Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

September 25, 2007

Grayscale or Black & White?

Filed under: Art, Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 4:42 pm

Lichen rocks & Oaks

To pick up again the discussion that was start Sunday by Tim Atherton  where he states “the digital B&W images are driving me nuts – not their content, but their “look”, recognizing that he is not taking exception to the image content but the presentation and look even giving this blog some kudos for “fun and interesting” (Thanks!!).  Tim also further characterises the look as … so smooth, “perfect” and characterless, and he finishes with… but as it stands right now this is Greyscale photography, not black and white when he describes a color digital capture that is converted into a black and white image.

So the question is a color digital image capture that is converted to a monocolor image a grayscale image or a black and white image?  My answer is Yes.  The final results are Grayscale, Black & White, as well as Monocolor and Continuous Tone and all of the other discriptors given to this look of the photograhic medium.  It does not bother me what label you want to use, as I have seen a lot of them over the years.

Perhaps more to Tim’s point, what is the “look” of the results?  Does the look make a difference?  I will admit, in the mid-1970’s I thought the Kodak Polycontrast prints made with the Kodak polycontrast filter set in a condensor enlarger were awful to look at.  And I did not enjoy looking at them.  Then came along the first resin coated papers which made the Polycontrast look pretty good in comparision. But what I liked best was the graded F papers using a two developer bath sequence. Niceeeee.

Today, Multigrade IV with a color head enlarger that can expose/dodge in one contrast and burn in with another contrast can create a wonderful print.  I just chose not to go that route.  And when I want a Black and White image and use my MF and film, I use color negative film. I want to have every option that I can obtain, and that is it. And that works for me. I am not a Paul Strand who welded his LF camera to give him a fixed image.  Egads, I also crop.  Okay, enough scarcism.

Tim looks at a lots and lots of images and he can quickly pick out subtle traits in the image look that bother him.  And I think that I understand and I don’t have an issue with that.  I am truely myopic and mostly look at my own images and very concerned about my content, and I also do my critical evaluations with a print (300dpi) and not on a monitor (image at 72 dpi, but most monitors running at 96dpi or better).  The monitor can make a big difference in your image evaluation, and Tim’s is probably differnt than mine (and hopefully it is not because I just learned how to post an image on the internet last November, I keep getting pointers from Colin on how to optimize my images for my post).  I accept that my work flow today is different than my work flow even a couple of years ago, and the look of my images will probably reflect it.  And in a couple of years from now, my workflow will be changed again as well as the internet, interfaces, monitors, etc.

I just hope that you all can see beyond the look to understand the content, even though I understand the look does become part of the overall experience.

Best regards, Doug

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