In anticipation of using the large format camera I recently purchased I’ve been reading Ansel Adam’s three books on photography – The Camera, The Negative, The Print. Granted there is a lot of information in these classics that applies to film, especially the processing and printing parts, but much of it is straightforward advice on how to compose, expose and make good images. Yes, much of it is about B&W but the basics apply regardless of your choice of media or depiction of reality so might as well learn from the master.
One point he makes is how pure black and pure white are critical in most images because the eye of the viewer uses them as reference points for all the other tones in the image. Not much of either in the image is needed, just a little to give the viewer a sense of the overall illumination of the subject in the image.
I played around with this composition a bit, merging four files into a HDR and then converting to B&W using NIK Silver Efex Pro plug-in for Photoshop. I adjusted the tones of the tree trucks to lighten them a bit (from Zone 2 to Zone 3) and then confirmed the image has pure black and pure white. There’s not much of either – see the upper right corner – but after changing the exposure to lighten and darken the image a bit I found that without both the overall image just didn’t have the same effect on me. Have to look at more B&W in the future and see how this works.