Phoneography Challenge: Black and White

15 July 2013


1. Train Station, iPhone 4s,  July 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

1. Train Station, iPhone 4s, July 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Across from the Train Station, iPhone 4s, July 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Across from the Train Station, iPhone 4s, July 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer and why.


Gracie (, Polly ( and I began the iPhoneography Monday Challenge in February. Recently, we had a re-launch that made the challenge open to everyone who uses their Smartphones as their lens–exclusively, experimentally, frequently, occasionally, or back-up. Check here for that post. If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. Please use the current badge until a new one is created, which will be ready sometime this month.  

“The camera is an engineer, not a poet.” — Joe McNally, world renown photographer

My aesthetics lean toward a minimalist sensibility. While the technicolor world urges engagement, I am inspired and awed by the way in which a monochromatic image pulls me more directly into the narrative.

Black-and-white images seem to reel in simplicity. This approach pushes me to appreciate an angle, a curve, a line, and shapes. Contrast and tone also are more eager to please me.

This version of the world is one point of view. We forget that without the invention of photography, grayscale may not have been seen as a viable choice.

Early masters of black and white continue to reveal and teach about the replication of the real as abstractions and representations. These monochromes remain a viable form that freezes our visual universe.

1957 Grand Central Station, New York City by Brassaï, Hungarian Photographer

“1957 Grand Central Station,” New York City by Brassaï, Hungarian Photographer

Georgia O'Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz

“Georgia O’Keeffe,” by Alfred Stieglitz, American Photographer

"Walking Paris Street with Eugene Atget," French Photographer

“Walking Paris Street with Eugene Atget” (2013) by Greg Bogaerts

Tip of the Week:  The change from analog to digital pushed most people to concentrate on color photography. While there are 254 shades in grayscale as well as pure black and pure white, current technology allows the capture of 16 million colors. So if you shoot in monochrome, you immediately lose data. For a higher quality image it is best to shoot in color, then convert to black and white during the editing process.

Note: As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog. Click here for the post from June and here for the post from May on the Phoneography Challenge about black and white.

View other entries for the challenge:

The following is a reminder of the weekly schedule and themes for upcoming challenges.  

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black-and-White

4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

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36 Responses to Phoneography Challenge: Black and White

  1. KOH  says:

    Wonderful shot
    love it tone~

  2. Train stations creates the most interesting of images…added with a black and white effect…even more stunning. Have a great weekend.

  3. There were previous photographs of the shafts of light in Grand Central Station, including one apparently taken by Hal Morey:

  4. thomas peck says:

    I prefer number 2. Simpler structure, v dramatic. And I love the blur.

  5. Tina Schell says:

    While I like both images very much, I prefer the second. It has an air of mystery and nostalgia. For me, the first leaves me wondering what the pattern’s colors were and I think I’d appreciate it more that way. And I LOVE the image you included of Grand Central – never saw that one before. makes me realize how far I have to go!!

  6. marialla says:

    Wow, I like the second one best!! Thank you for the view.

  7. The black-and-white processing just made the pattern jump right out at you…gorgeous!

  8. I have always found there to be something dark and brooding about black and white photography. I always read gloomy ideas into black and white pictures. The train station picture looks dark and forbidding though very artistic, of course!

  9. icastel says:

    My favorite is the second one. I like the perspective with lines receding into the distance and the pattern/rhythm hinted at by the support pillars. Nice shot 🙂

    Not as good as yours, but here’s my entry:

    A little trivia: this shot was taken in Downtown Los Angeles from the Angels Flight funicular railway, an iconic landmark claiming to be the shortest incorporated rail line in the world (only 91 meters, or 298 feet in length). The ride costs $0.50 each way; a bit pricey, but now I can say I rode it 🙂

  10. Melanee says:

    Love the ambience of the second photo…kind of ominous. Here is my simple B+W for this week.

  11. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Hello, Sally. Here is my entry for this week’s challenge:

  12. EricaK says:

    I like both! The first tickles my imagination and I find myself wondering about the color of the tiles and the second piques my curiosity about what’s down the lane. Both get me thinking in different directions. Here are my entries, where I try to capture the quality of landscape contrasts:

  13. These are beautiful black and whites!! My favorite is most definitely the second one! Eerily beautiful. I skipped last weeks challenge because I returned from Hawaii Monday night (after 10 hours of flying) and was jetlagged and busy all week. I am back now lol! I will post my black and white later today 🙂 Again, these photos are gorgeous!

  14. Angeline M says:

    I really like that second photo, sense of mystery to it in black and white. I think I would have liked to see the tiles in that first photo in color.
    Here’s my entry for today’s challenge
    Thanks, and have a great Monday,

  15. Hi Sally, I really like your train station photo… Lisa

  16. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I suppose I have been doing it unconsciously. Always have been shooting with true colour and without filters so that I can have the option for both colour and black and white, as well as any combination of filters during editing. One can’t go back to colour if it has been shot in black and white 😛 Great post 🙂

  17. Gallivanta says:

    Fantastic tiling on the wall in the train station; looks so effective in black and white. Do you have any photos that you could put side by side to illustrate this point… ‘So if you shoot in monochrome, you immediately lose data. For a higher quality image it is best to shoot in color, then convert to black and white during the editing process.”?

    • I do not have any examples, but will consider posting some (if I can truly see the difference). As you know, in many instances monochrome increases and pushes our ability to appreciate contrast and tone. Thanks so much.

      • Gallivanta says:

        It is trying to see or understand the difference that I am curious about, so if you have something suitable that would be great. Otherwise no worry. There’s always more to learn than my little head can manage at one time 🙂

      • I absolutely agree that we are living in an era of continual influx of savory and not-so-savory information. It’s always a juggling act to select what is pertinent to our own journey. Will watch for a good example or two. Thanks.

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