Photo by David Dewhurst
This comes from a new review of the Mazda CX-5 at Winding Road, the online car magazine founded by the late David E. Davis (who was described by Jean Jennings as "the most interesting, most difficult, cleverest, darkest, most erudite, dandiest, most inspirational, charismatic and all-around damnedest human being I will ever meet"). It's one of a suite of 49 illustations.
One thing shooting black and white teaches you is to compose with contrast. So what does that mean? Just that a light line or object stands out against a dark background and vice-versa...and you can work with that.
It's an art form unto itself. There's no better way to hone your eye for this than to study classic black and white films—those old cinematographers could compose with contrast in their sleep; it was the aim of their lighting and integral to the way they saw.
A screen grab from John Huston and Dashiell Hammett's noir classic "The Maltese Falcon" with Mary Astor and Humphrey Bogart—cinematography by Arthur Edeson. The light gives the scene structure and depth, dominated by the vivid line of Astor's face continuing to her shoulder and arm.
The opposite is called a "tonal merger"—that's when the tone of the object and the background match too closely and the separation is lost or is muted. Don't think that shimmer of light on the doorway past Mary Astor's left shoulder is an accident. It's there to prevent a tonal merger.
In David Dewhurst's photo of the CX-5, note how narrow the margin of success is—if the lifted back-right tire had met the shadow of the car, the drama of the picture would be lost. It's that sliver of sunlit asphalt between the tire and the shadow that gives the car its gesture of spirited motion as it dances around the corner.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.