First of all, a great example of a "tonal merger" where the photographer is using the property to great (comedic) effect, very deliberately. Imagine how dull this shot would be in color if the human's shirt had been, say, green, or pink. (Thanks to John Camp for this.)
Second, in looking around for some pictures that illustrate tonal properties in black-and-white, I've gotten fascinated with this shot by Stan Banos:
Certainly nondescript and uninteresting subject matter. But consider how very different the graphic stucture of this picture is compared to its physical structure (to see the former, squint at the picture and pay attention only to the shape of the shadow and the horizontal line through the center; to see the latter, imagine the picture without any shadows). They really play off each other dramatically.
Tonally, here's the basic relationship:
Putting two tones adjacent to each other is like putting two musical notes adjacent to each other; they have a certain feeling. And then I get interested in all the slight outlinings and underlinings of tone, the details in the shadows, the delineating of the windows, the accents of black.
Of course, photographers (especially ones I see too much of these days, wading through endless seas of the online photo sites) always hope that pictures of nothing can elicit an interest or fascination by the mere act of drawing attention to something we might not otherwise pay attention to. But although this is its basic strategy, Stan's picture really works for me.
The last picture I've been looking at is one of the most interesting, and I have to say, strangest color pictures I can remember seeing. It's one of the four pictures we'll be offering as prints in Ctein's print sale next week. It also has the distinction of being the subject of the only truly bad print of Ctein's I've ever seen—when he showed me his work print of it in Madison, he hadn't gotten close to where he wanted it yet. It was not good at that point. (I'm sure Ctein doesn't like me going on about this, but hey, when Tiger Woods misses the cut at a major, people talk.)
When he sent me the master guide prints for the sale—I got them day before yesterday—I half expected not to like the print I'm talking about. But he'd finished it, of course, and gotten it right. It's really fascinating. For one thing, it absolutely has to be a color picture—I've seen few pictures that are more "about" color. The color palette borders on bizarre. I'm not sure if the pictures falls more toward beautiful or surreal. I'm not even entirely sure it looks like the world—maybe, given Ctein's suspiciously intense interest in science fiction, it was taken on a different, but similar, planet. In fact, it is a naturalistic photograph of, yes, this Earth. And that's what makes it so amazing.
I'll have more to say about it when we do the "reveal" of the pics for the sale. Maybe by then I'll have lived with it long enough to have gotten it sorted out in my mind. In the meantime, it's pinned to my board. I'll keep looking at it.
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