Thread: A tone story
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Old 11-08-2009, 08:52 PM   #2
rino54's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 86

Some examples

I'm giving you a rule : "to be a good candidate for B&W processing, a picture has to have a high range of grey, from black to white". Ok this is a rule but don't worry, I'm not dogmatic! This rule is like the famous rule of third : a good trick to start but has to be broken after a while to be creative!

If you only have dark and light grays, you have a picture with a strong contrast (some say it's a "hard" picture). Some subjects are good candidte for a low contrast processing (a fog scene for example). In this case, the subject decides what contrast is the best to use.

Here is a first example :

The colour version is strong because the red from the locomotive and coaches are "jumping" over the background. Also you can immediatly notice the blue sky and the green beam on the river. But when process in B&W all these details disappear! The thing that comes out is the pattern and line made by the bridge. In B&W, elements of design (lines, forms, shapes, textures and patterns) are ehanced.

This one has different colour luminosities : dark from the photographer's shadow, medium darker from the forest in the background, medium from the grass, medium light from the sky and light from the train. This picture is a better candidate for a B&W processing!

All my examples are afterward works : the picture already exists, in colour, and I'm searching for good candidates to do a B&W process. But if you really like and "believe" in this medium, you should detect tones in the scene in front of you lens, you should "see in B&W". Some modern DSLR have some monochrome features that can be usefull visualize the tones.

Time to process in B&W

So you found the right candidate : right tones, right subject ... it's now tile to process it in B&W with your favourite software. There are plenty of them and I think this is useless to go in details. You have to know that many sources suggest to use the channel mixer instead of doing desturation. You should do some search on internet to discover what is the best for you.

Remember the first example, here is when desaturation compared with channel mixing :

You may have heard that B&W film photographers sometimes use some filters (red, green,...) It helps to change tones and/or contrasts. A red filter will darken green areas and make red one looking lighter. Modern post-processing softwares can simulate such filters. Here is an example from Adobe Lightroom (I made the green to go lighter) :

I stop now. I already said it: this is an introduction to the subject. There are plenty of good books around and I'm sure some will give usefull titles. You can also notice that I talked about technics and not "philosophy". For more than a year I'm trying to find what place has B&W in the 21st century and modern railroading. This is not the subject here but if some of you are interested, I can share my first thoughts about it in another post.

I wish this one will be usefull to some of you. If the answer is yes then I will have earn my day!

Discover my website The Passing Trains, about Railroad Photography:
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