I still love Black & White Photography

Here are a couple of vintage black & white images from my files – uncovered during a search for something quite different.

The pictures where taken in Windsor for The Sunday Times back in June 1988 and looking at them now after so many years, both pictures give me a sense of pleasure.

I like the way that the composition of each photograph breaks the rules.

The composition of the first picture is split in two about one third from the left. Each section could be said to comprise a separate picture in its own right. But by including the two together  the aim was to capture more of the moment, more of the atmosphere and add depth. It is a technique I particularly enjoy and have used many times. There is another example of this ‘split’ image – also taken for The Sunday Times here

Black & White
This ‘split’ composition technique always seems to work best in Black & White photography because B&W relies on form and tone. It can be done in colour, but is more difficult as there is more likelihood of distraction and confusion.

black & white split composition

The composition has been divided one third from the left. This has created the effect of making two inter-related images in order to say a whole lot more about the moment. The perspective of the wet pavement has given a tremendous feeling of depth. Photograph by Philip Dunn

The next photograph, taken on the same assignment, is almost split in half horizontally. This is normally something to be avoided, unless, as in this case, each half of the image has a great deal to say and they are inter-related. The water reflections of the trees pull the two halves together.

fishing beside the River Thames at Windsor

Here again the composition has been divided. This time horizontally and almost in two. But the line of the river bank has not been allowed to travel the entire distance across the image - it stops at the man's head. Photograph by Philip Dunn

Notice that the line of the far river bank is not allowed to travel the entire distance across the image – it is broken by the top of the head of the man on the left.

The pictures were taken on a brand new Leica M6. I soon got rid of it and returned to Nikon. The Leica was the most unreliable camera I ever owned.

You can learn more about composition with Philip Dunn’s DVD ‘Light & Composition’ for just £10.99 BUY NOW

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  1. Thank you Phil. Glad you appreciate the photographs.

    Reason for reflections? Well not really. Just happened to be raining when I was there in Windsor – so that accounts for the wet footpath in the first picture. And the reflections were another reason for including that side of the image.

    The reflections of the trees at the other side of the river were certainly spotted and used deliberately in the second picture. Reflections can be used – as in this case – as compositional devices. Not just for visual interest.

    I used to use Neopan 400 film, which I would often push to ISO 1600. Or Ilford FP4 which I never pushed. Developer was usually D76 diluted 1+1 worked perfectly with both films. I knew and trusted both films intimately and was very reluctant to play with others.

    I never sent Black & White film to a printer and always printed my own work.

    These days I shoot only digital in colour and desaturate and save BW images as greyscale. Now I always send away to a printer and use Peak Imaging in Sheffield. They are excellent.

    Hope that helps – I look forward to seeing you on a photography holiday or photography course in the future.
    Best wishes,

  2. Lovely photos Philip, shame about the Leica. Reflections are a feature in these pictures, is there a reason? Oddly enough i was just thinking to dust off an old film camera with black & white printing in mind. Can you recommend a suitable film please, I fancy some low light experiments in this winter light. Also the name of your preferred printer. Many thanks…still working on coming to one of your courses!

    Cheers for now


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