We hope you will join the Muses for a month of black and white in November. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, now is the time to stop mourning gentle summer and fiery autumn and instead start to savour the starkness of winter as the landscape slowly desaturates around us, and beyond the seasons, there are many reasons why we all should remember to look beyond the colours of a scene from time to time.

Perhaps you want to highlight a detail, such as the frost on the leaves…

…or the steam rising from your teacup like Cara has done here.
good morning, sunday.

Or perhaps you want to evoke a timeless atmosphere, which the Impossible Project Polaroid Silver Shade film does particularly well.

You might want to highlight light as your main subject – I have a special fondness for black and white bokeh such as in my leaf image above, and for white light falling through a window.

Or perhaps you want to help the eye make sense of a cluttered scene that would be too messy in colour.

Moving from subject matter to composition – shooting black and white is an excellent way of practicing basic composition skills, and bring out in our images the basic elements of design that make up the way we see and make sense of our surroundings.

The most basic of all: Lines. Take a look at how the lines lead the eye through an image, such as the lines stretching forever inwards in this image by Debra
Inter-provincial bridge

…or consider how horizontal and vertical lines interact in architectural structures, such as in this image I shot of the National Theatre in Oslo.

Observe the shapes of things, such as Tammy’s beautiful tea set…
afternoon tea

…and how shapes repeat and create patterns, which Meghan has observed to such good effect here.

Or do a texture study, which I can rarely resist when I knit with woolen yarn:

And beyond subject matter and composition, there are different ways of working with monochrome tones. I have previously argued that the grey tones between the black and the white are very important, and most of the images above prove this point. But images with sharp contrasts between black and white can be equally effective, such as Meghan’s black lab (and we all know doggie eyes never lie) or Kirstin‘s powerful leaf image below.
yet to fall....

And of course you can experiment with sepia tones for a slightly warmer feel if you’re so inclined, like the unintentional sepia tones in my Polaroid image above or Tammy’s tea set.

So for November, show us your world in black and white in the Muse theme pool. What is your light, which lines do your eyes follow and which textures bring you comfort? There will also be weekly themes on black and white on our Instagram account, where we explore some of the basic elements of design more thoroughly than I have done here.

~ All the best from Jenny.

(The title of this post is inspired by the lovely Justine Gordon, who challenged us to shoot an entire month of black and white in November two years ago. That challenge opened my eyes, both to the beauty of black and white and to the importance of returning to monochrome images from time to time.)