Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Nature (in Black and White and Creative Tension)

02 February 2015


1. Snow on Mills Pond,  Carpenter State Park; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

1. Snow on Mills Pond, Carpenter State Park; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Snow on Mills Pond,  Carpenter State Park; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Snow on Mills Pond, Carpenter State Park; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

Let me know which you prefer and why. Click to enlarge each image.


I was reminded this week about the four seasons—the way that Mother Nature keeps me attentive and hopeful. While the entire planet does not experience lyrics that create summer, winter, spring, and fall, the flow in my small universe from one to another is a dance of highs and lows that make me tremble with pronounced emotions.

Self-expression and exploration are responses to the usual and unexpected that accompany seasonal momentum. Now climate change brings an even greater focus on the swings in fluctuating weather and its effects on the planet’s health.

Winter’s paramount duty is freezing the layers of the soil, giving it a taste of dormancy and hibernation. Some will end their existence as the season takes them. The solid crust reaches down and down, hardening some living organisms that will be reborn with a new vibrancy for Spring’s renewal.

And while the previous years have wavered in their responsibilities, this season’s winterizing has done its job—weeks of frozen ground. In this seesawing of one year to the next a sense of polarity surfaces. These opposites also occur in everyday life, and are jammed with tension—tension that has pronounced effects upon the creative process.

Black-and-white photography is steeped in this paradox, the paradox of contradictions. Certainly, monochromatic images are perfect examples. The most accomplished images in black and white are those that push the limits of tension: grey scale, contrast, tone, negative and positive spaces, and so much more.

These opposites are more honored in Eastern philosophy than Western. Duality works against and for the whole, the complete. Natural forces are at work, and often incite imagination and innovation.

This constancy of pull between nature and human nature are analogous to the two hemispheres of the brain that work separately and together. They keep us wedded to the notion that, for example, yin and yang, good and evil, dark and light, thought and action, north and south, sun and moon are forever part of life. To resolve (momentarily or longer) the tension can bring harmony: certainly a conscious and an unconscious mission.

In the Lens section are two images that spiked my thoughts about tension–tension that can be more obvious and noticed in monochrome than color. The dichotomy created by the push and pull can bring greater drama and movement in an image. Without the distraction that technicolor usually exhibits, a viewer can more easily discern the true value and poignancy captured (the intention of the photographer): the story that resonates behind the photograph’s tension.

Tip of the Week: Matthew Smith is an accomplished nature photographer who specializes in wildlife images. His documentation of the undersea world are extraordinarily captivating.

Physalia, Australia by Matty Smith, 2014

Physalia, Australia by Matty Smith, 2014

Smith was last year’s Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year The above image of a Portuguese Man-o-War is his winning photograph.

“This photograph stops you in your tracks – the shock of electric blue against the black background is arresting and on contemplation the viewer can become lost in the cosmos like complexity of the bluebottles tentacles. The image is hard to fault. It is superb on all fronts: artistic, technical and choice of subject. The central composition and use of over-under photography allow us to take in the full visual impact of the bluebottle and it’s environment.” –  Australian Geographic

“Honoured, humbled and bursting with pride at being named the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer if the Year 2014! The quality of work from the other finalists was so high I can’t quite believe I’m up there!” – Matthew Smith

Click here to see more of his photographs.

Other entries for this week’s challenge:


As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog.

If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature.

2nd Monday: Macro.

3rd Monday: Black and White.

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

5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Nature (in Black and White and Creative Tension)

  1. The second image. More content, clearer composition…

  2. Stunning images. Matthew Smith’s work is indeed captivating.

  3. Both of these images are stunning Sally-even haunting with their vast expanses of white and the starkness of the trees-the top one particularly I find myself contemplating again Nature’s vast power to create–lovely, lovely work-

  4. I love the contrasts- very unique images!! maybe number one- it reminds me of “everything emptying into white!”

  5. I love high key images Sally and you’ve done a great job with these.

  6. Su Leslie says:

    Lovely shots; but I definitely prefer the first. I like the way the trees and building seem to emerge, but only a little, from the overwhelmingly white landscape. Here’s my contribution:

  7. livvy30 says:

    Beautiful shots Sally. I can’t decide which I prefer. They seem to blend landscape and sky. Here’s mine for this week.

  8. I’d say #2 works better for me. The expansive foreground leeds me right into the scene.

  9. Hello I just found you through lovely Lucile and she tempted me to join in. I am always taking pics with my phone and just started a new photo blog, so I hope you like my entry its a bit grainey as the iphone never does well in limited lighting but really wanted to share our first local snowfall and footsteps that always tug at my heart.

    Lovely photos by the way and the Portugese man of war, wow that scary yet beautiful x

    Not sure if I am meant to post the link to my entry here;

  10. elisa ruland says:

    Your narrative always bring us around full circle, Sally. I like both photographs, they have a nostalgic feel that bring me back to growing up on the water.

  11. Tish Farrell says:

    I like #1 best – the dark branch in the foreground, and the sense of infinity about the snowscape which gives it added mystery.

  12. Maria F. says:

    Sally, these are what they call “high keys”? I like them both. They remind me of a poet’s cabin deep in the woods. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Gallivanta says:

    I was intrigued to think of black and white in terms of tension. When I was playing with black and white the other day, my mind was focused on the harmony which black and white seemed to create for me. I really like the drama and tension in the second photo.

  14. The surprise of the broken branch in #1 makes it my favorite. Also love the way the image floats in space.

  15. Suzanne says:

    I like both your images here this week Sally but more than that, I found your introduction to be really informative and inspiring. Thank you. Here’s the post I’ve made in response

  16. Lovely images, Sally. I’m not a snow person so this warm winter in the PNW should be fantastic but I’m starting to worry about what our summer will be like without a hard freeze here now and the low snow pack in the mountains. Everything has it’s place and I’m afraid we’re missing a vital step this season. I’ll be back by tomorrow with my nature post. 🙂

    • Lisa, when I was in Northern California last spring, I felt fortunate to see the waterfalls rushing in Yosemite. The West Coast needs a month-long steady rain, and we’d all be happy. See you soon.

  17. Angeline M says:

    I really like the first photo the best, it just has more of an element of the immense and bleak look of a winter field and pond. I’m not sure if it’s the inclusion of the little building brought into the frame in the second shot that takes that feeling away for me. Strange because it’s such a minor detail.
    Here is my entry…and I feel almost guilty talking about our warmth

  18. I love the contrasts in the second one best but they’re both lovely in their own right! 🙂

  19. Stunning photos. I think the first one really shows the barren landscape more.

  20. pattimoed says:

    Hi Sally. I love your thoughts on the creative tension in polarities. I’m also reminded of the physical and mental tension as we create new works and stumble from the unknown to the known. I also think that the second image sets up the “tension” between light and dark, the known and the imagined. For that reason, it’s my favorite. Happy Monday!–Patti

  21. I like the second one better, but not for much of a reason. They’re both nice!

  22. Amy says:

    I like the process, Sally. I bet the original photo is beautiful! Like the second one.

  23. Lovely images, once again. I think I prefer the second version simply because I like the fuller landscape it contains. I wish you a wonderful week, Sally.

  24. Stunning photos, Sally. I love the second one because of the contrast.
    Reading your text made me love it even more. It is hard but we have to accept that harmony comes from the acceptance of these contrasts in our lives.
    It is a pleasure to learn more from you about photography. It is equally wonderful to learn from the insightful reflections you bring to us every Monday.
    Thanks for this post and also for sharing the work of Matty.
    I am now off to shoot my photo.

  25. Sally, your black and white photos are perfect for what winter looks like, at least here and now. We’re digging out from under several feet of snow and the monochrome conveys the cold and stark beauty. I prefer the first one slightly, as I like the large amount of white space, which gives me the feeling both of cold and of quiet solitude.

    Enjoy your week!


    • Janet, I was on a long walk in one of our state parks. The beauty comes in the long swaths of open space that does give winter its playground. This pond is frozen and had a lovely covering of recently fallen snow. We haven’s had much snow, but a lot of bitter cold days. It’s been chilling. We can put on the kettle and have a cup of tea together. See you soon. Thanks so much.

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