photos by duChemin (whom you mentioned on your 1st post) and others like him (not that he’s bad).

    Happy holidays.

  2. Interesting post, perhaps you’d like my blog, I am working on learning more about composition, rather than technique. The intent or vision behind an image. Saxton was a great photographer, and his work certainly speaks all on it’s own. But not without his vision, or intent, directly behind it, I’m sure.

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