b&w images • blog • project journal



Feb 13, 2017

Grabbing that peak-of-the-moment action shot, at night, on a stage sporatically lit with shifting color lights, is quite a challenge. This one tells a story that I feel is needed – it's a Tapati Rapanui 2007 reenactment of the Birdman cult contest where contestants swam out to nearby motu (small islands) to retrieve the first Sooty Tern egg of the season. The first man to swim back, climb the cliff to the top of Rano Kau, all with the egg intack, wins.

Admittedly not the sharpest image in the folio, and like a number of the problem images, prints at a maximum of 12x16. The last image for the series, at least planned right now before I update the Catalog PDF and the PDF version of the book, it was put off for a reason. It's a stage shot at Tapati Rapanui with serious issues even beyond the need to eliminate an ugly microphone stand and heads in the way. Fortunately the heads moved so all I had to do there is evolve four consecutive exposures to the point where bits and pieces along the bottom front could be used to create one good image.

When I get a shot like this to work on, I remember something David Vestal wrote in his The Craft of Photography back in the seventies – to the effect that he'd much rather see a b&W image worth shooting, that might have problems or issues, than a perfectly executed picture not worth taking. As it turns out, I like it enough to hang it at home, upstairs where I do hang a couple of my own pieces.

One final issue with this one is the same as I had when I printed the flower and bee shot, dimensions don't match the frames I like to stock. Fortunately they are both printed 12x13 (note I changed the flower/bee proportions – corrected HERE) so I was able to order two of my Nielsen 93-50 frames in 18x19.


I stumbled on a column on fstppers.com from 2014 titled Why It's Still Important to Shoot in Balck and White. The article is worth a read – after all, we no longer have B&W film to put into our cameras. I began with digital shooting RAW in color – there was no other way. The fact that I have no problem simply working as if I have B&W film in the camera helped.

But now I use a little trick – I have my camera programed to shoot RAW+JPEG. At the same time I have the JPEG set for B&W – with viewing, composing and previews in B&W. It's the best of both worlds because when I move the RAW to the computer I get to convert it into B&W in my RAW converter of choice and to suit my needs and tastes.

And it's really nifty that I can do the same thing with my iPhone. Some of the third party camera apps now shoot RAW+JPEG, allowing you to not only view in B&W but to harvest a quick, cool B&W jpeg alongside the RAW file – and like in the larger cameras, both compose and preview the B&W jpeg immediately after the shot. How cool is that?

Evidently rumors about the death of B&W as a separate art form are somewhat exagerated. Of course, with the above abilities, one can opt to go 100% B&W – provided one is satisfied with just a jpeg result. I'm not, so I'll just have to put up with all those color RAW exposures hanging around my computer. Curses. 

I would add that even when shooting for color, viewing and composing in B&W can be a big help – color can be a distraction from more important considerations.

Camera Evolution…

Cameras evolve, sometimes so fast one gets whiplash. In fact, they evolve so fast that it has become the norm to have to update the firmware in one's camera occasioally, adding abilities and altering menus.

Photographers have to evolve too (well, not all do). I've been watching the progress of mirrorless cameras for a while now, they are half the price, two thirds the size and half the weight of SLRs. That's quite a temptation. These cameras make for a number of changes and adjustments, but that's inevitable.

Anyway, I made my decision and choice. The biggest adjustment for me was abandoning Canon. They were inconsiderate enough to listen to the majority of photographers who want touch-screen controls on the back of their cameras – even the DSLRs! But I'm of the minority who have no interest in this. Otherwise I would have looked seriously at their new M series mirrorless models.

After weeks of trying, checking, researching and general angsting, I'm going with the Fujifilm X-T2 – and am anxiously awaiting the combination of the eBay auction of my Canon 6D set-up coming to an end and getting my X-T2. At that point I'll hopefully write a quik review here.

The first person I told about this switch, knowing that I've been a Canon-freak for so long, just looked at me in total disbelief.