Back in the days of waning days of film photography, I was always frustrated when I would see a shot that I thought would be magnificent in black & white (b/w), but I knew my camera contained film for colour photographs.
I hardly wanted to ream off a dozen or more photos just to empty the camera so that I could change for one or two frames of b/w photos…and that assumed I could find anyone who even sold b/w film.
Ah, bless the advent of digital photography and photo manipulation software. While I appreciate that it is not the same, I can now take a colour photograph and make it b/w with a simple click of a button. At the same time, I realize I still have a lot to learn about special considerations for b/w photography, e.g., appropriate light balance.
A friend of mine once told me, if you have a nice photo that just doesn’t pop, try converting it to b/w and see what happens. Wow.
A year ago, I put that principle to work while traveling through the island of Hawaii.
Sometimes the object you’re photographing is already black and white, so making it b/w may seem redundant, but I found it softens things and adds depth to the image, in this case, a blow hole in the lava rock (Kailua-Kona).
B/w is also great when you want to focus the eye on the emotion of the image rather than have it distracted by the surroundings. I loved the expression on the dog’s face. The most active I’d seen him all week. (Kailua-Kona)
Same scenario here. I think the b/w helps simplify this image, allows me to focus on the key elements: the man serenading the Pacific Ocean, the white cross of commemoration, the crashing waves dancing to the song. (Kailua-Kona)
I think b/w can also impart a sense of history to an old building that otherwise would simply look derelict. The rust and decay are still there, but become a patina rather than a sign of decay. (Hilo)
The treatment can also add a bit of emotion to an otherwise ordinary image. Whereas I took a photo of a woman standing bored while her husband and son fish, the image becomes that of a woman from any era, possibly considering the plight of her family. (Kailua-Kona)
Cannery Row was the first thought that popped into my head as I walked by the back of this building, but in colour, that thought couldn’t be realized. (Hilo)
I call this image “Porcelain”. I was on the fence as to how best to treat this image. In colour, the flower is a gorgeous cream, but the flaws in the petals told me I had to make it b/w. I should really show the colour and b/w side-by-side here. (Kona coffee plantation)
Damned smartphone! To me, that is the only flaw in what I wanted for this photo. An aging warrior rests in a pool surrounded by lava stone, weary of life (and checking his ruddy email). (Kailua-Kona)
One of my favourite images from this trip. To me, it looks like the little tree is getting reamed out by the big tree, a la “What the hell were you thinking?” In colour, this image is meh. In b/w, it speaks volumes to me. (Mauna Kea)