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Not Everything is Black and White, but Some Things are Better that Way--Monochrome Photography

Recently, the camera brand I shoot with (Pentax) announced the release of a camera with a monochrome sensor (the Pentax K3iii Monochrome). People got so excited when it was announced that production sold out VERY quickly, and now it's on backorder. This inspired a wave of black and white photography edits in the Pentax groups I frequent even before anyone (outside of testers) got their hands on the camera. If you want to see some of the test images, check out Bill Ward's fantastic work (you should check out his work regardless of your feelings on monochrome photography or the Pentax brand; it's lovely): https://billwardphotography.co.uk/portfolios/pentaxk3iiimonochrome or, if you are specifically interested in a monochromatic camera sensor and how it performs, check out Pentax brand ambassador Matt Bishop's YouTube post about photographing landscapes with the camera https://youtu.be/2FVGSTxx82E Of course, editing to monochrome doesn't give exactly the same results as shooting with a monochrome photography sensor (or monochrome film), but it was still fun. Every once in a while I take a shot that just DOES NOT WORK in color, but mostly, since switching to digital (from film) a decade or *ahem* two ago, I stick to color. I keep forgetting how much I love black and white images (except for when I'm in the Ansel Adams gallery in Yosemite Valley--then there's no way to forget how amazing monochrome can be). Grayscale really removes distractions, letting you focus on the lines and the light. And it sure helps when the sky is blah, or the white balance impossible to correct. So here's a collection of black & white images I've taken recently (and, in some cases, the color version of the same image), and why I shot/edited into black and white. Let me know what you think! Do you prefer color? Or black and white? Lifeguard Tower 60. This was a very low contrast scene in color. The sky was hazy, and when I did a color edit and adjusted the contrast, the blue of the lifeguard tower blended into the sky. Switching to monochrome let me push up that contrast without having the sky and the tower run together. Shot with the Pentax 21 mm limited lens.

Lifeguard Tower 60. This was a very low contrast scene in color. The sky was hazy, and when I did a color edit and adjusted the contrast, the blue of the lifeguard tower blended into the sky. Switching to monochrome let me push up that contrast without having the sky and the tower run together. Shot with the Pentax 21 mm limited lens.

My son wearing my heated Ororo vest (love that thing). We'd gone to the mall for Santa pics (the only time we've ever done them, and the kids are getting a little too old, so this was probably our last chance!). I took this portrait of him outside, and the lights of the mall's outdoor Christmas tree were reflected on his glasses. I chose to edit in black and white because I wanted the focus to stay on his face and on the reflection in the glasses. The white balance in the color scene was all over the place. Green on his face from the lit up tree, warm and cool whites on the buildings in the background from the lights on the shops, which turned magenta when I tried to balance out the green. Grayscale really helped remove all those distractions. Shot with the Pentax DFA* 50 mm.

My son wearing my heated Ororo vest (love that thing). We'd gone to the mall for Santa pics (the only time we've ever done them, and the kids are getting a little too old, so this was probably our last chance!). Here we were outside, and the lights of the mall's outdoor Christmas tree were reflected on his glasses. I chose to edit in black and white because I wanted the focus to stay on his face and on the reflection in the glasses. The white balance in the color scene was all over the place. Green on his face from the lit up tree, warm and cool whites on the buildings in the background from the lights on the shops, which turned magenta when I tried to balance out the green. Grayscale really helped remove all those distractions. Shot with the Pentax DFA* 50 mm.

Here's the color version after I messed with it a little bit. Awful, right? Could have done more with more editing, but it would have been time consuming. And I don't know about you, but my eye goes to the building behind him, rather than to my son's face and the reflections on his glasses.

Color version of the black and white image above. The white balance is all over the place.

Aspens in the eastern Sierra in California. I wonder if Ansel Adams ever stood in this spot. This was a perfect candidate for black and white. Did you know that aspen trunks aren't really white, but have a soft green tint? Nearly drove me crazy. Then I was shooting into the sun, so the sky was blown out, and the grasses were yellow because it was fall... Nightmare to edit in color. Perfection in monochrome tones. Shot with the Pentax DFA 24-70.

Aspens in the eastern Sierra in California. I wonder if Ansel Adams ever stood in this spot. This was a perfect candidate for black and white. Did you know that aspen trunks aren't really white, but have a soft green tint? Nearly drove me crazy. Then I was shooting into the sun, so the sky was blown out, and the grasses were yellow because it was fall... Nightmare to edit in color. Perfection in monochrome tones. Shot with the Pentax DFA 24-70.

A seascape in black and white seems an odd choice, but if you've experienced May Gray and June Gloom (where the marine layer rolls in and everything is blah for two months), you'll understand. When the sky is flat and gray, this keeps things more interesting. Added in a little ICM (intentional camera movement) to a long exposure for interest. Shot with the Pentax DFA 21 limited.

A seascape in black and white seems an odd choice, but if you've experienced May Gray and June Gloom (where the marine layer rolls in and everything is blah for two months), you'll understand. When the sky is flat and gray, this keeps things more interesting. Added in a little ICM (intentional camera movement) for interest. Shot with the Pentax DFA 21 limited.

Dumbarton Bridge image in monochrome. I shot this in color, but it still looked monochrome, lol. Just monochrome in a hazy soft blue instead of in grayscale. Switching to black and white allowed me to push the contrast more. Shot with the Pentax DFA 70-210, which was my second longest lens at the time (I've long loved the 55-300, but was trying to convince myself that the 70-210 had some value to me as well. I recently picked up an old FA* 300 off eBay. Would love to take it to that same spot next time I visit. Check out my blog about the surfers to see what that lens can do. https://www.sarahaphotography.com/post/el-porto-to-manhattan-beach-pier-surfer-photos-and-beach-pics)

Dumbarton Bridge image in monochrome. I shot this in color, but it still looked monochrome, lol. Just monochrome in a hazy soft blue instead of in grayscale. Switching to black and white allowed me to push the contrast more.

Here's the same image uncropped, and in the original color. I don't hate it, actually, but someone would need to be working with a very specific color scheme for it to work as wall art. I could probably push up the contrast in the black and white a bit more, but that wouldn't work here in the color image.

Dumbarton Bridge image in color. the whole thing is shades of blue.

And finally, last, but not least, my daughter, taking a photo of me with a Pentax Q-S1 (I took the photo of her with my beautiful vintage green and silver Q-S1, seriously, it's so pretty, get thee to eBay and look at them). I bought all my kids some variant of a Pentax Q to keep them occupied when they're with me and I slow down to take photos. This photograph HAD to be black and white. We were in our local cupcake shop. The wall behind me? Hot pink with a neon sign throwing color cast everywhere. My daughter's dress? Purple. Her mask? Also hot pink and purple. The cupcakes behind my subject, all colors of the rainbow. Black and white keeps the eye on the subject. I'm not sure I'm done with the edits on this one, to be honest. Could probably use a bit more contrast.

my daughter, taking a photo of me with a Pentax Q-S1 (I took the photo of her with my beautiful vintage green and silver Q-S1, seriously, it's so pretty, get thee to eBay and look at them). I bought all my kids some variant of a Pentax Q to keep them occupied when they're with me and I slow down to take photos. This photograph HAD to be black and white. We were in our local cupcake shop. The wall behind me? Hot pink throwing color cast everywhere. My daughter's dress? Purple. Her mask? Also hot pink and purple. The cupcakes behind my subject, all colors of the rainbow. Black and white keeps the eye on the subject.

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