Black & White, And A D-SLR Parade

This issue might seem to have a slight touch of split direction, what with our annual tribute to black and white photography and a trio of new D-SLR reviews thrown in together. But that seeming contradiction is soon dispelled when you consider that the amazing interest in black and white has occurred at the same time as the rise in megapixel counts in cameras. More and more photographers are using D-SLRs to originate images for prints, and more and more black and white prints are being made today than ever before. True, software, and especially the black and white conversion capabilities of programs ranging from those supplied with the camera to Lightroom, Aperture, and particularly the raw processing options have made this a simpler and more creative matter. But being able to create file sizes that are akin to scans made from 35mm film, and record with higher bit depth when shooting in raw format, have changed the rules of the game.

The difference really comes to the fore in image prep when you can exchange color for just about any tonality you desire, within limits of course. Want a deeper blue sky? Just move the blue slider to the left, or use a preset that emulates shooting with a red filter. Want to enliven a deep green forest? Reach for the green filter preset, or slide those green and yellow controls to up the brightness of those colors. To anyone who has worked in a darkroom those controls are a revelation, and become one way to create a foundation image on which more work, such as local contrast control, can be done later.

The range of papers for monochrome printing has expanded, and especially printers that now commonly include various shades of black ink, amusing called, in one ink set, “light, light gray.” Where monochrome used to be mixed from a color composite, with resultant chameleon-like behavior under various light sources, you now can easily attain a very neutral print if that’s what you desire. Neutrality is influenced by the paper on which you lay down the ink; we now have various brightness levels and shades of warm to cool color papers available. It’s like the old darkroom days are back again, albeit with ink and printer doing the trick rather than reaching for paper and developer combos, modified by toners, that would give you any look you desire. Those who have done darkroom work will recognize what’s happening here; those who haven’t should understand that now’s the time to get into the magical world of monochrome image-making. There are so many creative tools and techniques at your disposal.

Now, what about those new D-SLRs? Are we on the cusp of a revolution, or are these more evolutionary developments? I’ll leave that to our reviewers to reveal. All I can say is that we are entering a phase where our capabilities in low light have expanded exponentially, and that image processing has become an integral part of how we will go forward.

And, this being the first issue of the New Year, I want to wish you and yours all the best in the coming year. It’s been quite a year and if we all pull together in creative and positive ways I am convinced that we can overcome this difficult period. I also want to thank you for your support and encouragement over the last year. It has been key to our success and our continued growth. All of us here at Shutterbug will continue to do our best to explore the tools, techniques, and creativity that make photography such a wonderful art and craft.