My First “Official” Black & White Photo (and the story behind it)
This week’s story is a little different. A few weeks ago I posted about a class I was involved in for Kelby Training. It was called The Art of the Black and White Print. You kind of have to read the post to know where I’m coming from, but to sum it up, I’ve never been much of a black and white fan.
I’m not a nostalgic person. I don’t long for the old days of film or even the look of film. I never shot b&w as a kid or anything like that. To me, it just felt old and outdated. I was born in the early 70′s so every photograph I’ve ever been in or taken has been in color since I’ve been alive. To me, B&W seemed like an “effect” you’d apply to a photo when you wanted to make it look old. Or maybe even a photo that just didn’t look good as a color photo so why not just convert it to black and white and you can call it fine art (kidding, but only kinda). But participating in and watching the class I mentioned above (with Dano and Josh), I was changed. I started thinking about it in a different way (again, you should go read the post if you haven’t yet).
Before we get too far, here’s the info/gear/settings for the photo:
Date: April, 2012
- Camera: Nikon D800
- Lens: Nikon 16-35mm
- Aperture: f/22
- Shutter Speed: 1 second
- ISO: 100
- Gitzo Traveler Tripod
Approaching Black and White Differently
Ever since the class, I’ve begun looking through my portfolio and any photos I’ve shot to see what I thought would make a good black and white. It’s been hard for me because I’m a color person. Especially when it comes to landscapes – black and what has never really done anything for me. Part of what attracts me to certain scenes is color. I love landscapes and I simply love the color in the sky you get when the sun rises and sets. I love to shoot outdoor portraits and lifestyle-like photos because I love the colors you can include in the photo. So this b&w thing is probably a bigger stretch for me than it may be for others (especially if you shot b&w years ago).
One thing that I realized (with the help of my friend RC) is that I didn’t necessarily dislike black and white photography. I think, in some way, I disliked black and white photographers. But not the normal every day photographers who used to shoot black and white and have since moved on to a DSLR and enjoy converting to black and white now and then. I think I lumped all black and white photographers into the “back in my day we used to have to walk to school up hill both ways in the snow” kind of people. Or a young photographer who’s going all retro and is snobby and artsy about the whole thing. I’m just not a very artsy person. In fact, I’d even go as far to say I’m not sure I consider photography art, but that’s a can of worms for a whole different day It’s probably because a lot of the hardcore b&w photographers I’ve come in contact with used to lecture me about how it used to be and what I’m missing out on (and no one likes lectures right?). So I just tuned it out, and developed this feeling around black and white that wasn’t deserved at all.
Anyway, long story short… here’s my first official black and white photo and now you know the story behind it. When I say “first official”, it’s not that I haven’t converted to b&w before. I have. But not really with any thought behind it. I just did it because I probably took a photo in bad light and figured b&w was a good way to hide it But this photo is different. As I looked through my library, I found a shoot I took along the Washington state coastline in Olympic National Park. I’ve always liked the photo but something was missing to me. Once I looked at it again with new eyes, it hit me.
The Post Processing
So I fired up Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and did my conversion (you can see the Photoshop and Lightroom video here). Part of what drew me to the photo was the streaks in the water from the long exposure. They’re white so I knew they’d grab your attention. I thought they lead your eye up into the sky. The sky has some bright areas to catch your attention as well. But then you’re up there, and now you can see the ominous clouds. I could be WAY over-thinking this whole thing but hey, for better or worse this is what you get when you let me run amuck and write about all kinds of stuff here on the blog
Oh and here’s a quick Before/After just so you can see the original color photo. I think you’ll agree that it looks much better as a black and white.
So that’s the story for this week. There’s really not much more to tell about how I got the photo. It’s very uneventful. I drove out from Seattle, while visiting this past April, to the Washington coast with my friend Ryan Turner for the day (4 hours each way). We mostly had a busted sunset shoot when the sun went behind a cloud never to emerge again (and didn’t even make it to the beach we wanted to get to) and this is the only photo that I was happy with when it was done. As I mentioned in the beginning, the story is more about how this photo happens to be the first black and white photo that I’ve ever really given any thought to. Who knows what’ll come next! I don’t, but I’m pretty sure I’ll still never fully appreciate Peper No. 30
Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!