seeing in black and white

I love the rich monochromatic creations of the old master photographers; their work has an unsurpassed quality, their techniques continue to be replicated across generations. But in a modern world where color is so so readily available why do black and white images continue to excite? The fact is that restricting a view to black and white provides certain advantages. Removing the distraction of color results in texture, contrast and composition becoming more pronounced, enhancing the underlying character of the image. Monochrome images also present an alternative and often interestingly new view of our familiar world, in fact many photographers are so enamored that color is not an option for them.

One of the more abstract skills in photography is the ability to 'see' in black and white. Scenes with high contrast/bold lines may make it a little easier to imagine a monochromatic result but as the human eye/brain is more sensitive to certain colors (red, orange, yellow) others can produce results that are much harder to predict. The advent of digital images and processing presents the modern photographer with infinitely more flexibility than those who shoot film (with film type & speed fixed for each roll, filters planned and added in advance) but nonetheless creating interest in black and white from what we see in color remains a challenge.

That is not to say that B&W images should be valued in any way above their colorful counterparts but the next time you view such work do so with an appreciation of the effort and skill involved to reach that result.

I would be interested to hear the views of  fellow photographers - do you have any tips & tricks to share on your process for producing black & white artwork?