Black & white my photos, my words

I like black and white photography, the subject of my featured gallery for July on my website.

Maybe it’s because a black and white photo reminds me of my early days with a 35 millimeter film camera, shooting black and white because it was less expensive than color and much easier to process. It allowed me to learn photography through experimentation without wiping out the limited funds I had.

Steps exit a tunnel carved through rock, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.

Drop a roll of Kodak Tri-X into the camera, take some shots, rush to my home darkroom, run the film through some D76 developer, then a quick pass through the stop bath and some time in the fixer before hanging it to dry and checking what I had.

Travelers rush through the main concourse inside Grand Central Terminal, New York City.

Photography is much different in today’s digital world. You take the shot, then immediately check the LCD screen on the back of the camera to analyze the photo. Since there’s no chemical processing, it costs the same to shoot color as black and white.

Pilings in San Francisco Bay, a ship anchored on the horizon and a lone seagull, near Pier 30, San Francisco.

So color photography rules the day.

Spiral walkway leading to skylight, Guggenheim Museum, New York City.

But when I’m out with my camera I still look for scenes that will work best in black and white. These are usually scenes with distinctive shapes or patterns, sometimes formed by interesting shadows, or objects with texture. Color in a photo can mask these details.

The November midday sun casts long shadows from a fire escape, New York City.

I also look for scenes where the absence of color can enhance the mood.

Bennett’s Mill covered bridge, South Shore, Ky., photographed on black & white film, June 1976.

Two of the photos in this collection were shot on black and white film in the 1970s. The digital photos were all shot in color, then converted to black and white. A handful of these were shot with the intention to use them as black and white. I knew they would work best that way. The others have been used in both black and white and color. Some days I like the color versions better. Other days I lean toward the black and white.

It’s all part of the creative decision making that makes photography so enjoyable.

Click a photo to see a larger version.