I love really powerful B&W images. Like a lot of young photographers in the 1970’s I learned the art and craft of photography in a home darkroom hand processing 35mm film and then printing my own B&W prints. I studied the work of Adams and Weston and, my favorite to this day, W. Eugene Smith. But I also love the color work of Pete Turner. It was his influence that led me to do color printing using the Cibachrome process. My philosophy is—if you’re going to do color—do color big time!
Too many photographers today use B&W as a fall-back, thinking well if it does not work in color I’ll convert it to B&W. It’s just too easy today to convert so the thought process about color vs B&W at the point of clicking the shutter is gone! In the film era we planned in advance (remember Ansel Adam’s pre-visualizations?) what our final image was to look like. If I had a subject in mind that had to be in color I loaded-up Kodachrome or Ektachrome because I was going to print it on Cibachrome. That same thought process applied to B&W; except I had far more choices in B&W paper to choose from.
So, lets look at a couple of different subjects and my thought process on color vs B&W in the digital age…
f18.0 @ 1/4 sec., ISO 400
When I walked-up to this plant (Canna Durban) I already knew that color was its most compelling feature. That is what drew me to it from over fifty yards away!
Here it is in B&W…
I converted the image using the NIK, Silver Efex, Pro 2 plug-in. While this B&W rendition is graphically pleasing it just does not tell the viewer what makes this plant special—its colors!
For this next subject I’ll start with he straight-up color version of reality….
f11.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400
Now this color version has the nice lighting skimming the old barn’s face as the sun is setting, but the scene is just too pretty. When I first saw this place (a rock quarry) I thought those long slabs of rock on the ground looked like coffins. So, I decided pretty wouldn’t do I wanted creepy…
So, I chose to process this image using HDR, Efex, Pro 2 — tone mapping/single image—using the B&W Art preset. Then as usual I modified most of the settings to get more texture in the barn’s wood and drama in the sky.
Now the scene has the creepy drama I had in mind when I first saw it.
While it’s a lot easier today to go from color to B&W and we now have an infinite variety of ways to modify an image with software and plug-ins we, as artists, must sill have a vision of what we want to say to our viewers and clients. Merely producing “pretty pictures” of things exactly as they are, using a point of view that any amateur could do, won’t get you noticed as an artist.
I alway entertain questions….’Til next week….
Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com