I’ve been thinking a good bit lately about making black and white prints from certain of my digital images. Actually, since the final output would be using my digital printer, printing via offset, or display on a color monitor, what I’m really doing is to use the RGB (or CMYK) color notation to create a simulation of a black and white image. So this is an intentionally retro endeavor. Worth noting: quality vintage black and white prints were not actually “black” and white, but toned to create a rich (but monochromatic) look.
I took this photo from a position some way off the Chimney Rock Trail in Point Reyes, look west at the setting sun and the rugged shore of the end of the Point Reyes peninsula. My intention when I took the photo was to convert it to monochrome, because there were hardly any colors anyhow. The shoreline seemed backlit to me, and I figured, well you can get a glamour backlit black and white of a model, why not a landscape?
Taking the photo took a fraction of a second, but converting this image took much longer.
First I processed it from the RAW as I would a normal color image, using several different RAW “exposures” in combination. Next, I tweaked each color channel used Color Channel adjustment layers with monochromatic check. I weaked the whole confection a bit, then added a few adjustments in LAB color and a tritone version of the original on top of my (by now massive) layer stack. Not to oversimplify, I used a variety of blending modes, masks, and adjustment layers.
If there is a moral to this, it’s that the key word is “simulate.” To get the “black & white” results I wanted, I needed to alter the color structure of the image, creating an entirely new look in the process. Well, honestly, that’s what I normally do with my photos much of the time.
Related story: Nautilus in Black and White.
[Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 55mm (77.5mm in 35mm terms), 1/160 of a second at f/32 and ISO 100, hand held, image stabilization engaged.]