I have always leaned towards black and white photography. I’m not sure why, but when an image clicks with me, it’s always in black and white.

Black and white was always cheaper than color and when I first became involved with photography I could barely afford the camera and lens, let alone endless processing and film costs. In the 80′ s, a roll of color slide film was about $4.50 and processing from $3.50 to $5.00. I didn’t churn a lot of color slide film through my camera and always watched film usage. Black and white gave me more financial latitude.

I do have color images that I enjoy but it’s harder for me to put together cohesive projects in color. I get distracted. Black and white has an ability to focus attention and especially with portraits, really direct emphasis upon the subject. Black and white imagery is an abstraction but we’re so used to looking at them that we don’t think of it that way.

GordonI photographed Gordon in Essex, California. He owns a tire shop with his father and we were driving from the Los Angeles area out to Lake Havasu, Arizona. The 110 degree temperature, age of the tires on the trailer and weight of the boat were more than the tires could handle. We had already changed 2 tires, ran out of spares and Gordon’s tire shop was a welcome sight.

I printed the original version in color and sent him a print. Some months later I re-printed the photograph and converted it to black and white using the channel mixer settings in Paintshop Pro. The result didn’t surprise me but it did make me take a step back to re-evaluate. The black and white print has a simpler overall look to it and the subject, Gordon, simply looked better. The color photograph wasn’t about the color anyway and I liked the way the black and white version made the deep black of the background tires look.

The color portrait is on Flickr and both images are fairly straight as are most of my photographs. I almost always use curves to adjust contrast, sharpen appropriately and start making test prints. I know one thing is true, color balancing is easy with digital technology, but it has never really been an issue in black and white work.

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