Black & White Wins

I’ll never get over black and white!

Before the days of digital, making black and white prints in a wet darkroom was one of my specialties. I had a bit of a reputation among fellow journalism students at the University of Iowa where I earned my B.A. degree. One day a classmate suggested that I could make a decent print from a cardboard negative! I doubt that, but can’t help but be proud of the sentiment.

Dune Jazz

The earliest digital printers were not good for black & white. Most prints were afflicted with a magenta cast. Over and over, I heard the voice of one of my teachers saying, “But there’s no black!” That was her fave criticism of student work. She was actually referring to inadequate contrast rather than a color cast, but I thought of her often in struggling to get true black in a digital print.

Today’s digital printers have greatly improved. My professional photo printer requires four black ink cartridges, but uses just three at a time. It chooses between photo black and matte black depending on what paper I’m using, and always uses light black and light, light black to produce prints with a full tonal range. Of course, preparing a digital image to become a black & white print still requires careful adjusting of contrast and exposure.

Dune Jazz was especially challenging to print. How do you show the volume and texture of white sand? Sometimes an overcast day that casts gentle shadows is an advantage.

Fibonacci on the Beach

Likewise, Fibonacci on the Beach features white sand. In fact, I made these two photographs on the same day, walking a beach along the Emerald Coast of the Florida panhandle. Both took awhile to “get right” for printing and both have now been in several shows each. Most recently, Dune Jazz was in the July Group Show and Fibonacci on the Beach is in the August Group Show at Jones Gallery in Kansas City, MO.

And… I have become my teacher. Occasionally I see prints in shows that are all shades of gray. I dislike them. Where’s the black?

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