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Minimalist Outdoor Photography in Black & White

October 1, 2015

To shoot scenery in black and white might initially seem more limiting than enabling. But a dearth of color means that there is greater emphasis on the fundamental content and composition of a photograph. It is a picture distilled to its elements, and implies a photographer confident that the subject matter will speak for itself. In the spirit of the rich, yet stripped down nature of black and white outdoors photography, we sat down with Scott Rinckenberger, a critically acclaimed photographer and Enlight user who specializes in monochromatic images, and whose photography embodies the beauty and vibrance of black and white.

When to Shoot Color and When to Go for Black & White

Scott notes that shooting in monochrome depends on the scenery – flora and fauna are best in color, whereas mountains and snow are often best shot in black and white. He notes that “There are a lot of subjects that photograph better in color. Yellow larch trees in the autumn or the surreal turquoise waters of a glacier fed lake… lose much of their magic when photographed in monochrome. Scott Rinckenberger | Minimalist Outdoor Photography in B&W

That said, my favorite images and the scenes that I find most inspiring are endeavors of light playing on graphic landscapes, and I approach these from a minimalist perspective.”

Pare Down the Picture

Scott recommends trying to strip down a scenic image to its most basic elements. He notes that, “Part of this reductive process is to compose in such a way as to remove as many distractions as possible.”  Scott Rinckenberger | Minimalist Outdoor Photography in B&W

For the iPhone photographer, this means trying to isolate an image to just the subject – the skier without the treeline, the cappuccino without the croissant – in a way that highlights the central focus of the picture. A mobile photographer can make basic crops on each side of an picture, and Enlight’s Heal tool provides a powerful way to scrub out a distracting element by allowing the user to replicate a more neutral part of the image. Scott continues, “Avoid artificial lighting as much as possible, and try to create simple and beautiful renderings of the world.” Scott Rinckenberger | Minimalist Outdoor Photography in B&W

Artificial light tends to oversaturate parts of images, or produce uneven shadows. For the iPhone user, this means shunning the built-in flash, and instead aiming to capture the ideal image using natural light. Cloudy weather works as a natural lightbox, as grey skies produce an even, neutral light.

Shoot in Panorama, Divide in Instagram

Scott often shoots breathtaking panoramas of mountain landscapes that seem to put the viewer in his shoes, atop, say, Mount Denali.Scott Rinckenberger | Minimalist Outdoor Photography in B&W

These wide images often feature one focal point – a single hiker, a lone tree, a sunrise – that enrich the span of the photo, while also teasing the viewer’s attention toward one side or another. When subsequently sharing his work on Instagram, Scott divides his panoramas into three separate pictures, a technique that preserves the breadth of the original image, while allowing viewers to more closely enjoy and engage with each segment of the photo. The iPhone boasts a best-in-class panorama option, and Enlight’s Skew and Tilt Shift options empower the user to tweak the depth of field of the landscape image.

Play With Contrast

Scott says, “The vast majority of my images are adjusted but not altered. I generally do not do any compositing or heavy retouching. I do, however enjoy playing with the contrasts, colors and tones in my images…Enlight is definitely the most potent post production tool in my mobile photography arsenal. Scott Rinckenberger | Minimalist Outdoor Photography in B&W

I use the original capture purely as a starting point in creating the final aesthetic. I love to play with many different looks and settings until I arrive at a treatment that suits the composition and subject. In Enlight, the Analog and BW filters provide amazing starting places, and then I tinker with the sliders to fine tune the results.” Enlight offers a number of black and white presets (Filters > BW), but users can also tweak their image using the Tools tab menu within BW, and can then subsequently adjust the image’s brightness, tone, exposure, and other settings. Scott Rinckenberger | Minimalist Outdoor Photography in B&W

Scott continues, “I also find that the tools available for reshaping and healing are the best in the mobile game. To anyone who asks my advice for shooting and processing, I recommend focusing entirely on subject and composition during capture, then letting go of expectations and playing around during post production. You might surprise yourself with what you create!”

The Takeaway

Scott’s tips and tricks for incredible outdoors pictures are well-suited to mobile photographers everywhere. Since, as as the axiom goes, “the best camera is the one you have with you,” the iPhone is uniquely suited to spontaneous and serendipitous landscape photography. Scott Rinckenberger | Minimalist Outdoor Photography in B&W

Not everyone has steep mountains or deep valleys nearby, but every photographer has nature – whether it be grass, trees, or sky –  around them worth capturing. And the power of mobile editing – to stitch panoramas, replicate image segments, fine-tune filters and adjust contrast – allows the photographer to highlight the minimalistic beauty of natureScott Rinckenberger | Minimalist Outdoor Photography in B&W

As Scott concludes, “I feel like a stripped down approach with regard to tech allows me to travel freely, adventure boldly, and gets me closer to finding the essence of things through photography.”

 

Written by: David Leshaw.

Contributing Photographer: Scott Rinckenberger began his career as a skier, but eventually took up photography. He can often be found in the great outdoors, photographing the daring skiers and climbers who traverse the stunning peaks of the Pacific Northwest. You can follow him on Instagram @scottrinck.

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David LeShaw
David LeShaw

David is a freelance writer, and is often found at www.siliconspatula.com, where he writes about tech, business, and food, and the delicious times they coincide. In his spare time, he enjoys running marathons and traveling.

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