I don’t do black & white conversions very often. It’s not that I don’t like working in monochrome. I rather think that creating a truly shining b&w image is way harder than working in colour. All possible flaws become far more prominent when you reduce a photograph to it’s minimum: contrast and texture.

When I started with photography I made the decision to convert an image to black & white at home, in front of the computer. I often experimented with otherwise bland images to see if they looked better in monochrome. Of course, this way you can’t expect to end up with great b&w images. There’s a lot more involved than just pressing the V key in Lightroom (the shortcut for converting an image to black&white). However playing with those conversions has taught me a lot about what works in black & white and what doesn’t. Nowadays I have a better idea of what I want in my final images. I have started envisioning images in black & white. Whenever a scene looks like it could work in b&w I switch to the monochrome user setting on my 5D Mark II. The camera then automatically converts the jpeg previews of the RAW captures to black & white and also displays them on the LCD screen. This is very helpful, as you instantly get an approximate preview of what the final result might look like. And don’t worry, the colour information is still present in the RAW image, in case you need it later (you have to work in RAW, though).

Long exposure of Table Mountain and Cape Town in black & white


By the end of our trip through South Africa I hadn’t made it to Bloubergstrand (a beach north of Cape Town) but I had still not given up the idea of going there to take a decent image of the city’s icon: Table Mountain. We only had a few hours left, before our flight home would leave. Nevertheless I couldn’t resist the urge to give it a try. The early afternoon light was harsh but the puffy clouds above Table Mountain looked promising. I instantly felt, that this situtation was calling for monochrome.

I used my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer to darken the sky and enhance the contrast in the clouds. With the help of my Lee Big Stopper I reached a shutter speed of 4 seconds which provided a good mix of motion and structure in the surf on the foreground rocks.

Western Cape
South Africa

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM @ 24mm
ISO 100, f/8, 4 seconds
Lee Big Stopper

10. December 2011