Black and White Photography – Finding Your Focus

By Doug Caplan


As one navigates around a scene or structure, the perspective and the relationships between the multiple facets and surfaces change, yet they always seem to remain complimentary to the structure as a whole.

In many ways, one can draw a parallel between perfection and non-perfection, both existing as two sides of the same coin, and can therefore be considered a single entity.

This is an important concept I try to capture with my art and, to me, is the essence of black and white photography.

One of the key elements I always seek to exploit when composing my images, particularly in black and white, are patterns of repetition. Patterns do not exist in the universe; patterns “are” the universe, so when approaching a subject, keeping this thought helps me construct the image composition in my mind.

It’s important to know the images I capture are for the sole purpose of self-reflection or expression and are not created to convince anyone of anything. It’s just self-expression I choose to share.

In my opinion, many artists put too much value in how others view their work. To be viewed as authentic, the work should flow from the inner-self outward. Inner-self creates ideas and the ideas move outward to be shared or expressed. There is no right or wrong, good or bad. There is only an expression that exists.

Once you give yourself permission to create without expectation or the need for validation you will find that creativity flows more freely.

My monochromatic odyssey started about 25 years ago. I started to attend Ampro Photo Workshops in Vancouver so I could learn the art and science of photography. Building a fully functioning darkroom was priority number one, so I built one in my home and started developing my own black and white film and producing my own prints. I upgraded to a Mamiya 645 medium format camera and got down to business.

Looking back at my early work I can’t help but think to myself “What was I thinking??!!” I was missing the point completely. I had some good work, but I was missing authenticity. But not all was lost. I learned a lot about tonality, shape, composition, contrast and luminosity, all critical components of black and white photography.

It wasn’t a technical issue that left me with incomplete ideas. I failed to realize my efforts were focused too much on interpersonal communication and I lacked the awareness of myself. I needed to understand INTRApersonal communication.

Interpersonal communication is how you communicate with others. This is an important skill, but to express creativity, INTRApersonal skill needs to be developed. INTRApersonal means how you communicate with yourself.

Black and white photography is an excellent vehicle to develop your INTRApersonal communication skills. You can’t hide behind colour, poor composition or a lack of clarity. There is nothing to distract from what is expressed.

There is no right or wrong so the only way to view your work objectively from your own perspective is to view it from a different point of view. For me, a different point of view was from where I was currently but looking back to where I was formerly.

Life experiences and events force most people to look at things differently as time passes. Life doesn’t happen to us, life happens for us. It may be difficult to accept, but there is no built-in meaning to anything. We apply filters given to us by others to determine what is good or bad. You can only communicate INTRApersonally to someone who you truly value. From this vantage point your awareness will expand and your point of view will shift.

Simplicity is an expression of complexity. Conversely, complexity is an expression of simplicity. Lack of clarity or focus is the death of all potential. In other words, when you try to create something out of complexity, without clarity, you get a confused expression of creativity. Black and white photography, much more than color photography, distills this equation into the essence of what your creative expression is saying. Keeping your attention on the “simplicity” aspect of everything will yield clarity.

A message can only be understood if it is a cohesive and clear. If someone starts speaking to you using nothing but random words, you would have no idea what that person was trying to say to you.

Try this exercise. Pick your 10 best images. Print them and look at them all simultaneously. You can also do this on a computer monitor. Is there a creative expression that spans the 10 images or are they just random images? Is there something in those 10 images that says “This is an expression of me?” Where is the compass needle pointing?

One of the best photographic exercises I learned was to go out with a roll of black and white film and a camera with a fixed lens and then take 10-15 images on a single theme within a single linear period of time – by myself. This exercise forces you to apply “filters” to your creative thought process and to minimize any distractions.

The majority of my work is done in colour, but the years spent working in black and white photography forced me to learn how to communicate with myself. The years spent in the darkroom taught me the art of pre-visualization and how to translate my creativity into something that I felt was worth sharing.

My current camera is a Fujifilm XT2 with Fujinon lenses. All of my work is done in 16bit, from a 14bit raw file. I prefer to work from a raw image in 16bit to achieve maximum quality. Fujifilm XT2 raw files are about 50MB each and saved as 14bit @ 300dpi. Raw image files are unprocessed and uncompressed, which means that I have total control over virtually every aspect of the image and I don’t have to worry about image deterioration from any type of filter application or processing.  Jpeg images are compressed and pre-processed 8bit images @ 72dpi, making them very prone to deterioration from any type of cumulative processing.

All of my work is done in Adobe Photoshop with Topaz and NIK filters.

Doug Caplan resides in Langley, B.C. His work can be seen at

A Weekend in Saskatchewan’s North

by Larry Easton

Saskatchewan is often referred to as the Land of Living skies, but if you journey to the northern half of the province and beyond it is also a land of boreal forest and 100,000 lakes. You can also be treated to some spectacular sunsets and sunrises in this province of Living Skies.

Read More (.pdf) >>

Saskatchewan water falls by Larry Easton
by Larry Easton

Multiple Exposures

by Lynda Miller

There are many paths in a photographer’s creative journey. Here I have shared some of the ideas and experiences
of mine, and hope I have encouraged you to become engaged with your creative life through your camera’s lens. If you are looking to expand your creative vision give Multiple Exposure photography a try.

Read More >> (.pdf)

Canadian Camera Article by Lynda Miller
by Lynda Miller

Focusing on Owls

by Anthony Bucci

Wildlife photography is more than just taking pictures. Thinking about conservation and the well being for all wildlife is always on my mind.


Owls by Anthony Bucci
by Anthony Bucci

Glass Works

by Marianna Armata

The foundation for the Glass Works Portrait Series germinated the first time I shot a portrait of someone peering through a glass object.

A few years ago, my son came to visit and found a cheap lens doubler among my photo gear “toys.” Hearing that it’s the worst lens I ever bought, he took it apart. When he did, we discovered one of the lenses inside was tack sharp, while the other was a useless piece of plastic. He pulled the good lens up to his eye and . . . bingo! It was love at first sight.

Read More (.pdf) >>

Photography by Marianna Armata in Canadian Camera

Glass Works by Marianna Armata 

Speed in the Sky

In the distance you can hear the distinctive roar of the aircraft engines as the Snowbirds and CF-18 prepare for takeoff to practise their routines.

With the snow-capped Coastal Mountains to the east, the Beaufort Mountain Range, Comox Glacier
and Mount Washington to the west and the water gateway of the Georgia Strait in between, the photography begins.

Read More (.pdf) >>

Article from Canadian Camera Magazine
Speed in the Sky by Lois DeEll

Photographing Panama

Panamanians refer to their country as “The Bridge of the World,” where North and South America come together in one direction and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in another.


Article from Canadian Camera
Photographing Panama by Carol Behan-Sokolow

The Lighthouses of Passamaquoddy Bay

by Carol Behan-Sokolow

Located at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy and forming part of the international border between Maine and New Brunswick, Passamaquoddy Bay has some of the most spectacular scenery in the region.

Article by Carol Behan-Sokolow
The Lighthouses of Passamaquoddy Bay by Carol Behan-Sokolow

The Call of the Loon By Mark Lachovsky

Loon With Baby
Loon With Baby
Loon With Baby
Loon Spreading Wings
Loon On The Move
Loon On Nest
Loon Flying
Loon Family
Loon Family
Loon Family With Heron
Loon Dance
Loon Dance
Loon Dance

When call of the Loon breaks my early morning sleep I know it is time to pop out of bed, grab a snack, some water and my camera. The kayak is waiting for me on the dock as I slowly slip it into the water and head off in search of the sound makers.

I am fortunate to have a house on a lake that welcomes Loons every summer. For the past 7 years I have had the opportunity to spend dozens of hours and captured many thousands of frames of these stunning creatures.

Sliding silently through the water allowed me to observe and capture Loons in various acts of natural behavior. A rare opportunity to live through my own personal nature show.

I have observed a pair of adults nesting and caring for their kids; fighting among rival unwelcome visitors;  one day old babies taking their first swim, being fed by their parents and losing their fuzz on the way to adulthood. I’ve also shared sad moments like when an adult had a fishing hook embedded in its beak and when the couple lost a baby and were crying as they desperately searched everywhere for it.

More importantly I am grateful that they invited me into the family to observe, share and capture some amazing moments with them.

These images included include a variety of the scenes I captured over the years, I hope you enjoy them.


About Mark

Mark Lachovsky is a self-taught photographer. Born in Montreal, where he has lived all his life, Mark’s first experience with photography was in high school working on the year book. Moving through university, he gained further experience working in various areas including freelance work with music magazines and University newspapers, writing and taking pictures.

Over the years Mark’s interest focused more on the beauty that nature has to offer. After, waiting for digital technology to improve to a level closer to that of slide film, Mark finally jumped into the digital world. Though there are positives and negatives to digital technology, the positives now outweigh the negatives particularly in terms of speed and flexibility.

Within the scope of nature, areas of interest include African wildlife, birds and the world beneath the oceans. Multiple visits to Africa provided opportunities to view a stunning variety of wildlife up close in their natural habitat. Mark has had the opportunity to photograph in other locations while traveling but spends a lot of time shooting wildlife in the Montreal area. In summers Mark is often out in his kayak in the early mornings looks for the many local or migratory species to capture.

Other areas of interest include portraits of people (particularly in Africa), underwater and landscapes.

“The key in making images that stand out is capturing the essence of the subject. Ideally with warm light on the subject, eye contact, an unusual angle or expression and freezing that special moment in time allows for the viewer to be part of the experience.”

To view more of Mark’s work please visit:

Bad Water – The loss of flamingos in Lake Natron by Jeffery Wu

The alkaline water in Lake Natron and Lake Magadi can reach pH levels as high as 12 and is so caustic it can burn the skin and eyes of animals that are not adapted to the extreme environment. Read More >>

Flamingos on Lake Natron
by Jeffery Wu

From ‘Ahhh’ to ‘Oh!’ with Monica Reekie

In 2013 and 2014, life-changing opportunities with Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic found my heart and soul completely captivated by a group of islands 950 kilometers west of Ecuador along the equator – the Galapagos. Read More >>

CAPA article from Canadian Camera Magazine
Whale Bones by Monica Reekie

Interview with Canadian Nature Photographer Missy Mandel

Common Loon And Chick
Grizzly Sow & Cubs
Heron Love
Hoary Redpoll On Ice Covered Dogwood
Polar Bears
Fox Playtime
Rednecked Grebe and Chick
Northern Gannets Billing
Piping Plover & Chick
Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Missy Mandel is a nature photographer from Toronto, Canada. Nature somehow connected with something deep inside of Missy. This has greatly influenced how she sees and photographs the world.

Why nature photography?

The more I photograph and observe wildlife the more I am convinced both birds and animals have emotions and feelings. I strive to capture these moments by taking people closer to see better the detail, colour and spirit of a wild creature.

According to Missy, what are some basic attributes a nature photographer should have?

Knowledge of the species, Respect and patience are crucial to becoming a wildlife photographer.

What is your homework before you go out to shoot these wonderful creatures?

I observe for hours or days before attempting to photograph. I try and find a pattern to their behaviour and something fascinating about the species.

How does your style stay unique when compared to other nature photographers out there?

I am a mother of two girls, and capturing tender moments between parents and offspring is what I love most.

Could you reveal something you have learned over the years in this genre?

I have learned that the longer you spend in the field just being with a subject the better the outcome will be. I can gauge the safe distance between me and my subject, and once I am at that distance, I can photograph without impacting the subject or the behaviour.

What drives you for the constant passion for photography?

I love to share what I am so privileged to see and photograph. My bucket list of places to go is incredibly long, but it gives me great excitement to have the means and drive to tackle it.

A necessary ingredient for success as a photographer?

Passion and dedication

How do you plan a day out for photography?

Mother Nature plays a huge part in wildlife photography. It is difficult to plan. Most days I will come home with an empty CF card. Nature photography has the same excitement to me as playing the lottery, Every day you think that is your pay day 🙂

Your gear?

I use Canon gear. 1DxII body, 500mm prime, 200-400mm zoom, 100-400mm, Gitzo tripod, Really right stuff gimbal head.

Your inspiration?

There are so many brilliant nature photographers. I follow people with many with hundreds of thousands of followers, and many with very few followers. I am inspired by images that tell a nature story.

Your favorite location?

I have been feeding my backyard birds for years. Being at home and watching the birds around me is my favourite space.

Any final word of advice or thought for aspirants in this field?

Connect with people who appreciate nature and love to photograph. There is so much information to share.

You can find Missy Mandel on the Web:

Reprinted with permission from

Editor’s Note

Missy has recently won many CAPA awards, including Gold Medals in the Open, Wildlife, Print and Nature competitions. Her image of Peyto Lake was the basis for one of the Canada 150th silver collectors coins.

Moonrise Between Iceberg Pillar by Michael Winsor

Michael Winsor is a professional photographer from the small outport community of Pools Island, Newfoundland. Through his passion in landscape photography, Michael has built a reputation in producing stunning low light landscape images.  With his love of exploring the natural world, he is known as a leader in fine art landscape images of Newfoundland & Labrador.

Continue reading “Moonrise Between Iceberg Pillar by Michael Winsor”

At the Edge of the Ocean by Felicity Somerset

I have always been intrigued by seashores, from my earliest memories of English, Irish, Welsh and European beaches to later experiences of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans bordering Canada, the U.S. and Central and South America. My preference is for shorelines that are somewhat remote – certainly not highly populated by sunbathers and swimmers.

Continue reading “At the Edge of the Ocean by Felicity Somerset”