The solution to a harsh midday sun
Don’t like the colours and shadows during the middle of a sunny day? Black and white may be your answer
if not exactly immune to the time of day, black and white is much less in thrall to it than colour photography is. Just think about the popularity of the golden hour and magic hour as times for shooting. The strongest component of these two times of day is their colour, and because so many photographers prize these end-of-theday hues, by comparison midday tends to get rejected. Black and white hardly suffers from this problem (if you consider it a problem, that is; not everyone does).
This shot of Tibetans loading up a yak caravan for the trail was taken at midday in western Sichuan, at high altitude, so the light was stark and the colours of the river bed were, to me, bland and uninteresting. The Tibetans weren’t going to wait for late afternoon and good light just for me, so I switched my mind to black and white mode, and concentrated on tonality and shape. There was one tone in particular that I focused on – the leathery face of this man. It’s a cliché, of course, but in this case I thought completely justified, because I could see a comparison between his weather-beaten skin and the leather sacks they were loading on the yak. In the conversion to monochrome, lowering the red of his face while keeping the opposite bank of the river light got the deep contrast that I wanted.
As a colour image, I didn’t care for the insipid colours and hard lighting, but translation into black and white emphasised the texture of the man’s face and the sacks