County Fair

Hawaii County Fair

Key: R20110918-114010-bw

I like the hand pointing out of the lower left.

Recently there was an interesting commentary on Chris Klug’s blog about the workflow for a B&W conversion from digital color.  Since I have a B&W conversion for you today I thought I’d comment on my process a little bit.

Although B&W photography is rather common with me, B&W conversions are not.  They are not rare for me, but as a percentage of my total selects there are not that many. I usually know ahead of time that I want to shoot B&W. If I am shooting JPEG and I want to shoot B&W I will put the camera in one of the B&W modes, because I even want to see the scene in the viewfinder in B&W–I am visualizing everything in tones.  For example, if the light is not great for color anyway–harsh midday sunlight washes out subtle color hues (it’s often ok for landscapes, if there is a lot of sea, sky, foliage), I’ll just switch to shooting B&W.  Or if I am “feeling B&W” I’ll immediately switch to shooting in B&W.  But it doesn’t always work out that way.

Today we were at the fair and the light was mostly high, bright overcast–fine for color work.  I was shooting in color because I thought that the fair, with a lot of garish colorful booths and objects would be best served by color.  But when I examined the afternoon’s take, I found that I wasn’t particularly happy with the color on most, although there were some compositions I liked.  Somehow the color was too much and too all over the place.  I decided to try some B&W conversions, and this was the one I liked the best.

When I do a B&W conversion, I usually end up using the channel mixer.  First, I do a decomposition to the RGB layers to see what is in each channel, and what each would have to offer to the resulting mix.  Usually I end up using mostly green channel, with some amount of red or blue dialed in.  But sometimes a channel offers nothing of value: yesterday’s shot was a good example.  It ended up being 65% green and 35% red channel and I threw away the blue channel–it was nothing but mud.  Today it was mostly green with, some red and some blue.  I applied a tone curve to bring up the midtones a little without touching the shadows or highlights.  Even though the food booth signs were very colorful, the monochrome treatment still conveys the feeling of expensive, low-class greasy food sold out of garish shops standing shoulder to shoulder.  In other words, the fair ambiance.  I went to the fair with three happy, bubbly girls, but came back with three miserable, sick-to-their-stomach girls.  Who says the fair is a good time?  Not me.  But I did enjoy getting a few photos in.

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