Learning To See The SOUL Of Your Image: Black & White


Removing The DISTRACTION of COLOR!

Do you enjoy the purity of a finely crafted B&W image?  

 

Look closely at the image below of the neither regions of the Folley Beach Pier.  This was taken with a B&W only DEEP CONTRAST Infrared camera converted by KolariVision.com with their new AR coating.  Look at the detail and depth captured here.  Do you think that if the sand was actually in color that you would even notice the pier going off into the distance past the initial structure? This is what the power and purity of B&W gives to us!

Fuji X100s 850nm Deep Contrast B&W Infrared: Under The Folley Beach Pier

Fuji X100s 850nm Deep Contrast B&W Infrared by KolariVision.com with their new AR coating: Under The Folley Beach Pier

I love working in B&W,  so that I would only create them if the market would support such endeavor.   There is something about a well crafted monochrome image, having the distraction of color removed leaves you with the soul of the image.  

I find that it is so powerful for me that I look at EVERY scene I approach with B&W in mind.  Yes, I can visualize in B&W.  So can you!  It only takes a little practice… OK, a LOT of practice really, but it is well worth the investment in time and energy!

I am so into fine art B&W that I even have a Leica Monochrom digital camera that is dedicated to it in that it only takes B&W images!   Not to mention digital B&W infrared cameras!  

But DON’T forget film…. Which really is a post for another day.

The baby blue is a Olympus 35RC rangefinder  that I had rebuilt, cleaned and given a nice new set of baby blue clothes!  The second is a Polaroid 900 that my daughter found at a garage sale and sent to me.  I kept it in a display case for a year or 2 then sent it off to  WWW.Alpenhause.com where Steven Icanberry took it apart, cleaned, re-gasket, replaced the lens with a Fujicon 150mm lens and added a 4×5 film back.  He also calibrated the internal rangefinder to the new 150mm lens and gave it an adult blue suite!  It is a dream camera come true! 

 

My Custom Olympus 35 RC Film Camera, one of dozens of film systems I shoot.

My Custom Antique Olympus 35 RC Film Camera, one of dozens of film systems I shoot.

Polaroid 900 converted to 4x5 with a Fujicon 150mm lens.

Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a Fujicon 150mm lens converted by Steven Icanberry

I shoot 35mm, 120mm and 4×5 film systems.  Usually, I will expose about a dozen rolls a week in 120, Develop, Dry and Scan then treat them as I would a digital image except for the fact that I will never be starting with a color image!

Rollei IR400 Film - M7 28mm Elmarit - Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film – M7 28mm Elmarit – Rodinal 1-50 processing, scanned and printed

I mainly  shoot with my Sony A7rii camera and a selection of 4 lenses in my normal day to day work.   I shoot in COLOR but always process both color and B&W in post processing.   I can just hear you say “why not just shoot in B&W in camera?”   Well the easy answer is while you can do so, you will get much better B&W images by shooting in color then post processing to get the best possible color image, THEN convert to B&W.  I use The NIK filter Silver EFX Pro for my B&W conversions, and by feeding it a finished color image it will have enough data to generate a wonderful B&W image!

Here is an example of just what I mean:

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.  Daddy’s Girls, Bluffton, SC

First an image of Daddys Girls, a shrimp boat out of Bluffton, SC.   The image is a great one, full of colors and textures with an interesting sky!  I feel that in color this makes a wonderful image and think that there is a market out there for it.  I spent the time with the image during post processing to bring out the colors, textures and contrasts to make the image pleasing.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens. Daddy’s Girls, Bluffton, SC

Then, and ONLY THEN I ran the image through Nik’s Silver EFX Pro B&W converter.   I Chose a deeply sepia tinted output with a slightly scratched texture and a minor border.  This to me is a pure image with which you can witness and feel the soul of the scene!

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.  Stormy Seas, Head On with the clouds of tropical storm Colin.

Another example from the Sony that I took and post processed today is this image of the shrimper Stormy Seas, likely the MOST PHOTOGRAPHED shrimp boat in South Carolina, IN COLOR.  

Again, I shot in COLOR in order to have as much data as possible for the B&W conversion. Again I found myself in a sepia mood and processed it as the examples above!  As you can see, it has a totally different look, feel and emotional impact from its color version above!

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens. Stormy Seas, Head On with the clouds of tropical storm Colin.

B&W images can be really powerful in their emotional impact.   There was a time when B&W was all you could have, then color became popular because of the fact that it was different!  But guess what?  B&W is again VERY POPULAR to the point of actually out selling color in fine art shows and to collectors!  This should give you pause if you are concentrating in color only.  You are missing have of the scene, the most important half!

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

Roanoke River Lighthouse, Leica M Monochrome Camera system, B&W only!

 

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8 comments on “Learning To See The SOUL Of Your Image: Black & White

  1. “you will get much better B&W images by shooting in color then post processing to get the best possible color image, THEN convert to B&W.”

    Yes. The transition points, or quantization of luminance from one brightness to the next, will take place at subtly different brightnesses in a color shot. Then when the adjustments have been made, convert to black and white collapsing these quantization steps into a single range. That is why when I re-photograph old black and white photos, I do it in color, since the channels will have different quantizations. Rather extreme contrast enhancements thus maintain adequate steps in the final black and white conversion. But if I did that processing in black and white, a single channel, the steps would become conspicuous.

    You can also mimic the application of (for instance) yellow, green or red filters at the time the photo was made with black and white and get essentially identical results. Photoshop allows adjusting the relative proportions of RG and B into the final B&W image.

    If you have seen a color sphere, you realize intuitively that the maximum luminance range is from black to white along the vertical, with zero chroma. Fully saturated colors can exist at only one brightness; exactly halfway (value 127 of 0-255). So the more color you have, the less dynamic range is possible, down to zero dynamic range and posterized colors.

    The opposite is zero saturation and maximum luminance dynamic range. It is excellent for portraits of people since skin is low contrast anyway so you want more dynamic range to bring out texture.

    Sepia toning is a compromise; you can achieve similar effects by pulling back on saturation but leave a little color in a portrait.

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