Beau­ti­ful in Black and White

Eng­land’s land­scape and land­marks as they have never been seen be­fore

This England - - Contents - Christo­pher Ni­chol­son

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?



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