Chasing the High Contrast Image

High contrast images are found not made. That is to say, the best of them are not high contrast due to heavy handed image editing, but rather because the content was high contrast when shot. While Ansel Adam’s Zone System may insist that we need components in our images at each of the ten zones between black and white, that should not be construed to mean that all ten zones need to be heavily represented.

The image above is a clear example of a high contrast image, and the drama that such a shot can produce. The only light source in the image was the marquis lighting at the front of the hotel, with the rest of the building’s facade in total darkness, but for a tiny gleam through the curtain above, that shows that the hotel is indeed there. And the backlit black London Cab is entirely dark, but for the narrow reflections of the marquis lighting defining its hood, windscreen, and roof.

The one last element adding to the story this image tells is the pose of the cab driver; the frame where his head is bowing towards his up-stretched hand provided the most dramatic image of the lot. The result is a mysterious Noir image, that sticks in the viewer’s mind. And making a lasting impression on the viewer is the effect a photographer most wants.

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