Thanks for being good sports about my quirky post yesterday. It's just something I've had in mind to do for a couple of weeks now, and I had fun doing it. (It went mildly viral, too, because yesterday our traffic hit a three-month high.) The exercise has some interesting complexity to it, some of which was only touched upon tangentially in the Comments; we could talk.
Larry McMurtry, the book author and screenwriter, used to have a bookstore in Washington, D.C. called "Booked Up." I was talking to him once as he went through some boxes of books someone had brought in to sell, and he mentioned offhandedly that there was nothing in the boxes he'd never seen. This surprised me, so I questioned him about it, and he said something to the effect that he only rarely encountered books he had never seen before. He had more or less "seen it all."
At this point, with me, it's kind of like that with photographs. One of the nice things about beginning in photography—which of course I'll never experience again—is that everything is new and fresh—everything you do and everything you see. There's an excitement to that that's a lot of fun. Gradually, "seen it" takes over, and "something I've never seen before" has gotten to be more and more important to me as a critical litmus test. I still do encounter genuinely original work, but, even so, most photography is derivative. Having seen so many photographs over so many years—and having a really good visual memory—I sometimes think I see things in photographs that other people don't pick up on: the styles that have influenced the photographer, the things they're going for and the things they're ignoring, what cues they're sensitive to and which they are clueless about. I can even detect, sometimes, the identity of the photographers they admire (this was admittedly easier in the film era, because technique was a major clue—as the "1987" picture yesterday, especially, was meant to humorously indicate).
I think I could deconstruct yesterday's post at bitter length, but to do so might be "longer than it is interesting," to quote one of my father's many sayings. Certainly, one thing it does demonstrate is that with Photoshop and a digital picture file you can "mimic" the look of various common or once-common techniques. What might be less obvious is that the conventions of more recent times are very much a "style" as well—because with digital you could choose alternate qualities if you wanted to. Nobody's forcing people to kill every cloud they see by jumping all over it with way too much HDR. There's no reason why you can't go for gentle low contrast and subtlety if that's what you enjoy.
So here's an exercise, if you have the interest and the time. I've uploaded (I think—I'm new to the site) the full JPEG of yesterday's file to SmugMug (if I've made any stupid mistakes in the upload, I hope somebody will inform me). If you want to, you can try downloading it and converting it to B&W yourself. Another thing yesterday's post implies (or should have) is that there's no "one way" to convert a file to B&W; the choices you might make are effectively infinite, and many of them change the look and the effect of the picture quite substantially. If you choose to show us your own conversion, it could say a lot about the properties of a black-and-white picture that you yourself value...your own taste, how you think B&W ought to look, the ways in which it looks good to you.
If you feel like it, email a small (800-pixel wide) JPEG of your interpretation to me and I'll throw some of 'em up on the site. You can add your comments or not, whatever you want.
P.S. Oh, and by the way, the picture was taken with my 12-MP Panasonic GF1 and 20mm ƒ/1.7 lens, and all of yesterday's "versions" were done in Photoshop CS5—not terribly adroitly I'm afraid.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.