Monday, March 30, 2009

Black and white filters

click photo to enlarge
When I got my first camera, way back in the late 1960s, I used to feed it with Agfa film (probably CT18) that I could have developed by the local photographic shop as colour transparency, colour negative or black and white. This was handy for creative purposes, but also because the cost of the final images was different depending on my choice, so I could tailor my photography to the state of my finances.

Later, in the 1970s, when I bought an SLR (a Zenit E followed by an OM1n), I shot all three film formats depending on my mood and the subjects I had in mind to photograph. Interestingly, of all the images I made during those years (and the 1980s and 1990s), it is the black and white prints (Ilford film on Ilford paper) that have stood the test of time best of all. Particularly, I'm proud to say, those that I developed and printed myself. Anyone who hasn't shot, developed and printed black and white film won't understand the special magic associated with that process. Nor will they appreciate the importance of filters in securing forceful images. I had (in fact still have) red, orange yellow and green filters to fit the Zuiko 50mm 1.8, and Cokin equivalents to fit all my lenses. The transformational effect of a red or orange filter on a blue sky with white, fair weather clouds, is sensational: on a stormy sky it is apocalyptic. These simple pieces of coloured glass gave a boost to contrast and added three-dimensional qualities that suited some subjects perfectly.

Every now and again I try the digital equivalent of the red, orange or yellow filter when I do a black and white conversion. I've never yet achieved quite the same effect that you get with glass and film, regardless of whether I use a plug-in or home-brew my own version. Today's image taken on Lincolnshire's Fens is close to what I used to like to achieve: a contrasty finish with black sky, white clouds and enough mid-tones to carry the detail. This tractor and harrow was waiting for the driver of the distant machine. He appeared to be working alone in the empty landscape, using both tractors with different attachments to prepare the soil as he wanted it.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm (34mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On