Breaking new ground


Link Posted 03/11/2020 - 21:38
There seems to have been quite a few posts recently of mono images. B&W photography is not something I know much about or feel confident with. I thought it was time to experiment a little, so I'd be grateful for comments on the success or otherwise of this set. Which do you prefer - the colour or mono version? Why? All comments appreciated! All taken with K-1 + D FA 28-105










Link Posted 04/11/2020 - 00:13
Hi John. The first is the strongest image to me. The path leading into the landscape makes it for me. The others have foreground interest but none of them grab me as much.

The colour version of 1 is nice but the b+w version brings it to life where the many tones of the grasses catch my eye.

Skies are where an average image can be transformed when converted to b+w. Again image 1 has a much more interesting sky in the b+w version. The increased contrast is more dramatic.

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Link Posted 04/11/2020 - 16:48
There is only one reason to convert from colour to black and white and that is if colour distracts from the subject or perhaps fails to add anything; I struggle to see how this can be in a typical landscape shot like these when colour is such an important element. The last three all demonstrate how aerial perspective emphasises the distance by cooler and less saturated colours which doesn’t come across in the monochrome versions. The only times I have seen a b/w conversion effective, and used it myself, is to emphasise dramatic contrast and patterns where there is minimal colour anyway. I do wonder if photography had been in colour from the outset whether b/w would have the cult status it enjoys or would have been seen as a fringe interest like infra-red.


Link Posted 05/11/2020 - 01:05
I agree with Peter that #1/2 is a good image.
3/4 isn't at all bad, it has the path leading down to the lake which works well.
With 5/6 the path leads off the edge so that doesn't really work.
7/8 is an interesting image, but could do with greater saturation and contrast with regard to the tractor to give it more impact.
I'm not sure they were the best images to perform mono conversions on.

Regarding RobL's comment, colour photography has been around for quite some time. This site has some lovely colour photographs from a century ago.

To decide what photographs would convert well to B&W, find some examples you think are good and ask yourself what is it about them that makes them stand out. With that knowledge you'll have a better idea what subjects might work well for you. Then consider the treatment of them which could be a contrasty silhouette or the fine tonal contrasts of perhaps someone's face. The subject you choose really does matter. It might also require processing above and beyond pressing 'convert to monochrome.' Read up on the use of colour filters to enhance original monochrome images shot on film. The same techniques are equally valid even when done digitally from a colour original.
Have a look at
John K
Last Edited by JAK on 05/11/2020 - 01:27


Link Posted 05/11/2020 - 09:00
Converting to Mono can be as easy as 1 click in most processing packages, but most shots won't appear "improved" this way - it can take a while to develop your technique but it's worth persevering with and experimenting.

The colour images in the set you have presented have a nice tonal range, without strong highlights or deep shadows - this suits the subject matter (IMO).
The mono images appear to have a very similar tonal range, but personally I think some more processing may "improve" the look. More contrast, or deeper blacks and a few highlights might make the difference.

Having re-read what I've written, it's similar to JAK's views - but his explanation is rather more eloquent


Link Posted 05/11/2020 - 10:02
I think a mistake most of us make is taking a photo and then on the computer deciding whether it should be colour or b/w, whereas that should be a decision made before the shutter is pressed. The question should be “What is it about this scene I want to capture - is it the colours or patterns and textures, how will the atmosphere best be conveyed?”. In the one with the old tractor is the subject the tractor or it’s setting? That isn’t clear to me but what attracts me are the colours of the tractor so a more close-up shot would be interesting.

In the K1 I have one card slot set to RAW and the other to best JPEG and it is instructive to set the camera in b/w mode beforehand, that way viewing the JPEG shots and live view will show how it looks so you are thinking and framing in that mode. The RAW files will be unmanipulated in colour so if that is preferred the shot isn’t lost.


Link Posted 05/11/2020 - 11:06
Don't get me wrong, I like the tractor shot very much. A b/w version would work for me better if conveying rural decay but then a dark moody atmosphere especially with rain puddles would do that better than a nice sunny day. I hope I am not rambling too much!


Link Posted 05/11/2020 - 13:20
Hi John,

I hope you don't mind, I've downloaded the tractor image and done a very quick edit where I would probably see the image, I like the overall shot but would have ensured the rear wheel was fully in the shot, I do agree with the overall comments as above.

I know about the halo behind the bush and on the horizon, as suggested it was a very quick edit.


" A Hangover is something that occupies the Head you neglected to use the night before".

K1 - Sigma 85mm F1.4, Pentax 150 -450 F4.5 / 5.6, Pentax FA 24 - 70 F2.8

Sigma 100-300 F4, Samyang 14mm F2.8, Pentax 70-200 F2.8

K3iii + K3ii + K5iis converted to IR, Sigma 17 - 70 F2.8, Pentax 55 - 300 F4.5 / F5.6 PLM


Link Posted 05/11/2020 - 15:22
Also like the tractor shot and looked at further colour processing

Best regards


Link Posted 05/11/2020 - 17:22
I have to agree with the others on this set of photos in that for me it is only 1 and 2 that work with the B&W conversion, just not sufficient contrast in the others. It always intrigues me as to how the view point moves between colour and B&W. In 1 I look at the foreground then follow the path towards the horizon whereas with the B&W my eye immediately follows the path and sees the clouds then notices the textures in the grass.

K1000, istD, K70


Link Posted 06/11/2020 - 08:02
First of all, thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment at such length and so constructively. I tend to agree with the view that that I may not have picked the most appropriate images to start off with, but at least I've learned something from that!

I was fairly happy with 1/2 - the mono version, to my eyes, seems effective in bringing out the texture of the grasses in a way that the original doesn't.

I think my processing skills are maybe not good enough in the others to give a decent result, which is where I appreciate RobL's questioning why you would want to take away the colour in the first place. To my eyes, again, the mono versions of 4 and 6 seem to compress the depth of view which the colour versions present - though that, too, may be partly due to my own lack of awareness of how to get the best out of B&W. As Lennybloke says, there's a lot more to it than just pressing a button. At which point, thanks to JAK for the links - the info on the effects of different colour filters is very interesting!

That brings me to Chris and Gary. Thanks for posting your own versions - I do think that both of your versions have more "bite" than mine. I wanted to achieve the effect that you have got, particularly in the sky, Chris, but couldn't find a way to do it before my patience ran out! And Gary, your version seems to me to have strengthened the impression of back-to-front distance which is often important to me in the kind of landscapes I photograph locally. That might have been better emphasised if, as Paul suggests, I had increased the contrast in the colour versions in the first place!

So, I'll go away, read up a bit and think about the suitability of subject matter for B&W treatment. When I get round to processing/posting the ridiculous number of photos I've taken in the last two days of trees and leaves, there will certainly be no question there of eradicating the wonderful colours!

Thanks again to all for your thoughts!


Link Posted 06/11/2020 - 08:25
No problem John

With the edit, I traced around the sky using the hills as the bottom line, feathered the line then reduced the brightness and increased the contrast twice as it didn't come down far enough first time, then inverted the trace and again reduced the brightness and increased the contrast on the lower section then did a slight shadows lift to bring some engine detail back in the tractor.

The halo around the bush is there on the original and on Gary's edit but it could be blended in with time and a small dodging brush

Perhaps the bottom section in hindsight could be slightly lighter looking at it again a day after, but that's down to everyone's taste

" A Hangover is something that occupies the Head you neglected to use the night before".

K1 - Sigma 85mm F1.4, Pentax 150 -450 F4.5 / 5.6, Pentax FA 24 - 70 F2.8

Sigma 100-300 F4, Samyang 14mm F2.8, Pentax 70-200 F2.8

K3iii + K3ii + K5iis converted to IR, Sigma 17 - 70 F2.8, Pentax 55 - 300 F4.5 / F5.6 PLM


Link Posted 06/11/2020 - 15:48
RobL wrote:
There is only one reason to convert from colour to black and white and that is if colour distracts from the subject or perhaps fails to add anything...

With the greatest respect, I really couldn't disagree more with this statement. I have many monochrome shots where there is no particularly distracting colour (and a fair number where a converted colour in BW does). Choosing a monochrome image should be based on the what image you want to create, and is not just a way of avoiding colour clashes or jazzing-up an otherwise dull image. I also know that (almost) every book/article I have read talks about previsualising the image in one or the other, but I have found that some images I thought in the field would work well in colour worked better in BW and vice versa. I have also found that the same basic image can be turned into impactful (and often very different feeling) image in both colour and monochrome. The tractor image here is one such. One could emphasise the rust and peeling paint (colour) or its abandonment in the landscape (BW).

Coming back to the images here. BW will tolerate (and often needs) much higher contrast than colour. Don't be afraid to crush the blacks or have areas very close to white. One excellent way to look at different effects is to find a copy of the old free Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik software (you can still download the free version if you search for it). There, you can scroll through a wide series of presets to see the impact of different processing choices, and then tweak the preset you chose with various options including film simulations, filters, vignetting, burning in the edges and so on.

Best wishes, Kris.
Kris Lockyear
It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head. Henri Cartier-Bresson
Lots of film bodies, a couple of digital ones, too many lenses (mainly older glass) and a Horseman LE 5x4.

My website


Link Posted 06/11/2020 - 19:12
I agree with Kris here. To consign b+w images to a kind of "second division" which only work if the colour does not, is to misunderstand b+w photography completely.

My Flickr page


Link Posted 06/11/2020 - 20:10
pschlute wrote:
I agree with Kris here. To consign b+w images to a kind of "second division" which only work if the colour does not, is to misunderstand b+w photography completely.

That was the point I was making in my clumsy fashion - the time to decide whether a photo should be in b+w or colour is ideally before you press the shutter. For example I recently had occasion to take some snaps from the street finding shapes of letters so I preset my camera to b+w and square crop as I needed to emphasise shapes, which I knew would be less effectively done in colour.
Last Edited by RobL on 06/11/2020 - 20:12
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