Black And White Comeback (In Fact, It Never Left Town)

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Black and white photography has always held a special place in the hearts and minds of photographers. The charm of the medium is that it is so flexible in both technique and its ability to communicate many different moods and points of view. Consider the documentary photographer, who uses black and white to enclose images in a gritty realism that color somehow cannot match, or the landscape photographer whose images can portray the power and glory of nature using an enhanced range of shades of gray. On the technique side, black and white photographers who take the time and effort to understand how to expand or contract the tonal scale through exposure and development have ultimate control over their images. And when prints are made, either with silver-halide paper or digital media, the ability to use local contrast and density control is perhaps the ultimate hands-on photographic experience.

Speaking of digital, there are now even more options for creating black and white images, both in camera and later in the computer. I recently worked with the Canon EOS 20D digital SLR and had great fun working with the black and white mode. But Canon has taken it a step further by offering the option to apply color contrast control via photo effect filters built right into the image processor. You can dial in the effect of having a green, yellow, red, etc. filter over the lens when you make the shot. And for infrared fans, those cameras that "see" a TV remote beam when a deep red filter is placed over the lens can give you an infrared effect without having to worry about all the fuss and bother of working with infrared film.

On the printing side there are many options for working in monochrome mode, and with the proper software, ink sets, and profiles you can go anywhere you want on the black and white expressive map, from neutral "modern" prints to those that emulate the exciting and sonorous tones and image color of the Photo Secessionists. While more challenging than color, digital black and white is coming into its own, with some ink/paper combinations offering stability that almost rivals archivally processed silver-halide prints. And, while there are certainly less black and white silver papers available today, those who work in the darkroom continue to create images of depth and beauty that will ensure that this classic form of photographic expression will remain with us for many years to come.

With that in mind we are proud to bring you our annual black and white issue, and hope that the variety of topics and expressions portrayed help to stir your monochrome imagination. We've also included a report from David Brooks on the state of the art in getting black and white prints from digital printers. As you'll see, there's still work to be done in this area, and we feel that the first company to solve this puzzle will be rewarded with the loyalty of black and white fans everywhere. David does offer some interesting solutions, though, that should get you started on the right road.

On another note, we are now entering the show season, with the Consumer Electronics and Photo Marketing shows on our schedule in the months ahead. It's hard to imagine how the industry can top what we saw at photokina (see our January 2005 issue for complete coverage, or check the web at: www.shutterbug.com) but we've learned that the rapid pace of change these days means that there will always be something new behind the curtain. We've certainly seen prices drop on the integral lens and point-and-shoot models, and even on some of the pro offerings. And perhaps we'll get even more "new classics" in the film camera line-up, a trend that we saw at photokina last fall.

As we go to press we're starting to get test samples of much of the latest gear, and we'll be bringing you our reports in the months ahead. It's great that after being overrun with digital cameras in the last few years that we're again seeing film cameras that cause just as much excitement and interest.

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