Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 28, Learning 28: Black and White Preview

So this is a technique from the astounding Gregory Heisler:  Shoot in RAW + JPG and set your picture mode to Monochrome (or Black and White).  The image on the back of your camera will appear in black and white, but the RAW file will, of course, retain all of the color. 

Why, you ask?  Heisler maintains that color shows you the real thing, while black and white shows you the essence or emotional qualities of the image.  I'm not sure this is universal to every subject, but it sure trains your eye differently, seeing in black and white but envisioning in color.  I tried this technique on the above image of the Mormon temple in Oakland (quite by accident, actually).  Seeing it in monochrome on the back of my camera helped me decide to process the final image in B&W.  It was dusk, but the sky was rather bland because of an overcast sky to the West, and the face of the building in shadow.  I put the camera on a small table tripod, opened the Aperture to f/22 and slowed the shutter speed to about 2.5 seconds to make the water creamy.

I have my doubts about how dear this technique is to Heisler's heart.  All of the images in his brilliant book, Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits, are shot on film cameras.  If you haven't purchased his tomb, buy it now.  It's a wonderful exploration into the art of portrait photography, offering dozens small, well-chosen nuggets of information about all aspects of the process, both technical and personal.

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