11 shades of grey

I've got a confession to make, I've never actually read 50 shades of grey but felt that 11 shades of grey was a very fitting post title.....but in a very different way!

Yesterday I attended a full day workshop on black and white photography which was coordinated by dot art and delivered by Bryn Davies.

The workshop took place in the lovely Bluecoat which was a great setting. I enjoyed a smoked salmon and cream cheese brioche bun for lunch at the Bluecoat bistro (although lunch was not included).

The workshop was £40 per person and for a full day I think this was pretty reasonable. There was a combination of theory and practical although it was largely theory based. Its been a long time since I've had to sit and listen and so towards the end of the theory I was getting a bit fidgety because I wanted to have a go with my camera. However, the theory really helped and so it was worth being patient!

The theory covered:

  • A history of black and white photography including examples of work by the masters. My favourite of these was Henri Cartier-Bresson because of the moments that he captured.
  •  How black and white photography can reference other art forms
  •  Black and white versus colour - pros and cons of each
  • The zone system - aka 11 shades of grey!
  • case studies - looking at a selection of images and considering the composition, tones etc.
  • General rules - rules of composition and the impact of different exposure times, depth of field.
The practical............

After the theory, lunch and a brew it was time for the practical. Part of me was itching to go because I didn't know what time Probe records closed and I really wanted to try some photos there. Fortunately it was open!

As soon as the practical started I looked outside the window of the classroom and there was a very cute west highland terrier sitting on the picnic table outside so I took a quick snap. I like the expression on his face, he looks like he's enjoying the sunshine which had made an appearance.

Hello sunshine

Next up I hot footed it out of the bluecoat onto School lane to Probe records. There is so much on display there it felt like black and white would be the best way to avoid the distraction of the colours in the album artwork.

Inside Probe records

Inside Probe records

records, I'd like the pulp fiction soundtrack (hint hint father Christmas)

The look of excitement at finding the album you want
checking out the album

I then walked out onto school lane to try and get some shots of people. The guy on the left is patiently waiting outside Cath Kidston, a feeling Mr Cutie and the Feast knows only too well!

The long wait outside Cath Kidston
Dapper gent on his mobile

I also found this pigeon who was doing his best flamingo impression.

Flamingo pigeon, because we all want to be a flamingo at heart. Or a unicorn, I'd like to be a unicorn.

Back inside the courtyard of the bluecoat for some photos of the shop windows and a lonely feather.

Paddington Bear

I like big books and I cannot lie......


Then it was back into the Bluecoat. I had spotted this lonely chair when I went for lunch and so headed back upstairs to the bistro to see if it would turn out how I thought it would.

the lonely chair

I tend to focus on detail rather than the bigger picture so here are some of my detail finds: 

A pot of pencils next to the feedback forms
Close up of the collection box.

Finally onto some people. First off 11 shades of grey!

11 shades of grey!

Then some people in and around the courtyard of the Bluecoat


Practising 1 x 1 images, inspired by Michael Kenna 
Sunday afternoon shopping

Fighting poor shopping behaviour on the streets of Liverpool

Finally these are the pictures that I liked the best. The first one is taken from a balcony above the artwork.

from up high

I then went downstairs to get a closeup. This was the image that I chose to present at the end of the day. When I presented the image I had to say something about it, so I said "I tried to get a nice line leading you further into the image and liked the contrast of the white snowflake designs" or something like that. What I really wanted to say "It was pretty so I took a photo" but that was unfair as I did try to put everything I had learnt into practice, I just wasn't very good at explaining how I did it!

It was really good to get some feedback and also to see everyone else's images. I find it fascinating how we had all chosen something very different as our final photo when we were all working in the same space.

My chosen image for the final presentation.
The image underneath is the same one but in colour, I think you'll agree that black and white works much better!

I've always like black and white photos but was a bit worried that they look like I've been a bit over enthusiastic with the lightroom presets. However, I now understand why I like some pictures better in black and white than others and feel I have the tools to be able to know when to make that decision.

The 11 shades of grey, well that's all to do with the Zone system developed by Ansel Adams, not quite the same as the book with 39 more shades but definitely something I'll be trying out more of  in the future!

What do you think? Do you prefer colour, black and white or like to be greedy like me and always have a little bit of both?



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