March 8, 2009


Carl said...

David, I'm curious. What causes you to go to the b&w conversion? What about the particular picture tells you to go mono?

I'm just curious because I've yet to make a single satisfactory b&w conversion, though I've made many successful scans and prints from my b&w film negatives. What makes a picture "work" for you when converted from a color capture? (I think this is almost entirely an aesthetic, not technical, issue, btw.)

David said...


First a little history. In my late teens and early twenties, I was wildly infatuated with photography. (This was in the late
1960s, by the way.) I learned it shooting news and sports for the college newspaper and my hometown paper: "available light" on 35mm Tri-X. I used the same camera and film for my personal stuff, too, even though I wanted to be Edward Weston and not Cartier-Bresson. Then, at the age of 26, I quit taking pictures and moved on to other stuff.

In 2003, I started taking pictures again. Again I was shootng 35mm B&W film, scanning it, and printing it on my trusty Epson 2200. Sometime in 2005 I switched to C-41 color film, mainly because it scanned better than B&W film. Then, because I was shooting color film, I decided to start shooting some color pictures just to see what would happen.

All this to say that I come from a B&W background. However, I like shooting color, but it really is about the color. I find I'm drawn to intense colors, and to monochrome compositions, and to compositions where the color makes the design.

Anyway. So one answer to your question is that the B&W pictures I used to shoot all the time are still out there. In most cases I know that I'm shooting a B&W photo as I press the shutter button. The design is in darks and lights. It's a B&W picture, out there amongst all the color.

In other cases, especially when people are the subject, the colors just get in the way so I print in B&W. (Plus these pictures remind me of my Tri-X days, especially when I shoot at high ISO's.)

But, I don't often have an unsuccessful color picture turn into a successful B&W picture. And I don't routinely look at my pictures both ways. It's just two ways of shooting for me. I'm going on four years of shooting both color and B&W and this is where I currently am.


Carl said...

"So one answer to your question is that the B&W pictures I used to shoot all the time are still out there. In most cases I know that I'm shooting a B&W photo as I press the shutter button"

That's very interesting. Briefly, I also became completely enmeshed with photography as a teenager in the 60s, but then continued with it. My professional work was mostly color but my personal projects were almost all b&w (this shows on my web site though not really at my blogs). I love b&w ranging from small format shooting and enlarging to ULF contact printing in platinum. But I never really liked darkroom color prints (they never looked as good as the printed reproductions of my commercial work for good clients).

When I finally had to get digital capture equipment for assignment work early in 2004, I was amazed to find that for all considerations except large prints, digital capture/digital printing by that time beat the tar out of darkroom color prints. I got so excited about finally being able to do personal work in color and make color prints I actually liked that I seem to just automatically see only for color when working with a dslr. So perhaps the issue is really perceptual. Anyway, thanks for the response, I think it sheds some light on the issue I'm trying to sort out.