Thursday, June 7, 2012

Black and White

I love black and white photos; most of the pictures displayed on our walls are B&W work by other photographers. I like shooting for B&W, and I also like the occasional surprise of an image I'd intended for color that turns out to be really nice in B&W.

I don't print much B&W for the simple reason that it doesn't sell where I live. I've displayed B&W work in the galleries where I typically have work. I've never sold one. I've never sold any of the B&W pieces on my Web site, either, which may mean it's not strictly the taste of the local folk at work. Perhaps I'm simply a lousy B&W shooter or printer. In any case, I don't print much B&W except for my own enjoyment, and I rarely display any in galleries.

My Canon iPF 5000 was only a so-so printer of B&W, at least on gloss papers. Metameric failure and gloss differential were both problems with that printer's ink-set on gloss papers. Naturally, neither was an issue on matte paper.

The 7900 has no obvious metameric issues when printing B&W on EEF or GGFS, the two gloss papers I use. There is some gloss diff, sometimes so slight it's hard to see, but in other cases a bit more obvious. This is impossible to find when a print is mounted under glass. Short of applying a coating to the finished prints, I suspect the gloss diff issue with 7900 prints is as good as it's likely to get anytime soon. (Obviously, gloss diff is the same with color prints—unprinted white areas of paper will have whatever gloss the paper has, whether one is printing B&W or color.)

Bynum Derelict ©2010, Jay Cross
I will have seven or eight pieces in a show that will hang in early July. I've decided to make all of my pictures in this show fairly large, printing on 17 inch roll paper or 17x22 inch (US C size) sheets for the smallest, with one or two perhaps larger. One of the images will be of a crumbling old building in Bynum, Montana. I pass this old wreck on my drive to and from Freezeout Lake, a place I visit most years in March, along the Rocky Mountain Front near Choteau, Montana. In 2010, on my drive home from photographing the geese migration at Freezeout, I stopped to photograph the derelict building. It was about 11:00 in the morning, extremely windy, and with bright sun peeking through a somewhat stormy sky. Contrast in the tones of the old boards of the shack was extreme, thanks to the sun on the weathered wood. There was no question this would be a black and white photograph.

I processed the photo as I typically do in Photoshop, and then used a black and white adjustment layer for the conversion. To complete the image I reduced the opacity of the B&W layer to 94%, toning the image slightly.

I printed this as I would a color image, 16 inches wide on a 17x22 inch sheet of EEF. I am very happy with this print. It's quite sharp; I like the exposed nails in many of the loose boards, and the detail in the wood grain. I did not use the Epson driver's Advanced Black and White (ABW) mode. I never have. Perhaps I should make a small print just to get a look at what ABW will do. Since there's no soft-proofing an ABW print, one has no real clue how the print will look until it's printed. My normal workflow includes soft-proofing in Photoshop, and while it's not perfect, I'd feel a little lost not doing it. Each ABW print would be a crap-shoot. I guess I'm not much of a gambler.

Update, 29 June 2012: Yesterday I posted a new article on my site, about shooting black and white but not printing a lot of it. The article was inspired, more or less, by this blog post.


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