Weekly Photo Challenge 18: To Color or Not To Color

Although the WordPress weekly photo challenge ended in December, I wanted to continue the challenges since I got started late in the game – so I’m continuing on my own. I posted this on my Facebook page and thought I would share it with my followers.

Color or Black and White? That is a question that is often mis-answered by many new photographers. Often times, they (and even I) will miss a perfect opportunity to display an image in black and white, because they deem the photo “color only.” Granted, there are many images that will specifically lend themselves to one format or the other, but you should never take it for granted that an image will not look good in B&W. Even something that you wouldn’t think could look good in B&W can turn out spectacular in monochromatic. Don’t be afraid to experiment and remember to edit your black and white photos using Ansel Adams Zone System.

This image was taken in one of the only working and open old Missions in San Antonio, TX. This particular window faced the west, letting the evening sun filter in beautifully.

This image was taken in one of the only working and open old Missions in San Antonio, TX. This particular window faced the west, letting the evening sun filter in beautifully.

What is this you might ask? If you are not a fan of the great American photo genius, you may not have heard of this system; but I hardly doubt it as every photography class teaches it even if they don’t give the man credit.

If you haven't studied Ansel Adams rules for B&W photography, I would suggest it. To get the perfect B&W, you need a range of colors from the deepest black and the whitest whites without loosing details in the shadows. Experiment, you never know what will look great monochromatic.

If you haven’t studied Ansel Adams rules for B&W photography, I would suggest it. To get the perfect B&W, you need a range of colors from the deepest black and the whitest whites without loosing details in the shadows. Experiment, you never know what will look great monochromatic.

I had dubbed this system as the rule of 10 on my FB page. I had forgotten its formal name until a friend reminded me; I just remembered that there are 10 gradients with the whitest white at one end and the blackest black at the other end. Although I had forgotten its name, I had not forgotten the system and use it everyday with my photography. First off, you want to set your white balance and camera settings to capture the perfect light so you don’t have to do too much in the digital darkroom – false lighting impeders the system. Be sure not to over compensate in your digital darkroom program by adding too much contrast; you want to make sure you maintain details in the shadows. Using your eyes, adjust the levels, curves and contrast until you have the image just right. If you are not sure, which is the best image, save several copies (this duplicates what us old time photographers of film would call bracketing).

I love the way the sudden ice storm captured this fallen leaf in time. You can see what I'm talking about when I say details in the shadows; look under the leaf in the blackest black. You can still make out minute details - this important for a good image.

I love the way the sudden ice storm captured this fallen leaf in time.
You can see what I’m talking about when I say details in the shadows; look under the leaf in the blackest black. You can still make out minute details – this important for a good image.

The zone system was specifically for B&W, and Adams used it through the lens (like the play on my page name). He could tell by looking through the camera where all the zones were and how to adjust his lighting. He would wait hours for the perfect light, sometimes days. The rest was done in the dark room through developing the film and the negative. Now, in our digital age, we convert color to B&W, so we have to use our eyes to determine the correct balance on the computer.  I believe I gave up a lot of quality when I switched over to digital, but ease of use and economics had me reluctantly making the switch. In any event, with careful planning while taking the digital image and careful editing, I can still obtain some good shots. Howerver, there are three components that we have to deal with in the digital age and any one step can alter the way the photo prints: 1. our camera, 2. our home computer, and 3. the printer used to print the image.

This was a deep crimson flower, not one you would think would look good in black and white, but when I converted it, I found I loved the lack of color better. Without the distraction of color, you can see the flower for all its hidden beauty.

This was a deep crimson flower, not one you would think would look good in black and white, but when I converted it, I found I loved the lack of color better. Without the distraction of color, you can see the flower for all its hidden beauty.

At any point the image can look different since no two systems are alike. In other words, you can have the image perfect on your home computer and when you take it to be printed, it will not look the same. Always check and make them reprint if it is not to your liking.

A word of warning, don’t go to crazy with all your photo editing features; there is a time and place for them. Sometimes there is a good reason to use them, and sometimes it is just unnecessary fluff. Granted, I have played with them all and find that a lousy out-of-focused shot can sometimes be salvaged with a trick or too, but I caution you to use them sparingly. That said however, I have to include an image that I did use some editing fluff to. It was taken of my second granddaughter on the day of her birth through the nursery window. After editing and converting this image to B&W, I decided I wanted a more ethereal look to the image, more angelic (as if a newborn baby isn’t angelic enough). I was pleased (as were her parents) with the final image.

What I especially love about this image is her daddy's tender caresses.

What I especially love about this image is her daddy’s tender caresses.

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