Black and white photography allows us to catch a glimpse of something different, colors are replaced by shades and gradations, a million grays, pure whites, blacks and shadows so deep you can get lost in them.
Film was the medium when I first began to play with black and white images. Anybody remember Durst enlargers? Well, I had an el cheapo Durst but using it was as close to becoming the sorcerer’s apprentice I have ever come. Watching an 8×10 piece of white paper become a “picture” was pure magic. Still is, but the tech has changed.
Making images with a digital camera is more magic at our fingertips. Take an image and give your imagination free rein. Color becomes something totally different, using Lightroom, the conversion to black and white requires a click. Well maybe a little more is needed for a finished image. Leaving the image in color and making whatever adjustments are needed to bring more life to it and then converting it in Lightroom using Adobe presets or creating your own will make you feel a little like a wizard. Contrast will make or break a lot of b & w images. Just make sure you are shooting in RAW. Light is still the deciding factor in making a great image, the cool thing is mid day harsh light can work in your favor, contrast is good.
There is another way to get there, if there is a place you’ve never been. Infrared or IR turns our visual expectation on its head. It can still be b & w but maybe from another universe. IR isn’t the end point, it is the starting line for inspired vision or just a place to play.
Old school IR photography required IR film and an IR filter that, when mounted on a lens, couldn’t be seen through, doable but a huge hassle. Digital cameras have an internal filter to block IR so they need a little work. We have two digital cameras that have been converted to IR, two different internal filters. We used LifePixel for the conversions and can recommend them, have no experience with others but there are several companies that do conversions, just make sure they know what they are doing. Why convert a camera? You would have a dedicated tool with no lens mounted filters to mess with and all functions work. What can take all of this way out of the ordinary is that there are a number of IR filters to choose from. Deep BW IR gives darkest skies and whitest whites. Standard IR is a very good all-around, there is Color Enhanced IR that brings color into the equation. And there are others. Color Enhanced IR requires a little more creativity, channel mixing, and Adobe Photoshop to get some of the results seen here.
Give black and white photography a shot to see the world in a new light, or go all in and convert a camera and remake the world.
Abandoned farm, straight IR from converted Nikon D2X camera
Evening light fades with a few clouds, doesn’t seem too threatening so off to bed. Sometime in the night it starts with the wind rustling and sighing through the trees. Then there is a swishing and scampering across the camper roof as if an assemblage of mice were dancing, probably the wind scattering leaves. The gusts get stronger and other than the sound of wind the night becomes silent. First light comes late and seems subdued but we are in a high mountain valley surrounded by higher peaks, the sun always seems overdue. A look outside is at first a shock and then the giddy realization, snow! Just a few inches, 3 or 4 but enough to transform the fall beauty we came to photograph into something more magical. There is an adage that tells us that bad weather makes for good photography. Does it? As in all things it depends on what the subject is and what the photographer is trying to capture.
Living in the city one loses most sense of nature but after living for many years in the rural foothills of Colorado which most people call the boonies, in a landscape of pinyon juniper forests, undeveloped wild lands and mountains all around, my senses have been intensified. Its easier to see, to smell and touch. Its easier to hear, easier to listen.(more…)