Flash of Red February Week 1

January 29th, 2017
February has arrived and it’s time to think in black and white- photographically speaking that is! To help hone our skills and give us a starting point each week, we’ll be reviewing James Carren’s 12 Secrets to Master the Art of Black and White (available on Amazon.com in several formats if you want to order it). Carren writes, “When you make the conscious choice to make something black and white in the digital format, you are going to harken back to the analog age” (the film era where for a good part of the 20th century black and white was king.

So, how do you decide to shoot in black and white as opposed to color? Carren says that “using color to affect the mood of the viewer is a huge tool. Likewise knowing when NOT to use color is also a huge tool.” When you are shooting in black and white, it does something to your brain. You become aware of your surroundings in terms of grey scale and with training and practice you will know which colors will translate to grey tone and which don’t.

Carren suggests four reasons as to why black and white will be the better option for your shot: 1) You don’t want any distractions, such as a particularly chaotic background, to draw attention away from your subject, 2) You don’t like the colors in the scene you’ve captured, but the scene itself is awesome, 3) the photo has boring colors or you want to inject a little more drama into a strong photo that’s flat when it comes to color, 4) Reducing the photo to black and white will bring out very clean geometric lines and shapes (works especially well with subjects like architecture) and simplify the objective of the shot.

In his second section Carren addresses the issue of tone beginning with the challenge to get the preconceived notion that black and white photos are meant solely to be “dramatic” or “punchy”. Two ways to accomplish this is to experiment with your camera settings when shooting in black and white (more on that with this week’s assignments.) Once you’ve played around with your settings, you’ll begin to see what aesthetic you lean towards and you may actually find you no longer like the extremes. Carren cautions the photographer not to get stuck on one aesthetic (extreme ISO as in high-key shots, or low contrast as in low-key) by asking yourself “What does this photo require? A soft and ethereal look or bold and high contrast?” He closes with these pointers- dark and light are different from high and low contrast; consider where you are in terms of shadows and light; and determine where you want your focus to be.

The final section of this week’s reading covered being technically competent. Carren defines it in this way, “Technical competence is what separates professional photographers from amateurs”. Once you learn the basics, they will become second nature to you. His attention turns to a brief overview of ISO. While black and white can handle higher grain than color because it “cleans up better in post processing”, it’s better to shoot at and ISO which is “normal” for the photo if you feel that a grainy look is not what you want for the feel of your photo. Slow ISOs such as 100 or 200 are going to produce images that are smooth and low grain. An 800 ISO and above will allow you to get more light, but they also increase the potential for a grainy shot. Carren generally shoots at ISO 400 because it’s “smack in the middle of the general range which is why it works so well”. If you are unsure of what you’ll see on the computer screen, he suggests shooting one frame on a normalized ISO and one on a high ISO so that you’ll have options when you go to process the picture.

THIS WEEK'S ASSIGNMENTS

As per Carren’s suggestion, we’ll “get the extremes” out of our system this week. Here are his suggestions:

1) Crank up the ISO before you shoot and make everything high-contrast in post-processing.

2) Go soft- look for and shoot only small tonal changes in the scenes you’re photographing and in your post-processing.

YOUR OPTIONS:

Shoot an entire week of high-key shots. Experiment with single subjects or landscapes- whatever subject matter interests you.

Shoot an entire week of low-key or monochromatic landscapes or portraits. Remember the idea here is to not have any extreme or bold contrasts. This can be very intriguing especially with a portrait.

Or any combo of the two. Make it personal to help you accomplish the goals you want to achieve by taking part in this challenge but keep it fun. Of course you can always make up your own assignment if none of these suits you!

Tag your photos flashofred2017

Sadly Carren offers no examples in his book (which is truly absurd as it’s a book about photography!), so after going through my 365 Project in search of an example or two, I’ll offer these two pictures for your consideration. The first is obviously high-key and the second (very recent) more monochromatic.





Next week you'll have a chance to show off your discoveries in the discussion thread. Feel free to ask any questions or make comments below.

Week 1 begins on February 1st and runs until the 5th.
January 29th, 2017
Thank you for organizing this, and your thoughtful synopsis of the relevant chapters... looking forward to the month :)
January 29th, 2017
Thanks Ann :) I got the book on Kindle, and I like his straightforward style of writing, but as you say, shame about no pictures... thank you for posting examples!
January 30th, 2017
very grateful for all the effort you put into this Ann
January 30th, 2017
@northy @m2016 @grammyn

Thank you Northy, Mel and Katy- it's a pleasure and keeps me sharp! I'm about to do the mass notification so just if I'll probably put your tags in although you've already seen it!
January 30th, 2017
I did this last year, and I'm excited to try it again this year - can you add me to the list? :)
January 30th, 2017
I have seen you doing this for the last few years in Feb. I am very tempted. Thank you for the tips. Is there a fixed day for the Red?
January 30th, 2017
Thank you ☺☺☺☺
January 30th, 2017
@sarahsthreads Sure will Sarah!
@yaorenliu I'll add you to the list Yao, join in when you can/want.
@annied You're welcome!
January 30th, 2017
@yaorenliu oh, and yes there is- February 14.
January 30th, 2017
@olivetreeann Thanks Ann.. February came quick :-)
January 30th, 2017
@olivetreeann Thanks for your wonderful efforts in doing this synopsis Ann. I now have things to think about, thank you.
January 30th, 2017
Thank you Anne, appreciation for the work you've put into this..
January 30th, 2017
Thank you, Ann! Let's rock!
January 30th, 2017
Thank you Ann. Count me in! Looking forward to having a try.
January 30th, 2017
@olivetreeann thanks for doing this for us. I don't have a DSLR camera, but will see what I can get with what I've got.
January 30th, 2017
@olivetreeann thank you for doing this. I'm looking forward to the challenge. I noticed today that I haven't been getting notifications. There is an error in my name. S/b ncnewfiegirl. Thanks
January 31st, 2017
@olivetreeann - You are a sweet lady for taking on this challenge and putting so much effort into it!
January 31st, 2017
Thanks Ann, I'm looking forward to February!
January 31st, 2017
@nanderson Yes it did!
@dibzgreasley I enjoy it Debs- glad you'll be joining in. I missed you!
@jorlam You're welcome- I like doing it- keeps me on my toes!
@domenicododaro Looking forward to it!
@wag864 I'll add you on to next week's tag Kas. Welcome aboard!
@skstein You'll be able to do this with any camera. If you're using your cell phone you can adjust to high or low key in post processing. I'm not up on the apps that are available in-phone, but I'm sure someone here does know- post it on the general discussion board and I'm sure you'll get some great tips and advice.
@ncnewfiegirl Ah- yes, I made a typo in the list above, but I have a master list now and it's correct on there so there shouldn't be any problem next week.
@skipt07 I enjoy it Skip. I like working in black and white anyway so the books are just as helpful to me as they are to everyone.
January 31st, 2017
@radiogirl You're welcome Kathy!
January 31st, 2017
@olivetreeann thanks Ann for your hard work, am looking forward to it :)
January 31st, 2017
Thank you for all of this - really getting fired up. Can I post a couple of photos that I have already shot as I really like them in B&W but they are from a couple of months ago or is that cheating? I will obey the rules. :)
January 31st, 2017
Thanks again for getting this up and running Ann. I'm looking forward to doing the Flash of Red again.
January 31st, 2017
Fun! I'm ready!
January 31st, 2017
@olivetreeann Can you add me to the list?
February 1st, 2017
Hi Ann, can you correct my name so that I get the notifications? It's @tabarlett - no t in the middle. Thanks so much and thanks for doing this - I can't wait to start reading! @olivetreeann
February 1st, 2017
@sjodell You're welcome!
@mandygravil Absolutely Mandy- your project, your rules! My challenges are always quite fluid. I'd rather people have fun doing them than feel hemmed in by rules and regulations.
@salza @homeschoolmom Thanks Sally and Lisa! I have just as much fun putting it together as I do actually taking the shots.
@lsquared Will do!
@tabarlett It was probably a typo but I've made up a master list now so that I don't have to type them out all the time. I will double check it to be sure. Thanks for letting me know Tammy.
February 1st, 2017
Thanks for your efforts in organising this Ann, I'm looking forward to practising my b&w skills this month.
February 1st, 2017
@olivetreeann thanks for getting this together! I'm looking forward to it.
February 1st, 2017
Ann, you are a star for undertaking this. Thank you! I had thought to opt out this year, having done flash of red for the past two. It's a bit of a grey time of year in England to immerse oneself in b&w! But I have decided to participate again and each day to counterbalance the mono album with bright colour in another of my albums. Thanks again.
February 1st, 2017
@olivetreeann Hello Ann, I've done this for the last three years - indeed Flash of Red 2014, one month after I started my project was largely responsible for making me pretty much a 100% B&W photographer - so I guess you had better include me again this year!

Thank you for organizing this once again.
February 1st, 2017
@olivetreeann Fascinating read. Very interested in giving this a go, if I may?
February 1st, 2017
Please add me to the list!
February 1st, 2017
Thank you for being our leader this year. Truly appreciate all you've done so far. Let's Go.
February 1st, 2017
A huge "thank you" for setting this up again, Ann. I join in this year again, thanks for adding me to the list.
February 1st, 2017
@olivetreeann Ann, I'd like to try this too. The information is very interesting and I'd like to learn some new things. Would you please add me to the list.
February 2nd, 2017
@deborah63 It should be a good month!
@slash You're welcome Susan!

@quietpurplehaze I'm glad you're sticking with it Hazel. Actually I think there is a very strong connection between color and black and white. To me one helps me to see the other better (both ways). I'd suggest choosing your color shots with that in mind and perhaps converting it to black and white for Flash of Red. It might be a fun experiment.

@vignouse Thank you Richard! Wow- I am honored to have had a small impact on a photographer of your caliber!

@phil_sandford Absolutely! Welcome aboard Phil!
@dianen Done!
@joysabin No problem Joy! I started this 5 years ago and have enjoyed the response every time. So it's just as fun for me.

@mona65 You're welcome Mona!
@randystreat Thanks Kathy! I've put you on for next week's post.
February 2nd, 2017
Thanks for organizing this, Ann. Sounds like a great exercise to improve our technical skills and composition.
Please add me to the list! I am going to try the full month - something to aim for but may not get the whole month.
February 2nd, 2017
Thanks for "chairing" this and for your helpful introduction and photo examples. I'm excited about consciously working on what works for B&W all month.
February 2nd, 2017
@farmreporter You're welcome Wendy and glad you're joining in. I chose Feb. because it only has 28 days and is a little less intimidating for that reason!

@mrslaloggie Thank you Mrs. Laloggie and welcome aboard!
February 3rd, 2017
I've never tackled this challenge before, but count me in too. One question, is there supposed to be a 'flash of red' in each shot?
February 3rd, 2017
@golftragic Thanks for joining in Marnie! No, the flash of red (or any color of your choosing- although red really pops against all the black and white) only happens on the 14th.
February 4th, 2017
I've been doing this but forgot to check in! Could you add me to the list? 😊
February 4th, 2017
I am new to this ...can you add me too... I happened to start a black and white theme accidentally this month...
February 4th, 2017
@olivetreeann Thanks Anne, I had a feeling that something like that was the case, but not sure if, or when. A big thank you too for the great job you do with this annual challenge and for the excellent summary of the reading, admirably succint in excellent English and a pleasure to read.
February 4th, 2017
Having not being a fan of black and white photography I have decided after your marvellous introduction (and thank you ) I would also like to join in your list of participants . this for me will be a challenge , and a learning curve !
February 4th, 2017
@grendelbait Done and welcome!

@tibles Welcome aboard Riikka- Here is the States we like to say "great minds think alike" when it comes to things like that!

@golftragic You are quite welcome Marnie!

@beryl Thanks Beryl! We are all on a learning curve. And I think it's a good place to be.
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