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  1. #1
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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    Balancing Black and White & Color Shooting?

    I recently decided to get back into shooting color (E-6) along side my black and white work I've been doing for years. I'm finding it very difficult to transition from one mindset to the other when out shooting. I have no problem going out and shooting color exclusively, and I have no problem going out and shooting black and white exclusiely, but I cannot seem to find a way to shoot both at the same time.

    Color is a sunrise/sunset or cloudy day shoot, and black and white I feel much more comfortable shooting in any light. But if I go out in overcast light, when I can shoot both I have a hard time switching back and forth. Usually whatever I start shooting I find myself shooting that for the rest of the day cause my mind gets stuck in that mindset.

    Make sense? Anyone else have this problem? Is it too much to master black and white and color or should I just stick to one?

  2. #2
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    Transparency photographers will always expose for the upper mid tones to highlight and let the shadows fall where they may.
    Black White film photographers , for the most part expose for the shadows and develop for highlights,
    This will have a huge difference in apeture or shutter settings, and is the kind of thing you do not need to be figuring out when photographing.
    Others here may have figured out a system for this , For colour negative and black and white I have the same 160 ISO settings therefore I feel comfortable
    switching between colour neg and BW film.
    Nailing transparency is trickier for most and for me I would find it very difficult to try to do both in the same settings. So you make perfect sense to me.

  3. #3
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carnie View Post
    Transparency photographers will always expose for the upper mid tones to highlight and let the shadows fall where they may.
    Black White film photographers , for the most part expose for the shadows and develop for highlights,
    This will have a huge difference in apeture or shutter settings, and is the kind of thing you do not need to be figuring out when photographing.
    Others here may have figured out a system for this , For colour negative and black and white I have the same 160 ISO settings therefore I feel comfortable
    switching between colour neg and BW film.
    Nailing transparency is trickier for most and for me I would find it very difficult to try to do both in the same settings. So you make perfect sense to me.
    Thanks Bob, I understand the difference in metering. That's not a problem for me though. The problem is more just seeing things. When I get locked into one or the other it's hard for me to change my way of seeing things when shooting.

  4. #4
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    Then you should stick to one thought process and not switch.

  5. #5
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    When wondering whether to shoot a given scene in B&W or color, I ask myself what makes me want to photograph it? Is it the color? If so, I'll shoot color. Or is it the contrast in the elements of the scene, like the patterns of light and dark? If so, I'll shoot B&W.
    website | Flickr
    "Embrace the negative with absolution, your final positive reward." --IQ, "The Province," Frequency

  6. #6
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    I had the same problem but a couple happy accidents and a change in how I think about metering solved the problem.

    First the happy accidents. Somewhat regularly I'll put film in my FM2 and set the ISO on the dial but not put a tag in the slot on the back. Then that camera may not get used for a week or two and low and behold all I know about the film inside is the ISO.

    When this happens, IMO there's only one good option for metering, pegging the mid-tones; that provides workable frames regardless of which film is inside.

    When this happens I think more about composition and filling the frame well than I used to with color. I also think more about how the color will affect the shot than I might with B&W.

    This is actually fun because the results are normally just fine.

    Second was my change in thought.

    For a long time I've understood that the most important subject matter in my shots is in the middle, the shadows and highlights for me are just there to support the main subject, there are occasions where they become more important but that isn't normal.

    I would try with B&W to shoot to the shadows and with color to place the mid tones and like you found mixing these shooting styles a pain.

    Then I read Dunn & Wakefield's Exposure Manual. It finally clicked, my subjects could/should dictate my shooting style, not the film in the camera. Since that point I have incident metered everything at box speed regardless of the film in the camera. As long as I have done what the meter has said, I have had no failed exposures, period. Plenty of shadows, plenty of highlights, great mid-tones, easy printing.

    So now when I look at a scene I just shoot what's in the camera or if I'm shooting with my RB I'll carry two backs and shoot both color and B&W exactly the same way.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  7. #7
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carnie View Post
    Then you should stick to one thought process and not switch.
    This is kind of what I'm thinking. I think black and white first most of the time. Alot of my work is documentary work and sometimes I wish that I had a photo in color of certain subjects. Maybe stick with black and white for film and get a d*g#t@l for color snaps?

  8. #8
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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    Maybe it's a matter of having to carry two camera systems? I have a Mamiya 645 pro system which I could shoot B&W and color at the same time, but I prefer my MF rangefinders for black and white. So when I go out to shoot I'm carrying a Mamiya 645 SLR system for color, and a Mamiya 6 or Bronica RF645 for black and white plus tons of lenses. Maybe it's overwhelming.

  9. #9
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Too many choces is a real problem and you even have to choose between 645 & 6x6 with the RFs.

    On my last vacation I took my RB (with 3 backs plus a 90 and 150SF) and a Holga and some waterproof disposables. The disposables were for snorkeling, surfing, and other wet/dirty snaps, the Holga was for any normal snaps, and the RB for anything remotely serious.

    If I was packing for that same trip again today I'd leave the 150SF at home. I only used the 150 once, it's view felt out of place because I'd been using the 90 so much.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  10. #10
    MattKing's Avatar
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    When it comes to colour, I tend to prefer more subtle colour to colour that jumps out at you. Shots like the ones attached.

    It might be worth your while to try, as an experiment, looking more for colour subtlety, rather than colour that shouts.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 081006-004a.jpg   boats_01a.jpg  
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

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