During last weekend’s trip to the Oregon Coast I took some photographs that due to the high contrasts within the composition, I thought would look good converted to monochrome. When shooting with B&W already on my mind, I typically set my camera to a monochrome preset (most modern cameras have that feature). So when composing, I’m looking already at a monochrome image in my viewfinder or on my LCD screen. This helps me judging the impact of light and contrast before pressing the shutter. Maybe this is not the right approach for a purist, but I gladly take this as a great supportive feature of modern cameras and is as helped me discover the fun in B&W photography. For more monochrome coastal images and some more thoughts around it continue reading after the jump….
As already mentioned, I set my Olympus cameras to a high contrast monochrome preset when having the intention of shooting B&W photography. Especially on the retro-styled PEN-F this is quite easy, as you have a dedicated dial on the front (this used to be the ISO dial on the original PEN from the 60’s) that makes this (and other presets) available at a slight twist of the fingers. Still I make sure I capture the image in both jpg and RAW. The jpg records the photo with the applied preset as seen in the viewfinder. As you surely know, the RAW records the full color information of the image, but most important, it captures much more tonal range and details than a jpg and this gives you much more to play with in the digital darkroom. A RAW file always needs to be processed, as it does not apply any in-camera processing (like sharpening, adding saturation etc.) like a jpg does. Sometimes, I use the black and white jpg directly out of camera, without any post processing, but more often than not I do the actual conversion to monochrome with the RAW file. The higher tonal range captured in RAW makes a difference once you get in the finer details of post processing like adjusting graduation curves, which I do with almost all my RAW conversions.
I do all of my monochrome conversions in Adobe Lightroom CC. As a starting point I have collected some presets over the years, some from other photographers, some I came up myself. I have a standard set of 10 monochrome presets that I work with as starting point, before I just overall exposure, contrast, setting of the correct black and white points and then adjusting the graduation curves until I’m satisfied with the results and it replicated what I saw on location, converted to black and white. Rarely I introduce some grain, mimicking old analogue B&W films. More often than not I add a slight vignette. I’m aware this is not everyone’s taste, but at the end my processed images need to satisfy only me myself. If anyone else likes them as well, that’s a bonus.
The photos above where taken with my Olympus PEN-F and the mZuiko 12-40mm F/2.8 Pro Zoom. The shot below was with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the mZuiko 40-150mm F/2.8 Pro Zoom. The shipwreck in the introductory image is the “Peter Iredale”, a four mast iron sailing ship that ran aground in 1906 near the mouth of the Columbia River and lies on a beach at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria. The other photos were taken at Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Let me know your thoughts about monochrome shooting in the comment section.
I wish you all a great Sunday.