Take Away Color

From the series, Navigation Without Numbers, © 2012

It has not been very long since I have been shooting my personal work on a digital camera. I started out with a Panasonic Lumix GF1. A great little camera. And when I was shooting with it I was only concerned about color. If I wanted to create black and white images I would shoot with film. Now I shoot mainly with a Nikon D700 and I am concerned with both color and black and white. As many of you who are familiar with my work know,  I sometime mix black & white and color within a series (see Dominion for example). I must admit digital black and white is pretty tasty. I very much like the look of a born digital black and white image. It is somehow reminiscent of the look of Agfa Scala film (remember that!).

I was shooting along the Riverside Park boat pier yesterday afternoon thinking that I would create black & white images from the color images I was shooting. Hmm… it seems that at the beginning of photography photographers were forced to shoot in black and white due to technical limitations now it seems that photographers are forced to shoot in color due to technical advancements! Well there are a few cameras, namely from Leica and Phase One that allow you to shoot exclusively in monochrome. But the vast majority create color RGB images which have to be converted to monochrome. The necessity of having to start with a color image  and convert to black and white has allowed me to compare and contrast the merits of each and decide which one will be a better expression of the idea behind the particular photo or series.

In this first example  I initially thought that this would make a great black and white image and it does. Clouds make great subjects for black and white photography.

Two versions of the Cloud image

But look at the color image. To me it is so much more interesting because of that little bit of blue in the center. There is more of a tension in the color photo. The monochrome image puts you in Heaven. It is very spiritual. The color image keeps your feet on the ground and make you yearn for heaven.

Sometimes you just know something will look much better in monochrome than in color.

Structure Enclosing Statue of Columbus

Sometimes you think something will look better in black and white when actually it reads much better in color.

Edifice, edifice

The new digital tools allow us to make these comparisons from the comfort of our office chair and not out in the field when you may not have color film or black and white film. Photography is a very subtractive process. Today you have better control over color in the photographic process even in the process of taking away color. Now that’s what I call progress.

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