If I were to boil down the art of cooking to a single rule, with apologies to the exquisite chefs I know, it would be: Control the temperature. If I were to boil down the artistic process to a single rule, whatever genre of art one may be discussing, it would be: Control the light.
Digital photography has been a boon in that regard because there are so many ‘data points’ within a digital image through which a computer can control that light. Film is very static; very much more difficult to control. Darkroom wizards are very good at manipulating an image by changing the manner in which light hits emulsion-coated surfaces. The computer provides, however, greater precision and detail in such manipulation. But pull a film-derived image into a computer, as is the case here, and many of the tools available go away.
I’ve made the point previously that superior black and white (I still affectionately prefer to call such images ‘noir’) images start as color photographic captures to which a black and white filter is applied. Such application turns every color into shades of grey; but the artist can still use the computer to adjust colors originally present. Adjust the colors and one adjusts the shades of grey, thereby manipulating the final image. That was the technique I used in the recently completed Tornado series to create work in the near-infrared.
With black and white film, however, there are no original colors. There is nothing for the artist to adjust. Simply working with curves may or may not bring the desired contrast or highlights into the final work. There are, however, at least four different ways to add color to the image, all of which can be layered on top of one another. That will seem sloppy – image quality seems to take a nosedive. But apply a black and white filter NOW and those added colors become useful as controllable shades of grey that will increase the drama and tension present in an image. The quality of the noir improved by adding color, then taking it away.
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NOTE: This is the third post in a series examining the application of digital techniques to film photography in creating photo art.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.