The Subtleties Of Black & White

I cut my teeth in black and white photography starting in 1970. It’s all I shot with my first two film camera, a Yashica Electro 35 GT and a Canon FTQL SLR. It had something to do with the 10,000 foot roll of 35mm mapping film I was given by the Air Force. I learned how to roll my own film into standard film cassettes, develop the negatives and print the black & white prints.

In the darkroom there was so much to learn and only a few people in that hobby shop darkroom willing to teach me. This was before the internet so I hit the library and read a lot. Yes, there was life before the world wide web and social media. I learned that there are 256 shades of black & white and that if processed correctly you can print them on paper. I started looking for the skills to bring out that level of detail.

Subject matter to fully produce high quality black & white requires detail, lots of detail. It requires proper exposure in the camera so that your dynamic range is as wide as possible. Personally I feel all photographers should get a good knowledge of black & white before ever being allowed to try color. It will make them better photographers in the end.

Leica_M_Monochrom__Typ_246__Digital_Rangefinder_Camera_10930_B_HThere are photography schools and teachers that believe in that philosophy as well. That’s why there’s still a demand for film cameras and black & white film. The Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) is digital but shoots only in black & white. It is just being released at a cool $7,450.00. It’s a rangefinder as well. For the rest of us most digital cameras have a monochrome mode or the color images from digital cameras can be converted to monochrome using software. I use Silver Effects Pro 2 from NIK Software, now a product of Google.

So I still love to shoot in black & white or convert certain images to black & white. The shot below was a conversion that lent itself to black and white because the goat’s fur was close to monochrome to begin with and has so many subtle shades of coloration in it. He was standing in a dark barn that screams to be black & white as well. I like the results.

Goat In B&W


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