Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Black and White Digital Photography

Color is wonderful and is a joy to behold but for me there is always something special about a Black and White photograph. I'm not sure if this is because for the most of my life when great photos were presented these tended to be B&W images or the mystique that goes around their genre. But I still find them special.

The world is in color so we don't have a natural tendency to see in B&W but with practice, some inner vision, we can all create good black and white photos.
Black and White Digital Photography (photo workshop) book wants people to be better at this genre of photography.

Black and White Digital Photography (the book)
Author Chris Bucher
ISBN 978-0-470-42193-2
Publisher Wiley Publishing Inc.

The book has 10 chapters and I will explain what is basically covered in each and at the end of the article I will give the overall summary for this book.
This is a workbook of sorts and each chapter has an assignment to help you explore some of the material covered in the chapter.

Chapter 1 – Black and White Vision
This chapter is more of a compendium of general information on importance of Black and White photography, why it is a different art from color. It covers how in the color world seeing in B&W involves more of the creative process. The importance of being able to previsualize, understand the timing in 'the moment' and knowing how to wait.  Where to find photographic material and subjects.

Chapter 2 – Photography Fundamentals
A good general introduction to camera setting such as exposure, aperture, shutter speed, iso, white balance and how these each affect the photographic image. Under composition the rule of thirds, balance, symmetry, shape, simplicity, having a point of view and being able to link compositional elements.

Chapter 3 – Getting the Most out of your Camera
This chapter covers handling the buttons and menu settings on your camera. How white balance affects B&W. Glass filters and suggested settings and lens for portraits, landscape, still life and street photography.

Chapter 4 – Working with Light 
This is what I believe where photography really starts.
This chapter covers metering and exposure, basic zone system, the metering modes of your camera. Light quality and direction as well as reflectors and balancing and mixing sources. Light at dusk and after dark.

Chapter 5 – Tools and Toys
This chapter covers add-ons and supporting equipment for your camera that will allow to take more creative images and includes; Infrared photography, lens baby, smaller point and shoot and speciality DSLR camera, strobes, tripods

Chapter 6 – Tonal Quality in Black and White
This chapter covers converting color to B&W, discussing tones and contrast in B&W images, working with shadows and contrast. Also covers understanding how light quality affects tones and looking for highlights and building depth in the shadows.

Chapter 7 – The Black and White Digital file

The process of converting image to B&W, the use of film filters and the debate on raw or jepg file formats

Chapter 8 – Working in the Digital Darkroom
The chapter discusses the process of enhancing your image to bring out more by use of local and global contrast, multiple raw processing, adjustment layers, masks, shadows and highlight tools, additional filters, selective effects, film situations, workflow. The major emphasis is about using photoshop and digital editing tools.

Chapter 9-  Toning, Coloring and Special Effects
The chapter explains the old film processing techniques and how they can be achieved in digital editing such as; old process effects, split toning, coloring to monochrome, infrared effects, high dynamic range, compositing

10 Output Printing and Presentation
Film was about chemical processes, paper, developing and in this chapter the new equivalents of inject printers and paper, calibrating, creating B&W prints, output options

Conclusion and  Recommended Audience

This is a How To book about creating B&W images digitally. It broadly covers all aspects from start to finish about creating this genre of photography as evidenced by the material cover under the chapters. I don't think little was missed except some freeware program.  The author used higher end equipment,  and computer components and information is geared towards this end.

The book contains a lot of photos and all taken by the author. I like the fact that these are ordinary but good images that we would all take as opposed to those over the top studio shots.

The book does contain assignments at the end and these are general in approach. I am a firm believer that assignments should  be precise and more definitive to help focus people clearly in the direction of guidance. Too much ambiguity for beginners causes confusion in their approach.

There is a web site to post your assignment but at this time (new book) there was nothing posted under the B&W book. This site contains the other workbooks from Wiley press about photography.  Some useful information but a little hard to find since its a Bulletin Board system.
See  under forum. (the books says but routes to address above.)

This is, in my opinion, a beginners book for someone who mainly uses Point&Shoot camera or mid level SLR type only in auto mode and needs to understand photography, equipment and tools from beginning to end. Each item is well explained but only at a level to get you started and with photography, lots of practice is the key to really getting better.

From my own perspective there are so many books about using cameras I think it's better to leave some of the basic materiel out and focus more on taking B&W and then digital editing.

Niels Henriksen

A bike has so much detail at times its best to focus on particular elements only. In this image you get the feeling of power form the large exhaust pipes.
f.4.4 @ 72mm on 18-70 Nikon lens, 1/15sec, IS0 200

Disclaimer: Other than receiving a book to review, which will be given away, I did not or will not receive any remunerations, gifts or any considerations for this review from the publisher, author or anyone affiliated with this book.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why YOUR Photography Matters

I was using Google Street View to find an intersecting street name for a photo I had taken.
The sign in the image told me one street name and since it was only 4 blocks long I figured it should be easy to determine which one of the 5 intersections was the corner for my image.

I tried 3 times to find the corner but with no luck. I just didn’t see my image. It wasn’t until I tried to remember where the streets were steep and placed the google 'bonhomme' on that intersection and looked really hard to find the same buildings, it finally become apparent. It was always there but I didn't see it because of the compression in distance in my image.

F9.0 iso 200 s 1/200 @135mm (202mm at 25mm equ)

The next 2 'Google Maps images' show first at the intersection and the second image taken further up 'Solano y Davalos' where approximately I was standing when I took my photo above.

from Google Street View

These google images don’t show the true steepness of the streets that surround the central square 'el Jardin' as many call it. Only the image in the bottom right, when zoomed in, begins to show similarities.
from Google Street View

Using a zoom lens could bring the steepness of the street towards the end closer and into view. When standing where the street starts to become steeper, the same perception was harder to capture since at that point there were no references to show level as in the zoomed image.

This is why we each need to take our own photographs because only the photographer can tell the story that they see. Mechanical taken images just don't quite cut it.

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Using Guidelines to Increase Focus on Subject

There are several lines that help guide the viewer to the main subject, which is the man & child on the bridge.
Some are natural and some enhanced with photo-editing.

These are:
  • Bridge railings
  • Top of roof (top right)
  • Rippling water starting bottom right. The water just to the left was darkened a little to make contrast greater.
  • The darker 'V' portion of the tree that splits above girls head. This was also darkened slightly to increase effect.
  • There is a dark patch just to the left of man's head that forms a 'C'.  This was also slightly darkened.

I thought I'd show my own B&W photo, as I'm doing a book review in the next article about Digital B&W editing.

Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are You Being Creative outside of Photography

In most arts lots of practice and if varied does improve your skills and as in photography you need to take many and I do mean many photographs. I do believe you need to be able to see differently.

Being creative, seeing new possibilities in your mind, imagining, also requires lots of practice. There is no formula, like camera settings, that allows you to press and get the perfect picture. This is something that you need to visualize. By not only being creative with your camera, but in post-processing, painting or drawing, gardens or even creating paths in the woods, you will be able to see more with your camera. This playing around gives more space for your imagination to grow.

My stay in San Miguel de Allende did influence my painting style as I decided to try a series of 6 painting about cacti. I wanted each to be slightly different but about the same subject. 

This was more about playing with colors

This is really a succulent but close enough for me.

Each painting  is a 16” x 20” oil on canvas.

Cacti have a lot of greens and this series was about using different greens with complimentary colors.

Photographs were all used as reference material as there are no cacti here in Ottawa. At least non outdoors that I can paint from.

 This image above still needs some minor changes.

Each are different as I hoped and some seem to work better than others. That's the joy of experimenting. You're not quite sure how it will turn out.

The one thing that became very apparent is that oil colours, at least the saturated mixed, could not be captured with a 12 bit sensor. Non of these photos show the true vibrancy of the real paintings.

This is now something to strive for when printing photos. To somehow still have a bright luminance reflect off the photo. This is mostly about contrast and an easy method to create the allusion is to darken and mute color in surrounding areas. There may also need to be some softening to add a bit of glow effect.

Niels Henriksen


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