Monthly Archives

November 2015


Why choose to make black and white photographs?

November 18, 2015
The Imperial Palace

Years ago there really wasn’t any choice: photography meant making black and white, or monochrome, pictures. Photography in the 21st century, however, is now predominantly colour: the vast majority of photographs are captured on the sensor of a digital camera, most probably on a mobile phone. Photography is about light: some people rather romantically, refer to photography as painting with light; without light you don’t have a photograph. You could argue that a solid black rectangle capturing a pitch black scene is still a photograph, but alas no light has been recorded. You could save yourself the trouble of going through the photographic process, and just place a piece of black paper in a frame, or turn your computer monitor off to get the same effect! The word photography means a recording made with light: black and white photography, simply, is recording different levels of light with a camera to produce a picture. If there is no light in part of a scene you get black; areas of intense light produce white. Pointing a camera at a subject records the light coming from that subject: the black and white photograph does not care what colour the light is, only how intense that light is, recording the various intensities as shades of grey.

Some argue that colour simply confuses everything: when we look at a scene with our eyes, we tend to filter out all the irrelevant details around the edges, and focus on what is in front of us. When you take a colour photograph, unless you compose it very mindfully, these details, that were unnoticed previously, become super obvious, to even the most untrained eye, when looking at the reproduced image: this distracts the viewer from the main subject. Although I love colour photography, removing the colour can really help sometimes: often once we remove the colour we can actually see more in the image, or we perceive the balance of the scene very differently.

Another thing to consider is that colour photographs taken during the middle of the day on bright summer days can be quite problematic, due to very harsh contrasts. This is sometimes down to the fact that our eye can record the scene far better than a camera, which can’t deal with the range of light values: this can make the colours and contrast just look harsh on a print, or on the screen of your mobile device or computer. Some of these photos may work much better when converted into black and white, where the high contrasts can often be regarded as an asset. I have put some images below that I have taken in colour, and then converted to black and white: some of them I think, possibly, look better in colour; some in black and white; some I can’t decide or I like both equally. What do you think?

Inquisitive pony in mono

Inquisitive pony in colour

Across the fields mono

Across the fields colour

Nordkette Alps in mono

Nordkette Alps in colour

High on the Adlerweg above Innsbruck

Mandlspitze Summit in colour

Rally ready mono

Rally ready colour

Getting ready mono

Getting ready colour

If you want to see more colour vs. monochrome comparisons you can click through to my colour vs. black and white album on flickr.


This is one film that you must try

November 3, 2015
Digital vs Film

I am really enjoying shooting film and it is great fun experimenting with different film stock. I have used Kodak Ektar 100 colour film, Ilford’s classic FP4+ black and white film and thought it was about time to try the photographic legend, Kodak Tri X. This black and white film, first introduced in 1954, has been used to capture history as the medium of choice for intrepid photojournalists reporting from around the globe. More recently it became an integral part of the storyline of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and is still a firm favourite of many classic photography aficionados. So what is so special about this film? Well,it is quite fast at 400 iso but can be pushed to 1600 easily. This means you can capture great low light scenes without a flash. It also gives good contrast making it ideal for the photojournalist who wants an arresting image for a newspaper. I chose to shoot the film at the standard box speed of 400 iso but may well try pushing it on another occasion. Pushing the film gives a bit more of a contrasty, gritty look.

So earlier in the year I loaded up my Nikon F65, which I had recently purchased from eBay, and set out on a maiden voyage. My youngest daughter Esther grabbed my old digital SLR and we set off for a walk and to take some photos. I shot half a roll of film or so and Esther logged up about ten times that on the digital camera! I then put the Nikon film camera away and got it out again on a trip to the Austrian Alps, not developing the film until a few days ago. I’m quite pleased with the way the photos came out. I sent the film off to Ag photolabs to be developed and scanned. Everything looked pretty good. I did however slightly tweak the levels in the scans as they didn’t seem quite as well balanced as the scans from Ilford or Photo Express. Here are a few of the photos.

Checking the screen

Pony over the gate

Young photographer

Glacier and glacial streams

Hawthorn blossom

Glacial Stream

Street Portrait