The French philosopher Roland Barthes once said, “The photographic image … is a message without a code.” To me, Black and White photography carries much more. It is a world seen and interpreted by the photographer, so much richer in content and character. A good photograph always touches our heart and senses when you first see it, and remains vividly in your memory.
I do not only take photography in Black and White. But Black and White is truly magic. The process of creating it is an amazing transformation of lights and shadows. You have to imagine what your subject and composition will look like at the moment you press the shutter button: how the colours are treated in gray scale and what the contrast is made. A challenge, isn’t it? Hard, not really. Well, quite the contrary. Today I enjoy it after I am able to manipulate some image processing applications, such as the Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop or Capture One, to better my images.
There is nothing easy. Way back in the heyday of films, Black and White photography was the first course I learned about taking photographs. I still remember one of my schoolmates flattered his success of making a print in black and white under his bed. How did he do it? We all had no idea. Years later when I learned developing and printing in addition to taking photographs, I realised that could be possible if you had a bunker bed. But the smell of the chemical might have driven you nuts if there was no good ventilation. But who cared? When you were young, you had the world in your hands and there was no mission impossible.
If you consider the final product of the photograph is the print and if you take photographs seriously, then nothing can replace this long and exciting process. You have to go through every stage from the moment of loading your film cartridge into the camera, taking the shots, processing and developing the film and making the print in the darkroom. We viewed contact print as delightful as we see the images on the screen now.
Do you still remember how joyful you were when seeing the individual image being developed on the print? This was history to me. Frankly, in the past I have not made many prints. Every print cost money. That was partly the reason I switched to digital when I was satisfied to view images on the screen
Switching to digital does not mean saving any time. Much of the attention is now related more to technologies. Digital photography is totally a new challenge and photographers have their own workflow. For me, I am a big fan of Adobe Lightroom although I also frequently use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Bridge in my workplace. In Adobe Lightroom, you have no trouble by following the order of the modules. One of the B&W Creative presets in the Library module is able to convert your images into all nice looking Black and White. From there you could switch to Develop module to continue some further adjustment in Basic, Tone Curve, Sharpening or Noise Reduction. The good side of Adobe Lightroom is that it will not damage your original RAW file. If you want everything starting again from scratch, there is always a ‘reset” button for you. Export your processed image out to view on the web or send it to print. The entire process is smooth and easy. My rule is: I never do any photographic tricks.
Of course this can be explained further in another post with some screenshots or nice examples.
(Now I am unplugged and going for a trip to Hong Kong this weekend. I will keep posting news or thoughts about what I will see. Stay tuned. If you want to see some of my previous photographs, please visit my portfolio on 500px)