Moods in Black & White

Atlantic Mood

Looking out of the window my bleary eyes encountered a hint of grey dawn smudging the horizon through the heavy humid blanket of cloud. I like cloud at this time of the day, the rising sun can work its alchemy with sometimes-spectacular results.

The road climbed past the Slangkop lighthouse at Kommetjie as I drove south along the cliffs of the southern Cape peninsular watching the huge yellow moon sink into a bank of cloud in the west. I had a location in mind but as usual whatever unfolded from the land and light would be my canvas.

Iv’e been to this place many times but never managed to capture its secrets…

The dull concrete jetty jutted out of the kelp strewn rocks merged into the grey sea; it seemed to offer little magic. The slipway and surrounding rocks covered in fresh sea grass and kelp made it treacherous underfoot which didn’t help my investigation of the location – I waited determined, my senses engaged. Then as the sun got higher behind the thick cumulous the mercury light suddenly transformed the featureless scene.

The low heavy cloud reflected the strengthening glow acting like a huge light box. The rocks, which moments ago were dull and lifeless took on a silvery glow from the luminous sea – I envisaged a moody black and white image.

I quickly set up my tripod and black box. Looking through the viewfinder then back at the scene I struggled to see how I would capture what was in my imagination. I needed the sea to be a calm silvery mirror in order to contrast with the severe brutal rocks.

I changed the lens to my favourite wide-angle glass: Zeiss 21mm Distagon; this would include more of jetty and rocks and increase the highlights in the foreground. I could now see the image coming to life; all that was needed was a very long exposure to create the smooth silvery sea.

I read the scene with my spot meter and reckoned 1/80th of a second for a normal exposure. With the  ND1024 filter on the lens I calculated a 13 second exposure. I took 3 shots, 13 seconds was underexposed, 22seconds blew the highlights in the eastern sky, 18 seconds gave me the perfect digital negative to produce:

Atlantic Mood

Atlantic Mood

Atlantic Mood

Atlantic Mirror

Atlantic Mirror



This image along with a selection of my portfolio can also be seen at the Martin Osner Fine Art Photography.


  1. gian

    Great shot … a place that no one would give a second look…except, … if you have an eye!

  2. Outstanding. These images are inspiring in both technique and content. The quicksilver clouds and its counterpart, the sea, seem of another place and time. Your placement of the horizon line in the first composition is particularly well-suited to drawing the eye to all the particulars.

    When these are shot, do you use both color and black and white settings?

    The last shot in particular is very mood-oriented. Makes me think of images from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Have you read that book?

    Your work has truly evolved over the last few years – I am intrigued by how an image of a landscape can evoke feelings of nostalgia and old stories in my mind when I have never physically visited the place. Perhaps it is the place itself but truly there is an art to invoking such emotion in a photograph or painting and you, sir, are an artist. Bravo.

    Regards to you, Eric

  3. pcprint

    Hi Eric,
    Its good to hear from you again, I hope you are well.

    It was you my friend who first introduced me to Cormac McCarthy many years ago, I have all of his books here in my bookcase.

    Perhaps its archetypical; memories embedded in our individual psyche from way back in another time in history that invokes those feelings.
    I have thought about just such notions that you describe many times, in particular why I am so interested in Landscapes and the feelings I get when out “there” on my own looking for slices of time.

    Of course any form of art ultimately, in some way, conveys the mood – perhaps not the conscious overt mood – of the artist!

    I use normal digital cameras then convert to Black & White in a programme called Silver Ex. Pro it at that stage it is still an RGB file, then when I print I decide whether to convert to a Greyscale or leave as an RGB.

    Thanks for looking and your contribution.