The hybridization of cameras and phones has produced various manifestations of late, one being the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, reviewed here a few months back, which looks like a smartphone with a camera/lens grafted onto it’s front. The Galaxy NX comes at this combination from the other direction, a decidedly camera-like design with built-in Android functionality, sans phone capability, but with all the other amenities and accouterments included. And there’s no confusing this with a smartphone, what with it being 3x5.5x2.25 inches in size, the benefit being a very large back display, 4.77” on the diagonal and width to height ratio of 2.5 x 4 inches.
Each art or craft we engage in, as participants or observers, does something for our sense of being alive, our presence in and awareness of the world. Art feeds the head and the soul and it’s an important part of what makes us human. That’s why people should be rightly upset when art is removed from the curriculum in our schools. But for photographers, one major key to that awareness is a sense and sensibility about light. That appreciation starts to build in once you start considering what to photograph and when to make an image. In many cases, if you think about it, the quality of light is often the guiding hand. The bonus is that the love of light and shadow and its levels and color stays with you even when not walking around with a camera.
This issue is dedicated to digital techniques, but I feel it’s important to have a discussion on the differences and similarities between black and white film and digital photography. I do this for two reasons—the first is that I figure some of you may have made the transition from film to digital and have carried over some assumptions about how things work. The second is that even if you have never shot film you have probably been exposed to information passed on from film photographers about how things work. Either way, there are a number of matters at the heart of black and white photography that have changed, or at least should be looked at in a new light.
Tonality does not exist in a vacuum; the tones form a visual impression in terms of both their intrinsic value and their relationship to one another. The context in which they relate is called contrast, simply the difference and relationship between the light and dark values in the scene. Contrast determines the “look” of the image, and has a profound effect upon visual effects.
While every image we make with a digital camera starts out as a color (RGB) image, it doesn’t preclude creating dynamic black-and-white photos from those image files. In fact, the ability to “convert” to color lends itself to producing more tonally rich images than we ever could have imagined when working with black-and-white silver materials.
In olden times there was paper for printing color and for printing black and white. Structure, emulsions, and processing chemistry all determined how you matched media and paper, and it was all pretty self-evident. Surface choices were wider for black-and-white printmakers and while there were some choices for color (gloss, matte, semigloss) much of the surface treatment for color prints was added with sprays and varnish. Of course that’s all changed, and the “rules” regarding media and paper matching have been tossed.
This photo was made in Raw file format, then enhanced using a Raw processor. Doing so allowed me to get exactly the color, contrast, and richness I wanted. Shooting in Raw is what allowed me to get the most quality out of the image file later.
One of the most exciting aspects of black and white photography is your ability to interpret your images, that is, joining your way of seeing with the application of techniques. For example, when shooting landscapes, the aim is generally to communicate your “sense of place.” The techniques you apply define both the objective place (the record of that scene) and your perceptions and feelings about it. Depending on your decisions, you can create an image of the same scene pervaded by light and contrast, or set in deep, dark tones. The objective image does not change; what can change is your interpretation, the way the scene is altered by journeying through your mind’s eye.
Dedicated black and white photographers have always processed their images and made their own prints. Negatives were carefully developed according to exposure and contrast needs; prints were made with extensive “handwork” and archival processing procedures. Processing was and is a key element in black and white photography—digital does not change that element of the craft.