are blown highlights more acceptable in b&w?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Norman 202, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. LOL. If you zoom in and see that there's texture, then THE HIGHLIGHTS ARE NOT BLOWN. What you see at a smaller size looks the way it looks because the THE HIGHLIGHTS ARE NOT BLOWN. I promise you, if Gordon had blown those highlights which, in a million years he wouldn't do on a photo like that, the photo wouldn't look as good, on a cell phone or anywhere else. There may be a couple of stray blown highlights in the water, which often occurs, but they would be minor enough to blend into the overall view. We're not getting strong patches of blown highlights.

    It may be that the question you're actually asking is, "Are blown highlights (or any technical issues) as noticeable on a cell phone as on a larger monitor or in a print?" But that's a different question.

    What do you think of some of the blown highlights in the recent Sunrise/Sunset thread?
  2. Great examples by Jeff where blown highlights work. And compare the type of photo and the type of mood to Gordon's photo, where blowing the highlights would, IMO, have been a mistake.
  3. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Fred, read my post. I said the highlights weren't blown when I zooming in but unlike you I don't pixel peep (which I CAN do on a phone but choose NOT to)
  4. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    [QUOTE="Fred G, post: 5602097, member: 2361079"I ]I promise you, if Gordon had blown those highlights which, in a million years he wouldn't do on a photo like that, the photo wouldn't look as good, on a cell phone or anywhere else. There may be a couple of stray blown highlights in the water, which often occurs, but they would be minor enough to blend into the overall view. We're not getting strong patches of blown highlights.[/QUOTE] are contradicting yourself. are there blown highlights or not?

    2.secondly no one ever said there are strong patches of BHs and I have never suggested there should be. a blown highlight is a symbol. use it judicially.

    (edit:not sure why that quote isn't working)
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  5. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    wtf does a "mistake" mean? he inspired me to like and leave a comment. how is that a mistake?
  6. It's NOT a mistake. I said "IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A MISTAKE" had he blown a patch of the highlights.

    We misunderstood each other. I thought you were thinking the swath of mist was blown. Sorry for that.

    Conversation over. Back to photos.
  7. Like many others have said, if it works. Henri Cartier-Bresson blew out highlights in areas of his many iconic images. Anecdotally it appears to me looking at some of his prints in museums etc., (harder to judge digital reproductions) most of his "blown" highlights were of water (puddles etc.), streets, sidewalks and walls. Not shocking when you consider his camera, film and other limitations in dynamic range and so on.
  8. Great discussion. Norman's post made me go back to my portfolio and look for relevant photos. I thought, a couple of examples could help the discussion. I agree with Fred's general opinion that blown highlights can easily be a distraction if not in tune with the general level of refinement of the photo or the overall mood. Blown highlights are something that more often go against our perception and can be an impediment against perceiving a photo anything more than pixels or blobs of ink (same goes with large patches of complete dark). I think, most of us here are referring to macroscopic patches of white, not 1% or 2% blown highlights that blend into the second brightest shade and not distinguishable to the eye. In that way, what is considered blown depends on the display medium. Printing paper is more prone to blown highlights than a bright computer screen. Experts who print digital photos are aware of this and extra care is taken to translate whats seen on the monitor to paper.

    That said, I like Norman's idea of portal into another world. As said earlier, I think its a thin edge between perceiving a blown highlight as a portal, and seeing ugly white monitor screen in that place. Also, I think for this to be effective, the viewer should be able to perceive what he wants without any knowledge of Norman's ideas (I think it would have been better to start the thread with a relevant example and asking whether it works, rather than explaining what could or couldn't work). I found one example where I found a 'portal' (not sure if it works). When I first took the picture, I resented the white patch, but this is from a phone, so couldn't help it. Later on, I actually kind of liked it, for it resembles a flash of raw white light, and (may be) transcends above the realm of distraction. (please scroll down for more discussion and examples)


    The other situation where blown highlights could work is blinding bright light scenario where the range of brightness is beyond our eye's capacity and hence in line with our perception. This sometimes work in harsh sunlight to add drama. Again, there's a thin line between ruining the image vs giving it a new vibe. I think the below example works to some extent. To answer Norman's original question, whether blown highlights are more acceptable (aesthetically) in B&W ... here I decided to convert the below photo to B&W because in color, overexposure not only blows highlights, but sometimes distorts the colors in bands around the highlight region. In B&W, it can be easier to blend these discoloring regions and introduce some sort of continuity with the blown region, because many different color shades can be mapped into fewer grey shades and theres a lot of flexibility in that process. So yes, at times, B&W may be useful to make a blown highlight more benign. However, the distorted colors due to overexposure can have their appeal in certain photos, and I will always review the color version first before deciding whether to convert to monochrome.


    Blown highlights to emulate glowing or incandescent profiles:

  9. I consider huge contrast extremes (and resulting blown highlights) an opportunity.

    One of my most treasured photo books is The Map by Kikuji Kawada. The extreme contrast and blown highlights of many of his photos work well with the subject matter and underlying narrative.

    San Francisco • ©Brad Evans 2017

    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  10. I’ve always thought it odd that the only tonal values that people are advised not to use in black & white photography are black and white. If there's a tool available for expressing what I want to say, I use it; and what I want to say often involves high contrast, back-lighting, and white paper. Maybe it's relevant that I also work in pen and ink, where all that intermediate stuff is irrelevant.
    Brad_ likes this.
  11. Interesting. In a way, that dovetails with Claude Shannon's views and research regarding information and communications. Shannon, an engineer and mathematician who worked for Bell Labs, and was a professor at MIT, is considered the father of information theory. Many of the advanced technologies we today take for granted in our computers and communications devices, stem from Shannon's research from the mid-1900s.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  12. Like the rule of parlay in Pirates of the Caribbean, they are more like "guidelines" than rules. Now we have folks making images by the numbers. For many, it is more important what the histogram shows than what the image says. They think making blue prints and spreadsheets is art. Perhaps my favorite photographer, Stieglitz. was once told by the members of the NY Photography club that his shot of the horse drawn carriage in the snow wasn't sharp. He told them, it isn't supposed to be. When I competed I often tried to include a "rule" violation that was important to the meaning of the image to screw with the judges and would let my companions know in advance what the judges would say. We would chuckle when the judge pounced on it, missing the entire meaning of the shot. I wonder if the surrealists or the impressionists were criticized for breaking such rules? My profile photo has what could be considered blown cheek highlights. A "rule" violation. I don't care if there is no detail in the highlights or if it is 255 if there is a reason for it in the image. The image is an homage to one of my favorite portraitists, Karsh and his image of Hemingway, one of my favorite writers. In that print that hangs over Hem's mantel in Key West, Hem has a white beard. Hence the hot kickers to represent that. If I recall, could have pulled back detail in those areas but actually pushed them the other way in post to emphasize the effect. Broken "rule", yes. And not tack sharp. As Stieglitz said, isn't supposed to be. Why? To screw with the "experts."
  13. I don't think Stieglitz broke rules to screw with the experts. He broke them to get to the truth that he envisioned. Rebelling just for the sake of rebelling only satisfies the rebel, even if monetarily. Rebelling with a vision in mind benefits many others.
    Karim Ghantous and Norma Desmond like this.
  14. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    Rules -- yeah , well. Make your own / as a friend says "Cut a trail."
    DSC_3413 (1000x666).jpg
    Supriyo likes this.
  15. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    I think I understand and it was that kind of 'simplication' that was at the back of my mind when I asked the question. Do you think the process works equally well with monochrome images (ie shades of a colour other than black together with white)?
  16. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Leslie do you work in black ink only?
  17. Almost always. I love the color of intense cyan ink, but I've never done anything successful with it. I've also never used multiple ink colors on a drawing. But I have used a combination of an ink under-drawing with watercolor on top.
  18. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    I love cyan too along with tangerine and violet. thankfully, for everyone else, i can't draw.

    a bit OT but when i was at school we still used ink pens and were allowed to use black, blue and turquoise ink (i'm sure other inks were sold in bottles and cartridges) with blue being the most popular. so, given we were supposed to learn from our textbooks (ie read them, study them), i don't think there is any cultural block to coloured ink drawings, at least to people of my generation and earlier.
  19. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Bob, it's a great photo. What range of colours do you think, besides black, would work with the highlights?

  20. No and no. Both of those have to do with line and edges. 'This not that.' Blown highlights are exactly what does not have an edge: blown highlights are formless. A sharp, hard edge is not a blown highlight (the edge/line is figure, the rest is ground).

    Detail is information (anything capable of being understood). Degeneration of detail = degeneration of information. For example:

    "Grainy textures and blurred images suited Frank and Klein, because they were presenting facts that could be known only partially. 'The reduced tonal scale makes it seem like a copy of a copy, like an old record that's faded and a lot of the information is gone,' [Szarkowski] later reflected. 'Which is fine for a certain kind of description where you feel you're not getting everything. In Klein you never feel you know the people personally. They're types.' — Arthur Lubow

    If grainy textures and blurred images are less information, then blown highlights would be either another way of doing the same, or they would be too much information all at once — a visual or cognitive scream or howl. Beyond comprehension. I think Spearhead got it right in an earlier post with pictures.

    Black and white can only scream in white: color can scream with color (blown or not). An audio example would be Jimi Hendrix doing the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. I can see Jimi himself with b&w blown highlights, but his Star Spangled Banner definitely blows highlights in color. Maybe purple, red and even a few yellow blowouts. White just would not do.

    I'm still thinking about bob-bill's cheekbones ...

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