Book Review – National Geographic (Digital Black & White)

“We live in a world of abundant color, where the many hues and deep color saturations camouflage our subjects. Is there really any black and white out there?” (pg 14, National Geographic Field Guide to Digital Black & White Photography).

Those are the words of Richard Olsenius the Author of this great book on the art of black and white photography, a question that he answers superbly as you proceed through the pages of the various chapters dealing with techniques, tips, equipment and brilliant profiles of fellow photographers. From the brief history of black and white photography to the concluding chapter “On Black & White” he inspires and guides the reader through the trials, challenges and joys of capturing the world in simple monochrome.

Although he does give tips on using film, the focus is really on using the digital medium through camera of scanner and printing off the end result on the ever popular ink jet printers of our ‘digital darkrooms’.

The most rewarding pages in my opinion were the profiles of fellow National Geographic photographers, as they relate the tales of their dedication to Black and White, despite the mounting pressure to capture in colour the stories they wished to tell.

In the introduction the author really defines the power of this medium – which is likely the root to my love for this style of photography. “With black and white, you can cut to the chase. It allows you greater clarity: the ability to capture a person’s character in his craggy face, to reflect the essence of a place through the play of light on landscape, or to record a timeless moment against a backdrop of action. Black and white distills the message; it helps you see through the camouflage of color to the essence of a thing, a person, or a place. It is timeless.” (pg 6, National Geographic Field Guide to Digital Black & White Photography)

This book has been a pleasure to read and inspirational. I highly recommend it for any beginner or seasoned photographer wishing to further their knowledge in the art of black and white, or who would simply like to have some new ideas.

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