I am a keen collector of books about photography and naturally the vast majority are by authors whose work I greatly admire. I find both the written word and the images can be inspiring, often providing little pearls of wisdom which might just help my own photography. One such person is John Blakemore, a true master of the craft of black and white photography. Born in 1936 in Coventry, England he has been practicing his art since 1956, and in that time has built a portfolio of work which of its type is unlikely to be surpassed. Much of this work has now been archived at the Library of Birmingham.
He is probably best known for his landscapes and still life photographs. He is widely acknowledged as one of the finest monochrome printers, using the zone system to make some truly beautiful images – his use and control of tonality in a black and white photograph is quite superb.
I only have one of his books, titled – ‘John Blakemore’s Black and White Photography Workshop’. Whilst much of what he has to write relates directly to the traditional darkroom, his thoughts on tonality and printing can equally be applied to the digital darkroom as well. The book contains many of his best known photographs and if like me, you wish to improve your knowledge of black and white photography, this book is well worth adding to your collection.
So how did this book inspire me? How could his approach be applied to my own work?
One area where I have always struggled is trying to photograph woodland. From a composition point of view I find the subject matter very challenging. You could say I find it hard to see the ‘wood from the trees’, an old cliche perhaps but in my case a very true one. Even when the composition looks right I haven’t known how to process the image in a way which I find pleasing.
Recently I started reading through John Blakemore’s book and I came across a number of woodland landscapes which I very much liked. I enjoyed their treatment and this encouraged and inspired me. Having studied these images more closely I selected a few frames taken on my recent trip to Scotland to see whether or not I could emulate the ‘look’ of his work and process my pictures in a similar fashion.
The tone curve in these four photographs is very different to the outcome from my normal processing methods and as a consequence this set of images work for me. Whilst there is a full range of tones, the mid-tones dominate each picture. Strong darker tones are my usual style, resulting in an image which has far more contrast. The images in this post are much softer and more restful to the eye. As a result I believe the viewers attention is held for longer so that the composition, the texture and form is more readily appreciated. A high contrast image can be quite punchy and dramatic but the eye can quickly tire when looking at an image of this type. These are far more subtle images and an approach I can see myself using again in the future. I will also be interested to see how they print on various types of paper.
Your feedback and comments are very welcome and as this is my 300th entry, it’s an opportune time for me to thank all my followers who read, like and comment on my work. It’s very much appreciated and it’s one of the reasons I will continue sharing my images and thoughts in the future.
Lastly my thanks to John Blakemore for his inspiring approach to this art form.
As always these images are best viewed large, so do click on any one of the photographs and it will open in a new window.