On our way to Petra, we spent a day in transit in the Jordanian capital, Amman, a couple of years ago.
While visiting some of its top attractions, there was a moment when I thought to myself – this city’s soulful story certainly doesn’t get told enough.
Despite its recent stint of fame driven by mighty tourism development efforts, I get the sense that we get a lot of the to see and do in Jordan, but not much of the to feel sometimes. I wonder why?
Will leave that question out there for the moment!
Amman is definitely on the top of my return destinations list. A day there was a great sampler, but not enough to delve into an immersive experience.
Meanwhile, I wanted to share that brief glimpse and put it into perspective.
As I sifted through the moments captured that day, I thought the photos naturally lent themselves into a black and white interpretation, and here is why:
Evoke vintage nostalgia
I don’t know about you, but black and white photos always give me a sense of time freeze. No matter how current the subject is, they send me back to when black and white was perhaps the only option. They give me vintage nostalgia.
So yeah, if a place already looks (kind of) old, I guess it naturally lends itself to a black and white creative interpretation.
In fact, this notion kicked in as soon as we arrived in downtown Amman and saw the Roman ruins. I also had this notion when we visited Pompeii last year. It really is becoming a style preference for me.
I shot in color of course, but with time I am learning to take advantage of the privilege digital photography provides to think black and white, but still shoot in color.
In other words, have my cake and eat it too.
Eliminate color noise
I don’t mean that technically; as in not reduce the physical color noise like you’d do in Lightroom or Photoshop. What I mean is eliminate the visual distraction intensified by color, taking focus away from the main story.
For example, the cross on the cathedral in this photo was bright red, while everything else was beige and pale. The eye will most certainly immediately be drawn to that red, and so I felt like the viewer won’t be seeing the story I was trying to convey.
I hope you actually got that without me having to explain now, the story of harmony and tolerance, where the biggest mosque in town (represented by the Muslim man guiding us on a tour of King Abdullah mosque), and a Christian cathedral sit side by side without any apparent issues, in a predominantly Muslim country.
Where I come from, we have a serious appreciation for this kind of lifestyle.
On the other hand – I left a bit of color on the mosque’s roof in this photo, because the story I saw here perhaps reflects the layers that make up the local community. That little bit of color, I thought, guides the eye at the right level, yet leaving enough room for individual interpretation.
Stronger play on light
The position of light source and its quality is something better preplanned and thought of before showing up on location and releasing the shutter of course. Sometimes though, you’re there because that’s all the time you have in town, and you’re about to capture a very impactful shot. Problem is, the sun is either burning the house down, or nowhere to be found!
Converting a frame to black and white has sometimes helped me overcome this dilemma. Again, when color is removed the distraction is minimized and better play on light as ambiance foundation is enabled.
Light, shadow, and the contrast between them allowed me to better express my vision in the shot above, as soon as the blown-out not exactly blue sky and underlit subject were dealt with.
Light itself can become the subject. Even if you Photoshop it in later to liven up an otherwise unexciting scene.
See the human in the subject
As much as I would love to be, I’m not really a portrait photographer. However, the few times that I had mustered the required courage to go for it, I find myself wanting to highlight the human connection established in that capture more than any other element. Black and white edits often give me that power, by focusing on extracting the emotion in the shot.
Nothing wrong with a little black and white self-portrait while you’re at it neither.
Control the mood
You might’ve noticed that I added a gold hued filter to finish the edit of all the photos. I did that for two reasons; to unify the story and to add a personal touch. I normally like to finish most of my edits in a warmer tones. Why not black and white photos too?
Are you a fan of black and white photography?
What is your Favorite thing about it?