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Black & White Photography - Andy Hemingway

Blog Posted on 22 Jun 2012

Summer Winds on Stanage Edge. A blustery evening after rain.

The middle months of the year can be a frustrating time for landscape photographers, with excruciatingly early sunrises and very late sunsets. Coupled with recent extended periods of dull weather, it began to seem that my photography was taking a nose-dive. I felt that I was hitting a rut and really needed to find some inspiration that would help me to make the most of what the skies were delivering. Something that would use those luxuriant dark clouds as an advantage, rather that a hindrance.

The Wheelstones, Derwent Edge. Light breaks through stormy skies.

I have always loved black and white photography. In fact, back in my art college days when I processed my own film and prints, I would use nothing but Ilford 400 ISO black and white film for my landscapes, which delivered beautifully gritty, high contrast images. It is possible to push the contrast much higher in black and white than it is in colour and can produce some very dramatic effects. Although composition is just as important in colour images, black and white highlights composition much more, as the familiarity of colour is stripped away. Also textures, form and soft light are more enhanced in mono.

Wardsend Cemetery, Hillsborough. A lost necropolis of monumental masonry.

History, folklore and legend have always been a central influence in my work. Again I felt the need to find a new angle, something that delivered more of a narrative than just an image. As much as I love the moors of the Pennines, I needed to cast my net a little wider and bring a fresh subject matter to my work. For many years, I have been an admirer of the work of the late Simon Marsden. I love his eerie images of ruined houses and castles, dripping with ancient tales and history. Why not produce my own take on this? The area in and around the Peaks and the Southern Pennines are awash in old houses, churches, overgrown graveyards, ruined abbeys, castles and industrial relics, all with their own stories to tell.

Monk Bretton Priory, near Barnsley. The home of the Black Monks of 'A Lytel Geste of Robyn Hode.'

I have found that working in black and white has freed me from the restrictions of shooting at the beginning or the end of the day and a reliance on the fickle nature of 'good' light. In fact, dark skies are an advantage for my current subject matter and shooting during the middle of the day is not a problem. Of course there is a great buzz in bagging a stunning colour shot where all the elements come together, when low, warm light rakes across the land and there is just the right amount of cloud to catch the colours of sunrise or sunset. It is probably the rarity of such occasions that make these such special images. However, when circumstances conspire to prevent such images being captured, why restrict myself? You know what they say about when life gives you lemons!

Dissenter’s Chapel, Sheffield General Cemetery. A hidden world of faded glory.

Rockley Furnace, near Barnsley. An oasis of history, next to the M1.

This blog was brought to you by AHG Photography


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