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Sunday, 03 July 2011


In regards to how one views a scene when shooting with either color or black and white film, when I shoot in black and white, I think of lines. When I shoot in color (rather rarely), I think in terms of areas.

Please - "gang aft agley" - and yes, we do....

My home town, Dunedin, New Zealand, has a large statue of one Robbie Burns in its central Octagon. We learnt several of his poems by heart, together with Scots accent, ( NOT Scotch accent!!), although we learned your line as "gang aft a-gley" . No, we didn't know what it meant either !!!!

This is a bit of a tangent but your discussion of B&W and color images raises a question for me, and this is the best site I know to ask it.

I am in the process of creating a web site of images (objectives: non-sales for the moment, just personal expression and sharing with others), and I will be posting both b&w and color images My question is:
Is it preferable for gallery comment to be determined primarily by content/theme/ genre and thus both kinds of images may appear side by side, or is it better to separate b&w and color images into different sub-galleries, even if they are very similar in content?

I realize this is largely a matter of personal preference, but in my limited experience with photo books and exhibitions, it seems b&w and color are treated separately.

Perhaps a discussion of "display methods and reasons" might make an interesting topic, as the choice would certainly affect the way we see individual images in the display.

As always, thanks for the quality of the site.


"Please - 'gang aft agley'"

Whoops--thanks--I knew I had that wrong.


Fun portrait. Great angle to shoot from. I'm sure they're extremely happy with it.

"My question is: Is it preferable for gallery comment to be determined primarily by content/theme/ genre and thus both kinds of images may appear side by side, or is it better to separate b&w and color images into different sub-galleries, even if they are very similar in content?"

I'm very firm in my opinion that they should be kept separate. They're very different media to me, and I am seldom convinced by presentations that mix the two--in fact I'll even say I see it most often as a mark of amateurism. (With the caveat that I stand ready to be convinced otherwise by exceptions.)

Others may well differ in their opinions but my own mind is very clear about this one.


"Fun portrait. Great angle to shoot from. I'm sure they're extremely happy with it."

Thanks Jessica. They haven't see it yet! I posted this at 4:00 and took the picture at about 12:30. I told them it would be on the web when they got home--I'm looking forward to finding out what they think of it.


Hey, how's that K5 working out too...?

Mike you seem to have a real nice neighbourhood there....
But about the Rabbie Burns stuff - we try to keep up, but nowadays that's mostly us oldies, and those who annually attend Burns Suppers.
If you want to dazzle your friends with your command of old Scots words, I recommend Betty Kirkpatrick who regularly covers such arcana in this online newspaper http://heritage.caledonianmercury.com/author/brendan/

Cheers - enjoy your ramblings.......

The problem with your use of the Burns quote, as I see it, is that the alteration of the second half (to something that sounds similar to the original and means about the same in modern English), and the clever deliberate change in the first half of "mice and men" to "Mikes and men", fight with each other. With BOTH halves different, it rather damages the effect.

I think the Burns quote is famous enough to leave in the original. If nothing else, Google will instantly tell you what he said and what it meant, if you don't already know.

'Agley' means wrong in old Scots. Not a Burns scholar but I am very familiar with his work and my own native tongue. I live half an hour from the town of Ayr where Burns was born and brought up.

Mike, I hope this is a silly question: Have you updated the firmware on the GXR and its lensors (yes, they have their own firmware). I ask because I shot with the GXR for one whole day with the original firmware and the AF was terrible. When I got home I updated to the latest firmware and the AF performance improved enormously (and I am not exaggerating).

I should check, I guess, but I'm assuming the camera has the latest firmware--the camera is on loan from Ricoh Japan and just arrived here on Thursday last.


"It's funny, but I absolutely love compacts...up until the time I need to shoot in earnest."

The "killer app" for compacts is focus speed. Could be that Olympus has finally licked that one.

We'll see...

I shot B&W exclusively for almost 20 years (Tri-X 400 mostly) but once I went digital, like you, Mike, I just saw in color. On a digital camera, B&W feels like a photoshop trick — though in the right hands, it's gorgeous.

About the display of color and B&W separately...I agree with Mike. Color is simply too powerful, whether or not it's any good. If you put color and B&W next to each other, the B&W looks weak, even if it isn't. It's like having a flat panel TV, tuned to Fox News, hanging on a wall next to a Monet. Quality is trumped by jazziness.

The worst thing I can do is to carry both color and black & white film in the same bag. It's one or the other; if I'm given the choice, then I can't see at all.

I agree--a wonderful, fun portrait of a dashing couple!

I agree entirely about needing to visualise in B&W when shooting B&W. I have my Panasonic GF1 picture mode set to one of the B&W options, which means the live view screen on the back shows the image in B&W when shooting. I find this a great help... is that option available on the GXR? As I shoot RAW the actual image still contains the colour info, but is converted to B&W in Lightroom.

Do we really see / visualise in colour when taking photographs? I don't think I do, and I think there is some scientific analysis out there that indicates that the brain when processing visual signals gives emphasis to tonality, shape and proximity. If there is a significant colour motif, or theme in a scene, then we do start to focus on it - if we are shooting colour, but otherwise I think it's light, shade and composition. In which case it would seem that there is no need to consciously visualise a B+W result.


Thank you for the feed back on gallery contents. Your view certainly correlates with decisions that have influenced other galleries that I have seen.

Again, I think a discussion of good display techniques would be highly prized by the audience of your blog.


I also shoot in camera with the intention of producing either in Black & White or colour. The decision is helped considerably by clients who give the nod in advance to B&W, removing any vacillation on my part.
For a couple of decades I was seen as the B&W darkroom guru; always looking for the 'perfect' print, so when i transitioned to digital fully in 2001 my colleagues were not surprised that I continued the quest on the computer for the perfect B&W expression.
Yes, B&W on digital is different to film; much different. If you shoot in raw, visualise in black & white, expose to the right with pinpoint accuracy, process carefully, place the highlights and shadows precisely, and then treat the tones in-between with respect, then your black and white prints could well be much better than comparable film examples.
However, it is very difficult to get those magic translucent highlight tones like we could with film. Difficult but not impossible.
The payoff though is the amazing shadow detail that just keeps on going and going.
It's a mistake to attempt to reproduce with digital what we once achieved with film. Instead, go with the medium's strengths and minimise its weaknesses.
On the home page of my website you can see a gallery of photos that best shows my approach of making the most of the shadow detail.

Just curious: how did you process the first photo? It kinda looks pushed to me.

BTW, I wouldn't agree about putting BW and colour in different galleries. As can be seen in the latest gallery under Current, on my site. :)

Mike, You didn't have a "photo opportunity". It was a KODAK MOMENT.



Agley = "a gley" which comes from "gleckit" which means "squint". Normally used to describe someone with squint eyes and also not very smart "he's awfy gleckit looking"

Colin, far Ardrossan although now in California

I'm very firm in my opinion that they [color and B&W] should be kept separate. They're very different media to me, and I am seldom convinced by presentations that mix the two--in fact I'll even say I see it most often as a mark of amateurism. (With the caveat that I stand ready to be convinced otherwise by exceptions.)

Don't agree, as I think it's a question of intent — of what you want to express. A book called Tokyo Dance by Chikashi Kasai, a photographer "discovered" by Nan Golden, is in color with a section of high-contrast B&W photographs in center — and works very well. Similarly, Moriyama Daido has some color sections in his, mainly B&W book, Buenos Aires. Not in the same class, but I have a series that intentionally mixes B&W and color, called Paris au rythme de Basquiat, which I feel suits the subject matter and intent of expression.


I have the same problem with shooting color and then converting to B&W.

But, with my Nikon and Panasonic cameras I have come to an uneasy peace by setting the cameras up in their B&W modes. In these modes all of the previews and live-view screens are black and white while I am shooting, which seems to work out.

The only time the picture flashes in color is in Lightroom, but this is avoidable as well if you apply the appropriate black and white processing preset on the picture at import time. I generally don't do this because I usually have a mix of color and black and white pictures in any give batch.

It took about six months for my brain to adjust to this working method, but it's pretty good now. I can even occasionally convert the odd frame that I accidentally shot in color to black and white.

I can see it now... the posts on Flickr and dpreview discussion forums - in which the 'experts' are commenting on the quite obvious chromatic aberration visible in those images...

Mike, if you get a chance it would be interesting to hear whether you've observed any differences between the two modules' sensors. After all, the availability of multiple sensors is the unique feature of the GXR.

Very good point--we do learn. I probably haven't stuck with it long enough to get used to it.


The two modules I've used so far both have the same sensor. I do have the zoom lens with the small sensor, but I haven't tried that yet.


I've been shooting/learning my new GXR too. I've found the in-camera sepia (the TE mode) to be as stunning as the BW. Another handy feature is the JPG color mode bracketing. I have mine set to produce a color jpg, a BW jpg and a sepia jpg. Processes all from one exposure.
There is a lot to explore with this camera and reading the manual would be a good investment of your time--at least I found it so. Cheers JD

And the phone number of the people who loan out their Miata is...?

I find that the Panasonic GH2 is about as responsive as a DSLR. Very fast.
Especially with the 14-140mm, although of course that adds some bulk. But it may also be the best 10x zoom I've tried, so I consider it a semi-pro outfit in a handy package.

Mike replies: Yes, I always shot with SLRs and K2 filters in my day, too. For those who haven't: imagine looking at the world through yellow sunglasses. It does tend to help you ignore colors

Well, I love BW on film (so much that I gave up digital recently), but I hate looking through those color filters. It certainly does not help me ignore colors - instead, it simply drives me mad :-) And yet color filters are absolutely essential for BW work.

The solution to that is very simple...just use a rangefinder camera. That way you can use color filters on the lens and not have to look through them.

I imagine you know this already....


Alex - I'm with Mike on not displaying black and white and colour photographs together. But then lots of things make me nervous: mixing aspect ratios, cameras, focal lengths... I'm a bit precious.

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