Beautiful in Black and White
England’s landscape and landmarks as they have never been seen before
Over the years I’ve been fortunate that quite a few of my photographs have appeared in This England and Evergreen. All of these images have been in colour - ranging from my older colour slides (from cameras that took rolls of film), right up to the files from my modern digital camera.
A lot of my early photography was done with black and white film that required, firstly developing the negatives, and then printing them — and what a messy business that could be! But now it’s perfectly possible to produce black and white images from a modern digital camera. You don’t need a darkroom equipped with a sink, an enlarger and trays of magical liquids that make prints appear out of thin air — just a computer or laptop.
Would my modern colour files make good black and white images? I’ve recently been experimenting to see if a black and white version is still as dramatic as the colour one. Reducing colours to shades of black, white and grey can give an image great impact because you’re not influenced by the colours of the scene, just the shapes and tones that you see.
Modern software will have no difficulty just turning colour images into black and white, or “greyscale” as it is often referred to. I was encouraged by early conversions so I started investigating what more could be done.
Goodness me! What a world of exciting possibilities opened up once I started exploring all the menus and choices the software offered. I soon learnt that it’s possible to change the shade of grey (its lightness or darkness) for individual colours to produce some startling effects that still look realistic, but can be both dramatic and atmospheric at the same time.
For instance, take a blue sky: by using one of the software options I can make this appear almost jet black or pure white. If I darken it enough any white clouds in the now dark sky become emphasised and create dramatic cloudscapes. Greens and yellows can be adjusted to appear almost white — which means that trees can appear to have white leaves and expanses of grass look as though they are covered in frost or snow — in the middle of summer!
But the effect that I’ve discovered that pleases me the most is the possibility of retaining the colour in just part of a black and white image. You can do it with any colour, but a bright red seems to work quite well — as you can see here. Have a look at these examples — all taken in colour, then converted to black and white, with a few more tweaks added by computer software. What do you think?