Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reading: The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography

When I first started to approach the subject of B&W I realized that whilst I had a good sample of finished work in books to reference and gain inspiration from, I actually knew very little about the technical aspects of Digital B&W imaging and processing. Rather unwisely, I simply went to Amazon searched for Digital Black & White and ordered the two most popular books I found.  Both were poor, one starting with how a camera works, the other very much convinced that image processing required arcane and detailed Photoshop skills.  Neither was really what I was looking for.

The Complete Guide to Digital Black & White Photography (Complete Guides)

I took a chance and obtained a third book, this time by Michael Freeman, and what a difference.  He still covers the technical side of things, but first of all addresses the key question of WHY to use B&W and also WHAT makes a good subject.  He balances a contemporary view of monochrome imaging with reference to the masters of the past such as Ansel Adams and Walker Evans, to name two.  This made for a book that was useful both from a technical stand point, but also from a philosophical basis.

The technical aspects of mono conversion are also dealt with far better than in other books.  he maintains focus on the message of the image, not upon the minutiae of technique.  All discussion is with reference to activities that can be performed within any decent processing suite, I was able to do all that he suggested in Lightroom, I did not need to start delving in layer techniques within Photoshop.  The knowledge gained could be immediately used within Project 3 of DPP.

I have to admit that I was very surprised with the quality and thoughtfulness of this volume.  I have become quite disillusioned with the usual "How To" books and now avoid them, nice to be proved wrong.

I also, on recommendation of a fellow student, grabbed a surprisingly low cost copy of Deep Black, by Peter Schloer.

I have only been playing with B&W for a short time, but my preference is very much in the direction of highly contrasting images containing large areas of Black contrasting with high tones.  I suspect this is related to my preference for highly saturated colour images.  Peter Schloer is a landscape photographer who's images are vast in their scope, taken late in the day in conditions that offer massive light to dark contrasts.  Typically deserts or areas with very crisp detail and strong light. As the cover picture shows, his images are frequently highly structured with large areas of shadow.  They convey a sense of emptiness, the only figure might be the photographers shadow.

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