Understanding Digital Black and White Photography: HDR and Print/Screen Output

Part 3: HDR and Print/Screen Output

Tim Savage is a photographer, artist, teacher and author. He works for the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham and also teaches at West Dean College. He has put together a series of blogs for us on his understandings of digital black and white photography, this being the last of three. For further information and technical advice visit the guides section of the Calumet website or pop into one of our stores for expert advice on taking black and white photos.

In my previous two blog posts I have discussed exposure and image processing in relation to black and white photography. I also used the process of writing my book as an opportunity to explore HDR in relation to monochromatic photography. I had previously allowed the HDR phenomenon pass me by due to its characteristic over saturation of colour and instantly recognisable hyper-stylised aesthetics.  However, in black and white, with careful tone mapping (even from a single RAW file processed in different ways – such as the cyclist below) the undesirable image characteristics of HDR are mitigated and the overall effect is one of ‘greater dynamic range’.

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I took the concept of increased dynamic range further to align the digital workflow with Ansel Adams’ Zone System. I was sponsored by the University for the Creative Arts to visit the Grand Canyon (one of the most well known shooting locations of Ansel Adams), to practice and refine the technique. I used a range of techniques (visualisation, metering, bracketing, HDR, Lightroom’s Black & White Mix, Photoshop, Luminance Masks, dodging, burn etc. to ensure the best possible data was captured in the camera, converted to black and white and processed in a way that preserved the detail and feeling of the scene in line with my own aspirations. My own favourite image from the trip is a sunset over Mather Point, which had a dynamic range of 12 EV, which required an exposure of 9 bracketed frames to capture the detail in the brightest highlights (A) and darkest shadows (B).

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I was fortunate enough to travel around surrounding areas shooting content for my book and visited some fantastic locations such as Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend (used as the book cover).

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Having created the images they needed to be shared. Digitally, sharing can involve a whole range of potential outputs, including screens (for exhibition), projection, website and social media etc. and each of these formats requires an alternative approach to get an optimum image. Printing involves even more variables and technical considerations to gain a comparable result to a darkroom print. I spent time exploring the various high end professional labs to understand how their services could provide an enhanced finish, specifically exploring C-Type printing in relation the black and white, which gives a truly sublime finish.  Metro lab call this Lambda, this technique exposes light sensitive paper and processes it using traditional black and white chemistry to ensure the look and feel of a true darkroom print. .

My own journey of learning about digital black and white photography has been inspirational, and has transformed my own practice in relation to black and white image making.  My book is the manifestation of my own learning, and I am hopeful that readers will find the techniques relevant and accessible.  I am grateful to those that helped me along the way, specifically James Zierold (Calumet Photographic’s National Account Manager) who ensured that I had the equipment I needed at short notice, provision of loan equipment, advice and access to photographic manufacturers, along with my colleagues at UCA who supported me extensively.

Much more detail regarding all aspects of digital black and white photography are continued in greater depth in my book ‘Understanding Black and White Digital Photography

 

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