Friday, July 29, 2011

The case for B&W, part 2

Or the case for color ?

The thing is that i could have advocated precisely the same by trumping  when color is essential, ie when B&W won't do for me - thus bringing color to the fore, as opposed to the actual case for B&W in harsh light.

A good case for color, situations only for color - aplenty. Here are some in my view :

1. After sunset, the twilight and nightlight
2. Overcast to very heavy storm weather
3. Low key autumn shots or shots filled with red
4. The Dawn hour
5. Certain macros, eg flowers and animals
6. The sea and seaside compositions in dull weather
7. Gallery / museum shoots
8. Nighttime portraits, assisted with very little light

Now, I need to admit that the original article did not tell well, if at all, two very important facts : 1. I am a Raw shooter, ie i do not limit myself to B&W, and 2. I see the subject / composition the way it is while taking the shot and "see and think B&W" only in post processing.

This part 2 was largely inspired by something a friend sent me - a quick review of a book called "Ansel Adams in Color". The short excerpts from the book, which i publish below as a Jpg, made me think further and find support and insight into this looking suddenly very subjective and fascinating matter : B&W or color ..

So what is Mr Adams saying on the subject ?

Here my short article and personal experience with "choice of emulsion" ends and shooting begins ..

The case for B&W

This has been bothering me for some time now : A way to define formally and based on physics the case for B&W vs color photography - what, when, and why. In other words, a framework to explain and justify what frames should be B&W and what color, even before same are taken..

Now you can call me mad and close this tab, or continue reading ..

Not without considering a study into the "color psychic" and its relevance to this subject, i started looking “deeper” in the  recent months into the work of selected contemporary photographers. With my “what if” hat on, i was getting thinking and  analytical - dissecting the reasons of why i liked so much what i was looking at and why it was shot the way it was ..

Until last night, in the middle of a very windy night  - it all hit me - it was all about the time of day and it’s light and not about the gear or the particular processing technique ! So i got up in bed, opened Keynote (what else is there!) and developed this idea in a simple graph  :

I can also call this idea the destruction of the postcard photography or something .. It wont be inappropriate i guess. For some unknown reason i get a slight eye fatigue very quickly when looking at perfect summer images with skies, greens and all, which is quite opposite with B&W images of the same subject - they stick in my mind and i want to go back to them later. It could be something to do with the fact that i cannot tolerate too much and too bright colors very well - i think, or the old suggestion that color obscures an image's emotion :

When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls! 
- Ted Grant 

Maybe such relevance can be found in the work of the “worshipers of the Sun”, the great Yes band - they did not call one of their finest work - Heart of the Sunlight, but rather “Heart of the Sunrise” ;-) And for this matter - everywhere else where “bright light” is concerned : can you think of any art - poetry, fiction, music, even film, etc - which is created (centered) around the midday sun ? There will certainly be cases but such will be a tiny number compared to everything else .. One comes to mind, but even there, the sun is portrayed as unwelcome and later - as going down creating long shadows  - the great story from the unforgettable Julio Cortazar, called “End of this Stage” (own translation)

It simply put everything into perspective and naturally explained why photographers like Bill Henson, Gregory Crewdson, Philip-Lorca di Corcia, Troy Paiva and everyone else - shoot color in their photography, why Alexander Gronsky’s scapes are “alive” in color however dead they project themselves to be.. Why David Golblatt’s (and many others) most compelling work is his B&W and not the color images, why B&W portraits tell a story, and the color ones - “tell a studio” .. Why i’ll kill for a copy of Annie Leibowitz’s Phillip, and don’t care much about her group color portraits ..  Why my own daylight images from the sea and the city - look (much) better when converted to B&W ..

So, here is a proposal point of departure :

The brighter the scene (eg sun) and/or the more and brighter the light sources in the frame are, the more a case for B&W !

Without going much further into explanation and specualtion, i leave you here, hopefully thinking and finding value in this short analysis mostly contained in the graph above.

And finally, in order to put my money where my mouth is, and to shoot, or rather - process the negatives accordingly i intend continue my experiments abiding by these 2 key rules :

1. Avoid B&W for very low light (twilight, nightlight) shoots, unless for light source-filled scenes (see graph)

2. Always process bright light images and portraits (first) to B&W, unless subject matter is as outlined in part 2

What about you ?

You can go to part 2 of this article Here ..

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brasseries de Paris

Two is too many when one is absent

Alexander Gronsky, a poet with a camera

This was like a summer breeze in early spring - the discovery of Alexander Gronsky. A photographer of winter light and the desolation within. A poet with a camera. The Estonian Gregory Crewdson at night. Master of images.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kodachrome 64, a film fetish

I haven't shot much film in my life .. in fact maybe not more than 20 - 30 spools of B&W and so much of color. This is probably why the discovery of the famed Kodachrome 64 via scanned slides (some of which in high res), came as one of the biggest "photographic events" last year and the film, the emulsion quickly became sort of a fetish. And since the K64 lab development was officially suspended on 1 January 2011 (?) i was left with only choice which did not prove an easy task at all - to simulate this emulsion in PP of digital frames.

I did some work last year and this year too, to a varying degree of success, and also investigated the offerings from Color Efex Pro and DXO - was not very happy with the end results but was getting confidence that one day i'll be able to replicate the red infested green and blues, the warmth and contrast as well as the beautiful film texture - of the original Kodachrome 64 - the way i've seen it in some 300 - 400 original scans, exhibiting clearly "its flaws" and it's magic ..

Well, thanks to Mark, who sent me a preset 2 days ago - i got  me immediately thinking of K64, and did not wait long before sitting down again and modifying this preset - using it as a baseline and coming up with something, which i think mostly resembles the original Kodachrome, or shall i say - creating my, 2011 Kodachrome 64 look.

You be the judge .. I have placed 25 random insignificant images below from 4 cameras : L1, LC1, LX5 and G11 .. I prefer the L1 & LX5 rendering and resemblance most, closely followed by the G11 & LC1.

In no particular order :

And in the end of this post here is a thought i might develop further at some point, in a dedicated post of its own : 

I'd rather have a small (but not smaller) sensor camera, with very fast and sharp lens, that starts the sweet spot wide open and that has a very well tuned demosaic / denoise algorithm in Aperture, then have a APS-C sensor DSLR or Sigma camera with a lens that needs to be stopped down to get to sweet spot, which does not have much noise in high ISO, but may not have a well tuned demosaic algo in the tools ..

Till next time ..

Saturday, July 16, 2011