When I first started working as a photographer in what was then a very secondary marketing (Austin, 1978) ads or editorial work shot in color were a rarity. Nearly every photographer I knew spent most of their days then shooting in black and white and delivering 8x10 prints to their clients. Almost all of us had our own black and white darkrooms, or shared darkrooms with other photographers who were also just starting out.
Assignments rarely ended when the cameras were put in the bags and the lights were packed away. The actual taking of photographs was the quickest part. It was followed by time in the darkroom rolling film onto reels and then into tanks for development. When the film dried we cut it into strips and put it into plastic pages so we could make contact sheets. The contact sheets went to clients for image selection and were usually returned with china marker indications of which frames to print and, in some cases, how to crop. We'd hustle back into our darkrooms, mix up print chemistry and try to pull really great black and white prints for our clients. Not too contrasty and not too dark. We aimed for a beautiful range of gray tones because those prints ended up getting through the half-tone screening process best and then printing best in newsprint, magazines or on offset presses.
By the time the digital age rolled around color was ubiquitous and, frankly, in digital, much easier for most people to handle and get printed. Black and white was (at least for me) harder to do in digital than by traditional methodology. I could never get those mid-range skin tones exactly the right gray and exactly in balance between the shadows and the highlights. I know some people swore by their own PhotoShop methods but try as I might I could never get close.
Now I feel like I'm living a little larger when it comes to black and white. I've been using Fuji's Acros Profile with their green filter finesse added in. The profile does a great job nailing the skin tones and gets me right in the ball park, overall. I still apply a bit more contrast to the mid-tones but the files are so much better balanced, overall, that it's easier now. I could apply the profile to raw files in post but much prefer to pretend I'm shooting totally old school and trying to get as close as I can in camera.
I photographed a long rehearsal at Zach's rehearsal space on Sunday. Nothing fancy but we wanted to capture the process of rehearsing a play whose actual content is still partly in flux. I spent all day shooting what I think are very beautiful black and white images with a Fuji X-H1 along with the 90mm f2.0 (used almost exclusively at f2.0) and the saucy and able 16-55mm f2.8 for everything else (used mostly at f3.5). I'm not sure how the files will do with Blogger's resizing algorhythms (yes, I know I spelled it differently; I'm shooting a musical...) but the photo just below is from the shoot. At full res and viewed at 100% it is absolutely beautiful with massive amounts of detail and great tonal transitions.
I may never shoot color again.... (just kidding. I'm afraid my clients will insist).
I love that Fuji provides such nicely thought out profiles; not just for black and white but also in the color space as well. It makes shooting Jpegs so much fun for me.
A blog note: I may be publishing sporadically during this week and the next. My father is in hospice and we are nearing the end. Family is, of course, my first priority but I'll write when I can because it's nice to stay in touch. Comment at will. I'll read them all. Even the ones I choose to delete...