Early November of 2015... I decided that I would think, develop, and post on social media in Black and White for the term of one year. The idea for this came from virtually no where. I was trying to be different. I was trying to stand out among a crowd of highly creative people in the small area in which I reside, southern Rhode Island. I am sure quite a lot of places have great communities for photographers, but RI is crawling with amazing folks who all have an amazing view of the world around them. If you get around to it, just check out @igersnewport on Instagram.
It was not an easy start. I hadn't thought about what I wanted to post or how I would go about the developing process. I was blind. Truth be told, I was way into photography but still learning the ropes of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop software and this wasn't just hitting a black and white filter and calling it a day. I wanted to create a b&w image that would spark an emotion inside of the looker and have their attention onward. So, naturally I went to shots I had taken on my film camera. That was pretty easy as I had been shooting on Ilford HP4+125 film and it looked wonderful straight from camera. Once in a while I would bring up the contrast or drop the blacks a bit but I was getting great results regardless, being as it was film. Digital was a chore but a good one. I was learning something new and diving into all aspects of the development stage of the photographs. I would play with the sliders in Lightroom and try different combinations of shadows and highlights, whites and blacks, contrast and dehaze, tonal curve and b&w mix. All of this was fun but I didn't want to over develop much. In my mind, b&w should be classy and timeless, keeping in mind the shot's original perspective.
I was starting to really enjoy the trials this was loading on me. I was so fired up with a purpose and a mission that I started bringing my camera everywhere with me and taking shots of whatever I could. This included leaving for work early and taking my time getting home. It was a new look through an old lens, figuratively. While I was shooting, I would try to imagine what the finished shot would look like. I even went as far as to change the shooting style to monochrome so I would see something close to the finished product on the back of the camera (I was and am still shooting in RAW so would have to edit either way). Every single day was a new set of eyes and new adventures to embark on. I realized that having a goal had pushed me to shoot more.
This is also when I had figured out how obsessed I was with moving water.
Water is not a force to recon with. It will relax you and keep you clean but can also rip you apart and feel no sorrow about it. I have seen it take houses, bridges, and cars in a matter of moments. But... Photographing moving water can be one of the most beautiful things in the world though. Especially in b&w.
If the ocean was going full tidal force and hitting the break walls, I was trying to get it. If it was a small wave hitting a rock, I was capturing it in mid air. If it was a waterfall, I was doing long exposures. I even set up a pint of water with a bunch of lights around it and did water droplets. Water became an inspiration and a means for my photos. To this day, my computer and social pages are filled with over two thirds being shots of water in various forms.
The b&w development stages became more and more satisfactory as time wound on. I felt like after a rocky, strange first month, things were starting to flow nicely. I was getting a huge amount of respect from inside the circle of friends, as well as questions about color and when it would be back on my feed. I was also getting a good following and I felt they knew what to expect of me and my posts.
About 6 months into this project I started to get extremely comfortable with not only shooting, but developing in b&w. I swear that there was a dream at one point that had a lack of color in it. I started toying with the black and white mix in Lightroom quite a bit more and I also had downloaded NIK Silver Efex Pro for more options on creating b&w. The Silver Efex is a great program to convert to b&w. It was smooth and gave me new outlooks on tonal range. The b&w mix in Lightroom was quite amazing as well, it allowed me to get true blacks and whites where they belonged and it didn't look over edited or false to how the original scene looked. If anything, it amplified the image.
As the 10th and 11th month came around things got difficult. At this point is was fall time... It was fall time and I live in New England. I couldn't help but look at the colors that were around me. I still did my best at posting b&w but secretly I was staring at my computer screen just in awe of the colors that were available. If you look at my feed on instagram, you will find that I posted and left a photo of foliage from a Vermont trip. I couldn't resist. New England in autumn is a sight everyone should see at least once in their life. Still though, I did my best to keep things true for the year. I still found ways to make fall time in b&w work.
Just like that I was close to a year in just b&w. It was late October/early November and things in New England had gone grey. Maybe this was why I had chosen b&w, because after the blast of colors in September, everything looks bland until the snow hits. The leaves fall and dry out under your feet, leaving skinny tree fingers reaching for the sky. The sun falls to a different angle in the sky and goes over the horizon earlier than expected. The first blast of cold air makes you reach for a heavy sweatshirt, although the same temps after winter, would put you in a tee shirt. If I had to give an excuse as to why I shot in b&w for a year, it would have been this season. It just makes sense.
So. What did I learn? I learned how to truly edit a photo in b&w. I learned that having a goal to reach for makes you work harder in general. I learned that water will always make me calm and centered. I learned how to see an image before it was created. I learned how to respect color and how to incorporate the editing style that I have worked on so hard into color photos. Most of all, I had learned that to me it's not just Black and White... There are so many variants of white, of black and of grey that I believe I saw b&w as colors. I could understand their tonal range and to me, it brought forward emotions that I hadn't understood until I had gone through with this.
What now... I have still been posting in b&w but I try to do every other photo. It feels nice to have color in the stream. I enjoy it and from what I've gathered, others do as well... But sometimes when it's the turn for color, I just want to post in Black and White :)
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