Learning To Love Black And White Photography

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites and blogs offering tips and tutorials about shooting black and white.photography – what works, what doesn’t, how to see in black and white, and so on.

But, this far into my journey with black and white photography, I have discovered that doing it myself, using my own interpretation of visual cues in my photos, is helping me to love black and white photography more than any tips and tutorials on the internet.

Having said that, I really do appreciate, and learn from tips and tutorials about post processing.

Learning to love black and white photography

I have slowly developed more confidence in my ability to shoot in black and white by following my own advice to start a daily photo project to get myself out of a bit of a rut.

Since kicking it off on 1 July, just over a third of my daily photos have been either shot in black and white or post-processed to black and white.

For those shot in black and white I set my camera to black and white jpegs, while still capturing a (colour) RAW file for later conversion.

The simple ability to see a black and white version of an image on the camera LCD really helps to see in black and white.

Now to be fair, not all the images featured here were shot using that technique, and also some images here are also “reworked” versions of images used on my daily photo blog.

But it’s all part of learning to love black and white photography.

the graveyard
The Graveyard

The Graveyard began life as a colour photo before I even started my black and white gig. The trees and shrubbery in the background gave the scene a naturally dark, foreboding atmosphere so for the conversion to black and white I turned to Nik Analog Efex rather than my usual “go-to” app, Silver Efex.

I started with one of the black and white presets, and used a vignette to draw the already dark edges inwards to add to the foreboding atmosphere, then added a control point to brighten the pillar-like headstone in the middle of the image as it was a bit too dull.

bluff harbour looking north
Bluff Harbour

Bluff Harbour was taken 10 years ago with my now-departed Nikon D5100 DSLR.

Taken reasonably late on a winter afternoon, there was very little colour in the original scene making it, to my mind, a good candidate for black and white conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

The rocks in the foreground were almost black, so I used Control Points to bring out some of the detail in the shadows.

The little bump on the horizon midscreen is the tower at the end of the Tiwai aluminium smelter wharf.

monkey island te wae wae bay western southland
Monkey Island

Monkey Island is another older photo, only this one is from my old Nikon D300.

There was nothing too fancy about the black and white conversion. I used the Fine Art (high key, framed) preset and reduced the the Dynamic Brightness and Soft Contrast settings a little bit.

seventh wave learning to love black and white photography
The Seventh Wave

I have stolen The Seventh Wave from a previous story in which I called it The Great Wave as a bit of a tribute to French photographer Gustav Le Gray.

I have renamed it because it was the seventh wave in a series of waves crashing into the breakwater – just like the big one that took Papillon away from the penal colony where he was incarcerated.

I have also not applied a crop to this version, and have post-processed it differently. I think it looks better for it. I love the gritty, dramatic film noir look provided by – yes, you guessed it – Nik Silver Efex Pro.

beach detritus
Beach Detritus

I think this is my absolute favourite black and white effort so far.

Beach Detritus was captured at Kakapotahi on the West Coast.

I knew the moment I saw it it would work well, especially with the way the large cloud was swirling in like a wave in the top right-hand corner of the frame, counterbalanced by the big fluffy cloud that seemed to be just out of the reach of the branch.

Good old Silver Efex again – with the More Silver preset, tweaked to the final result with a Control Line used in the foreground and a couple of Control Points at strategic locations in the sky to add dramatic effect.

beach detritus
Walkers In The Park

My final offering here is a photo I used as my daily photo a couple of days ago.

Starting out as a colour image, I converted it to a neutral black and white photo hoping to make something of the tree shadows on the path. It didn’t really look much until I applied a Cool Tones preset (a semi-noir effect) and suddenly the two walkers in the distance became the focal point, with my eye drawn in by the leading lines of the pathway.

A few minor adjustments later and I ended up with Walkers In The Park.

Now – sit back and enjoy all the pictures in this story – plus a couple of others – in a slideshow.

As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

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