Project: Colour relationships – Ex 4: Colour into black and white tones.

Project: Colour Relationships

Exercise 4 : Colours into tones in black and white

I have done some black and white images since getting my dslr a year ago but have mainly concentrated on colour. I’ve become more interested in black and white though recently particularly since I’ve started with another attempt to learn to draw.  This has had a parallel effect of making me more aware of lines, curves, and shadows and creating tones with just a pencil.

The example given in the Handbook (p. 97) beautifully illustrates the effect of using different coloured filters on a black and white conversion.  I decided to use some brightly coloured pieces of lego to do the exercise.  I placed the pieces on grey card , which I also used for the back.

1. Original

2. Neutral

g                        y        b               r

3. Yellow

g                      y       b                  r

4. Red

g                        y       b              r

Yellow and red filters have a fairly similar effect.  It was a surprise to see how pale the red lego becomes.

5. Blue

g                     y     b                    r

The blue filter turns blue to a grey-white ( having a similar effect to that of the yellow and red filters on red).  Red becomes at its darkest with a blue filter

6. Green

g                        y        b               r

The green filter turns yellow to a grayish white.  Apart from that, the other colours are pretty much the same as in neutral, although blue turns to a slightly darker grey..

Having just done the exercise I’m finding it quite hard to keep the permutations in my head and I’ve devised a table in the hope that this might help me to absorb them.

———-  Colours ———–

 Green   Yellow  Blue  Red
Yellow black white  black-black grey-white
Red dark-black  white black grey-white
Blue dark grey  grey-black grey-white black
Green grey  grayish-white dark-grey mid-grey

The changes in tone are very obvious.  Presumably  you have to use layering, using the different filters to emphasize certain objects while suppressing others.  At the moment that seems a complicated procedure to me but I’m going to keep it in mind as I attempt more black and white conversions. One thing I have done though is to experiment more simply with the various filters in Photoshop and also in Nik software.

I took this photograph the other day.  I like the tree roots and the way the tree on the left appears to be hugging the one on the right.  There is also a blue rope which local children use to swing themselves around with.  I thought the rope might be a useful colour accent to use for the next Assignment but it isn’t large/striking enough.  I’ve just been given a present of a book on Ansel Adams though and have been wondering what black and white processing could be used to simulate his techniques. I’ve also become interested in de-saturation effects and bleach bypass. When I spoke with Jose Navarro at the recent Study Day, he explained that bleach bypass can be achieved through colour de-saturation and increasing contrast.  In Photoshop I  increased the contrast in Levels by 2 and then went into the Nik Color Efex and used the bleach bypass  filter, also increasing the tonal contrast there.

It doesn’t show as well in the smaller size but there is a more rugged effect here.

I then went to the black and white conversion filter, where I increased the yellow filter by 158% because this seemed to give the type of brightness I was looking for.  I worked at the brightness contrast, shadows and highlights until I achieved an effect I liked and then saved this as a pre-set.

I have to be honest and say I don’t really think I’ve approached Ansel Adams yet.  Mind you he had the Yosemites and I don’t!  Also I’ve been reminded that there are rocks etc there which bring in certain grey tones and more sculpturing which we don’t have in our local Common.  The colours on the Common are predominantly  green, brown and sand colour, so there is a hint of red.  At least I’ve made a start and this particular exercise has helped me to think about changes I can make.

I also had another try with a photograph I took in Seaford earlier in the year.

I didn’t use bleach bypass because I didn’t think it would be effective here as  it is already a pale/misty scene. Again, I played around with the black and white conversion filter in Color Efex.

Doing this whole exercise has certainly spurred me on to work more with black and white.

July 2011