the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

THE BLUE AND THE GREY

Same shot, converted in-camera to monochrome. Now it's too bland.

A decent winter scene, a bit too charming in its full color original, converted in-camera to straight monochrome. Now, however, it’s too bland.

By MICHAEL PERKINS

ONE OF THE GREAT BENEFITS OF DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY, other than its ease and affordability, is the speed at which it allows you to make comparative value judgements on images in the field. Even as digital darkrooms make it ever easier to change or modify your vision after the fact, today’s cameras also allow you to choose between several versions of a photograph while its subject is right at hand. This is an amazing mental and artistic economy, and it’s another reason why this is the absolute best time in history to be making pictures.

Many of us who made the transition from film have a lifelong habit of “bracketing”, taking multiples of the same image over a range of exposure rates to ensure that we are “covered” with at least one keeper in the batch. Others have already adopted the equivalent habit of taking several different frames with a sampling of varying white balances. I also find it helpful to use today’s in-camera filters to instantly convert color shots to three other monochrome “takes”….straight black and white, sepia and cyanotype. It’s a way to see if certain low-color subject matter will actually benefit from being reworked as duotone, and knowing that fact extra fast.

Another in-camera conversion, this time to cyanotype. This says winter to me.

Another in-camera conversion, this time to cyanotype. This one says “winter” to me. 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm.

Color or its selective elimination is one of the easiest tools to wield in photography. In the case of the series shown in this post, I decided that the winter scene was a little too warm and cheery in full color, a little flat in straight B&W, but properly evocative of winter’s severity in cyan. The choice was quick, and I still had the color master shot that I could choose to massage later on.

Shooting fast, that is, at the speed of your mood or whim, is a remarkable luxury, and exploiting it to the max is easy with even the most elementary camera. And anything that converts more “maybe” shots to “yes” is my idea of a good time.

I’ll have a Blue Christmas, thank you.

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