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When seeking to acquire your first collectable fine art print, or adding more works to an already established collection, the process can be a bit overwhelming. First of all, there is no perfect piece of Art, no “one size fits all” when it comes to individual esthetic taste and subject matter. Invariably you will want to find a piece that connects with your soul and imagination.

Some imagery will speak to you regardless of its technical merits. I’ve seen many images that were technically perfect, that were lifeless with zero spirit, and seen other images that were technically a mess, but were profoundly inspiring.

Much of what we see when looking at a one dimensional photographic image is an unconscious process; our minds are searching for the visual depth that we see in our real world that camera technology is unable to capture. In order to create an image that has visual immersion, one that brings us into the image as if we are standing there in real life, a photograph’s Composition is paramount in any well crafted Landscape and Nature Print.

“Navigare” – Limited Edition of 50
Along the angelic Malibu coastline, away from the busy iconic surfing lore of Malibu Point, lay many hidden sleepy coves, rugged snaking coastline bluffs, and long sandy beaches. As a landscape and nature photographer, El Matador Beach is by far the most striking and elusive of all. Stingy with access and at the mercy of the tides, she is a visual splendor, constantly showing many whimsical moods. She can be warm and inviting one moment, and perilous the next. On this thundering and rainy evening in the middle of winters storm, the tide was low enough for me to navigate deep into her shoreline; offering me a glimpse of her perilous layers of shoreline, the setting sun burned through the cloud cover, offering angelic God Rays of light upon her alluring eye. This shot was very difficult to capture. Battling stiff winds, intermittent sheets of rain, and the incoming tide running knee deep on my tripod, the long exposure needed to smooth the water was going to be hit and miss at best. I just kept timing the tidal rhythms and shot until it was dark. Perseverance paid off; a once-in-a-lifetime image, and I got lucky as well.

A few technical things to consider when purchasing a Black & White Fine Art Print for your Collection

  • A foreground, middle ground and background element create visual depth in an image. Another way to look at an image is from the front to the
    back, and notice how your eyes navigate through the image on the various features. I like to refer to this concept as the visual layers of black from
    foreground to background; another way to think about it is from dark-to light. In life we see oqbjects in the foreground to be crisp and dense with
    contrast, texture and color, and as we view objects in the distance they are not as sharp, more defused by distance and atmosphere. A camera sees
    and captures an image in one flat plane. A well crafted Fine Art Photograph creates depth by highlighting the visual layers from front to
    back as if we were standing in the location and viewing it in real life.
  • Are there any Leading Lines from front to back that guide you into the scene? Sometimes it can be a physical object such as a fence or a road, or it can be the angle light from the sun or moon guiding us through the image.
  • Is there Balance and Symmetry within the image? Symmetry in landscape and nature can be found on a micro level, but in the grand scale, it’s rare to find nature symmetrical. Nature is random and the evolution of our planet is violent and disruptive. It is our job as visual storytellers to find inspiration in the random elements a scene provides, and place them in the frame with symmetry and balance, and it is all too often the bane of our existence as photographers. We stumble into a scene that is begging us the capture the moment, and yet the elements we need to create depth and balance are just not available. There’s no foreground element, no leading lines to bring us into the image, the background is too busy, the light is changing too quickly, and we can’t get another perspective because to do so would mean falling off a cliff to our demise. Many times we just have to appreciate the view and walk away, knowing that the shot just wasn’t there. It’s rare to find all the natural compositional elements needed in the creation of a great photograph. That’s why great landscape and nature prints are so difficult to capture.
  • Is there full Dynamic Rage of grey tones from pure black to white in the image? Black and White images come to life in the many different levels of Black and how it contrasts against all the lighter grey and white tones.
  • Are there multiple layers of Texture in the image? Nothing is EVER singular in texture. Distant skies are never crisp and crunchy in nature. Skies will always have a natural gradient of tones from dark to light and defused levels of atmosphere. An image that encompasses the many layers of texture from smooth and wispy atmosphere, too dense and crisp foreground features, create depth, dimension and visual interest in the image.
“Requiem”, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego, CA

Perched on the seaward bluffs of Point Loma in San Diego, California, the view from Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is haunting and humbling; the winds of Duty, Honor and Country permeate the your soul with the stillness of historical sacrifice. Internments on this stretch of hallowed land date back to the early years of the California Republic and the Battle of San Pasqual, (1846) during the Mexican-American War, thru WWI, WWII, Korea, to present day.

Although cemetery imagery can be heavy and uncomfortable for some, “Requiem” is one of my favorite Black And White Fine Art Prints, and a wonderful example of using the Rules of Composition when framing an image:

Rule of 3rd’s: The horizon line is on the lower 3rd of the frame. The two distance Islands land on the exact intersection of the lower right and left thirds grid. Symmetry: The trees on either side of the image frame the image perfectly. The tree in the middle of the frame is centered precisely between the Islands that are placed on perfect thirds.

Leading Lines: There are actually two sets of Leading Lines – Left and Right Foreground lines that lead the eyes through the grave stones toward the subject of the photo, the distant islands.

Foreground, Middle Ground and Background: The Foreground gravestones begin the journey, eventually landing on the Middle Ground trees and the end of the cemetery, passing over the ocean to the horizon and two Background Islands.

Why is Black & White Photography so captivating?

I think what most Fine Art Collectors and photography lovers find so interesting with Black & White Photography is that it’s unnatural to how we view the world in our daily lives. Most humans experience and live in a world in color. Our brain is wired to recognize color. When we are young we are taught to identify the hues that we see by names, Blue, Red, Yellow, ect. We instinctively see color when we are born, and then learn how to associate color with objects. But when we look at a Black & White Photograph, something in our brain squeezes. It captivates our attention in an entirely different way. We unconsciously try to project what the colors might be in the image we are viewing. Without colors creating warm or cool feelings, or the saturation and vibrance of hue, we are left to engage the image with the curiosity of what subject or place looked like in color. What we are left with, is our familiarity with nature in color, now experienced in Contrast, Texture, and Form. We recognize Form, we recognize Texture, but now the total of the image speaks to us with Contrast, and how light affects the many shades grey.

“Valle de Dios”, Canyon Overlook, Zion National Park ( Coming Soon )
Zion is truly humbling. Standing on the edge of 1,500 feet of a shear sandstone cliff, in the dark and windy cold of a winters morning, awaiting sunrise, is exhilarating. The colors in Zion are other-worldly. Being an admirer of the work of Ansel Adams, there are certain places that evoke a reverence to his inspiring life in photography, Zion is absolutely one of those places. That is why I chose to present this image in Black and White. Zion is all about dimension, texture and weight. Processing this Image in Black & White highlights the high frequency and rugged texture of Zions ancient Sandstone monoliths, against the silky elegance of the wind swept storm clouds is the sky. The Leading Line of the canyon walls and the use of Levels of Black from the sharp foreground, to the defused 3,000 foot walls of the “Towers of the Virgin” in the background, help to create the depth needed in the image to articulate Zions magnitude.

Another visual advantage of Black & White is how it presents images with a lot of negative space. Black and White is a very simple pallet. It isn’t concerned with color dynamics, it just loves to find the elegance of gradient tones and light. That’s why simple compositions such as portraits, or very specific subjects with clean low frequency negative space can deliver soft, etherial and peaceful images, or dramatic moody images.

Harmony, Malibu Pier
“Harmony”, Malibu Pier, Malibu California ( Coming Soon )

These are just a few compositional concepts to consider when viewing a potential Black & White print for your collection, but they are not hard and fast rules. Some images offer up many opportunities, others not as much. But more often than not, when you find yourself frozen in place, speechless, staring at an image with your mouth open, the composition of the image will contain most, if not all of these principles. That’s when you know you’re looking at a potential “keeper,” a Fine Art Print that is speaking to your soul, and will continue inspire you for the rest of your life.

El Matador | The Eyes of Medusa Limited Edition Fine Art Photography Print | Malibu, California
“Eyes of Medusa”, El Matador – Limited Edition of 50
One of the amazing visual qualities of Black & White Photography is how it affects long exposure images, specifically water and cloudy skies. With the use of Neutral Density Filters, we are able to keep the shutter open for several minutes of exposure in most cases. Because the rocks are static and the sea is constantly moving, the water is never in focus, and the effects are a smoothing of the water into a silky smooth texture. The result is a beautiful visual contrast of the crisp dense texture of the rocks, against the silky smooth texture of the water. These kinds of images create a sensual and soothing visual experience that can only be achieved with the beauty of Long Exposure Black & White photography.

In my work as a professional Photographer, Actor, Musician, and Visual Storyteller, my entire life has been a process of exploring my inner creative spirit and expressing my imagination through the creative arts. My creative process is an impulsive curiosity, an internal search, a journey to connect with myself, our human nature and our world, while sharing my thoughts and inspirations through my art.

If you’re considering adding any of my Black & White Fine Art Landscape and Nature Prints to your collection, or have any questions about my Fine Art Prints for sale, I’d love to hear from you. I look forward to answering any questions and inquiries.

Live well,