Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light

Our lives change so dramatically, depending on our social contexts and age. I started moving more towards monochrome about a year or so ago. Since then, I have presented a greater portion of my work this way. At first, articles describing monochrome as the more artistic medium—better able to show form, texture, and in many cases, strong contrast, motivated me. It removes color’s “distraction”. Naturally, not all compositions maximize the uniqueness of monochrome

Harding Beach, Cape Cod; image scored 14 of 15 pts in Camera Rochester juried competition

(birds, flowers, and sunsets come to mind). Therefore, the trick when shooting monochrome is to see our surroundings from a monochromatic perspective to identify those compositions that might be best presented this way.

So, art theory aside, what draws some photographers to monochrome? I think because it gives us another dimension to express what we feel. Consider the first photo. Here, Portland Head Light stands at the gateway of Casco Bay and the North Atlantic on a mostly overcast day in late November. Guiding ships and boats, it stands vigil at the end of seasonal growth, awaiting the darker winter days ahead. The fence post in the second photograph stands alone,

Steps to Somewhere

no longer connected to the other posts. The steps on a winter’s day leading to some unknown in the third photograph—all metaphors for the loss of loved ones, unrequited love, and loneliness.

Fortunately, social contexts change—one day I will shoot more color.

Creating More Emotional Connection with Your Photos

If you’re like me, you might find yourself at the point of making technically good photos. You know, proper exposure, color balance, and so forth. But perhaps you and your viewers find that many of your photos lack something. Typically, this involves composition and how the image connects with the viewer. I must say that my training as a social scientist has caused me to take photos that are more documentary (i.e., more like data) rather than artistic. Still, I think some of my photographs are artistic.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Doug Beasley workshop at Omega Institute. It ran for four and a half days, not including an introduction meeting on Sunday night. Doug’s philosophy is to focus less on camera gear and post-processing and more on communicating with your subject, including inanimate ones (his analogy, “That was a great dinner, you must have a really good oven.”). This means clearing your mind, slowing down, thinking about your subject and how it connects with its history and the world, as well as exploring it from all angles.

After discussing a session’s topic(s) we would go out on one or two unsupervised, thirty minute photo exercises. The first was to quickly shoot about fifty photographs. Thereafter, some of the themes included finding the creator, finding imperfection, taking self-portaits (not self-es), and incorporating human artifacts with nature. Later review showed the quickly shot photographs were, for the most part, inferior to the ones with specific themes shot with a better understanding of connecting with our subjects.

Into the Light
Into the Light

In this photograph, I explored what was perhaps an old ice house, taking several photographs. I took it through a window on the opposite wall. The dark interior represents a difficult time in our lives. As Buddhists believe, “As one door closes, another opens.” The window thus represents a new beginning. The intent here is to grab the viewer’s attention by creating mystery.


The next photograph contains less mystery. By including a couple of people in the

Down to the Garden
Down to the Garden

garden’s background, my intent is to show our connection with nature. Indeed, this garden was where people tended to congregate when reading or retreating from structured activity. I softly focused this photograph so as to create a more relaxed feeling.

These are but two examples, perhaps you have some of your own?