Tuesday, August 13, 2013

POV: Monochrome...A Phase In Life?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

A Facebook "conversation" touching on the merits (or lack thereof) of the Leica Monochrom with my friend Pierre Claquin triggered many thoughts in my mind. First off, the ephemeral thought of selling some or all of our photo gear to acquire the $8000 Monochrom crossed our minds...but after pushing away the temptation, I reflected on the reasons behind my recent interest in making monochrome photographs.

It started off during my Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo~Expedition & Workshop™ in October 2011 during which I asked all its participants to produce their projects in black and white in order to bast capture the grittiness of Kolkata's Durga Puja.

I started to dabble with the various techniques in Photoshop or Lightroom; sometimes using presets in some cases. I also tried shooting in black and white with my M9 and the X Pro-1. The latter was used quite a lot in that mode in Sa Pa and Hanoi during my North of the 16th Parallel Photo-Expedition/Workshop, resulting in The Indigo People, and Hanoi Streets among others.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

More recently, I caught myself converting some of my most colorful photographs (such as the one of the Rajasthani shepherd and the Kathakali performer) to black and white, and was glad in seeing that these were equally powerful and pleasing to my eyes. I continued this trend over the past weeks, and started sending some of my conversions to be printed at Adorama.

In my office, I have about two dozen of some of my Cibachrome photographs made about a decade ago, already framed and mounted, and I've now decided to replace them with more recent photographs in monochrome. I already have switched 3 or 4 and these adorn one of my walls.

So is this infatuation with monochrome a function of a maturing phase in my photography timeline...or is it just an aesthetic phase that will subside? I don't know, but I wager that I'm not the only one who's passing (or has passed) through it.

It might also be a partial consequence of having downloaded the Nik Collection with its Silver Efex 2 software. The ease to use this software, and its results are really worth its $150 price tag.

In fact, its suggested workflow is what I use...not necessarily on all my conversions, but with a little tweaking, I found it works for me:

1. Apply Raw Presharpener using Sharpener Pro 3.0.
2. Apply noise reduction using Dfine 2.0.
3. Control color and light using Viveza 2.
4. Apply filter enhancements using Color Efex Pro 4.
5. Convert to black and white using Silver Efex Pro 2.
6. Apply output sharpening using Sharpener Pro 3.0.

Finally, will I desert color photography for monochrome? No...how can I when there are many instances where color photography is just perfect for the scene?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy- All Rights Reserved

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