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Reader Comment: Black and White Photography “samples you have are some of the best I have seen” + How to Process

re: Leica M10 Monochrom Examples: Eureka Dunes on the Winter Solstice
re: Just How Good is the Fujifilm GFX100S for Monochrome vs the Leica M10 Monochrom and/or Nikon D850 Monochrome?
re: Just How Good is the Sony A7R IV for Monochrome vs the Leica M10 Monochrom and/or Nikon D850 Monochrome?
re: Nikon D850 Monochrome and Leica M10 Monochrom
re: Death Valley: Eureka Dunes in Infrared
re: monochrome and infrared

Graham R writes:

Whatever your complaints about the Leica M10-M and lenses, the landscapes you have recently posted are amongst the finest I have ever seen, anywhere. 

I'm mostly referring to your photos of the sand dunes - Black Pumice on Sand, Dunes Ridgeline, Upper Ridgeline, View to Dunes Spur from Upper Ridgeline, View up Dunes from SE Spur 1 and 2, and a real masterpiece, Solo Hiker near summit of Eureka Dunes - just magnificent. 

DIGLOYD: my "complaints" speak to the desire of any artist to see the very best results, since the conception and the work are the same whether the camera/lens does a great job or a poor one. I have no brand-axe to grind, shooting 'em all.

I actually rarely get opportunities to work on art — I do what I can while doing gear evaluation, but it’s a totally different focus (different mind-set, schedule, etc). Maybe if I could monetize limited editions of large prints somehow. I am inclined to offer large prints in editions no larger than 10, perhaps 5, even exclusives for the right buyer.

Ashish V writes:

Just like to add to other comments by saying that it would be great if you could do a detailed section on your B&W processing techniques as your images are stunning. I really struggle to get the B&W tones right so would definitely subscribe as soon you have it ready.


Eeraj Q writes:

Climbers at Eureka Dunes
f8 @ 1/250 sec, ISO 200; 2007-02-24 14:20:07
Canon EOS 5D + Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm

[low-res image for bot]

Greatly enjoying your pictorials and commentary on B&W photography.

I mentioned this earlier in another mail: the samples you have are some of the best I have seen. Esp. the ones from Leica M10M are far more compelling compared what I see presented on other sites and forums.

One request: a tutorial on how you process these for maximum impact and the use of assorted filters.

- Color cameras with B&W conversions of color images. In particular, how to "control" the tones - varying shades of gray / deep blacks / whites.  “View Over Alabama Hills to Wind Driven Snow on Whitney Range” taken with the Sony A7RIV is a great example.

- I often see filters (red/orange/etc) being mentioned  - what is the purpose?

- How to get B&W results that are as compelling as the ones from Eureka Dunes that taken with the M10M. Is this possible with color camera pictures converted to B&W? This was the series that was an eye opener for me.

- Or, it is better to get something Sony A7R IV converted to monochrome? Can't imagine getting a Leica M10M myself. [diglloyd: see links at top of post]

- Thoughts on landscape subjects and light conditions that lend well to B&W.

DIGLLOYD: see the links at the top of this post as well as pages with monochrome images on them.

I address the filtration question in several places already. In my monochrome reviews, I also discuss filtration here and there, as well as conversion approaches.

Leica M10 Monochrom: Filter Comparison (Sulfur Mine, Death Valley)
Filters for Black and White
Focus Shift with Color Filters on Leica M Monochrom
Creating a Color Image from Monochrome Using Filters

Tutorials for monochrome conversion have been on my to-do list for a long time,so maybe I should get that done. Being non-specific to camera/brand, I would put them into Making Sharp Images, which is the place for workflow topics.

I always show ACR conversion settings for raw-file conversion in my aperture series, and I often show black-and-white filter layers for monochrome conversions, so that provides a basic starting point for seeing how I process. But it’s not a step-by-step and does not explain why I chose what I did.

For converting color images to monochrome, there are at least three distinct conversion approaches and various associated techniques for fine-tuning. I discuss some of these approaches in Grayscale Conversion Techniques in diglloyd Infrared.

Monochrome sensor cameras

There are monochrome sensor cameras which require a combination of filter selection* and raw conversion. The ability to achieve desired tonal separation is largely (and crudely) governed by filter selection when the image is shot. For example, if a red filter is not used on a blue sky, it’s going to be tough to darken the sky or achieve separation from clouds without some and maybe a lot of effort. However, assuming a quality image file, monochrome images can generally take a severe beating in 'post'.

Color sensor cameras

Color images can be converted to B&W and this is overall is always the better approach for expressive monochrome images because it affords tremendous control over tonal separation and contrast that is simply impossible with a monochrome sensor. The downside of a color camera for monochrome is more and chunkier noise and less-fine detail due to the demosaicing process needed by the color filter array of the sensor. But if starting with a substantially higher resolution camera (e.g Fujifilm GFX100), then 100MP color trounces 40MP monochrome almost every time.

For converting color images to monochrome, there are at least three distinct conversion approaches, at least one not so obvious. That’s why a true-color image from a pixel shift camera or a multi-shot high-res mode camera has much greater expressive potential than a monochrome sensor.

CLICK TO VIEW: Leica Monochrom offerings and suggested lenses

Solo Hiker near summit of Eureka Dunes
f11 @ 1/45 sec, ISO 160; 2020-12-21 13:25:54
Leica M10 Monochrom + Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH + filter B+W 091 Dark Red
ENV: Eureka Dunes, altitude 3350 ft / 1021 m, 60°F / 15°C

[low-res image for bot]
Sagging sand at Eureka Dunes, Death Valley National Park
f9 @ 1/160 sec, ISO 200; 2007-02-24 13:59:34
Canon EOS 5D + Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS @ 47mm

[low-res image for bot]
Moon rising over Pine Creek Lake
f5.6 @ 243.0 sec electronic shutter, ISO 31; 2019-10-10 19:11:18
NIKON D850 monochrome + Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8 + filter Hoya 85 warming
ENV: Pine Lake, altitude 9900 ft / 3018 m, 29°F / -1°C
RAW: USM {15,50,0}

[low-res image for bot]

Below, this image is awful in color (atmospheric haze in particular), but the dynamics of it were stunning to the eye, with the violent winds whipping snow off the peaks of the Mt Whitney range. Appropriate B&W conversion make for a striking image. Some localized work would benefit it further.

CLICK TO VIEW: Top-Flight lenses for Sony Mirrorless

View Over Alabama Hills to Wind Driven Snow on Whitney Range
f4 @ 1/1000 sec EFC shutter, ISO 50; 2020-03-24 17:20:54
Sony A7R IV + Sigma FE 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
ENV: Alabama Hills, altitude 5100 ft / 1554 m, 55°F / 12°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected, push 0.17 stops, +100 Shadows, -100 Highlights, +50 Whites, +88 Blacks, Color Luminance {Blues -76, Purples +100}, +40 Dehaze, +30 Clarity, Chroma NR {40,20,50}, USM {20,50,0}

[low-res image for bot]

CLICK TO VIEW: Fujifilm GFX100 and Top Lenses

Mining Cabin Interior
f13 @ 2.5 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2020-04-22 17:34:47
Fujifilm GFX100 + Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5 R LM WR @ 41.1mm equiv (50mm)
ENV: old mining cabin NE of Eureka Dunes, altitude 6500 ft / 1981 m, 65°F / 18°C
RAW: LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected, pull 0.1 stops, +25 Shadows, +40 Whites, +20 Clarity, +20 Texture, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]

CLICK TO VIEW: Olympus E-M1 Mark II and fantastic lenses for it

Tigger with an Itch to Scratch
f2 @ 1/640 sec, ISO 200; 2021-02-11 14:06:58
Olympus E-M1 Mark II + Olympus Zuiko SHG 35-100mm f/2 ED @ 207.6mm equiv (100mm)
RAW: pull 0.2 stops, +20 Whites, +60 Dehaze, +15 Clarity, USM {8,50,0}

[low-res image for bot]
f4 @ 1/320 sec, ISO 100; 2019-05-11 14:50:50
Panasonic S1R + Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-SL ASPH
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected

[low-res image for bot]

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