Track, Tadham Moor
Track heading south across Tadham Moor, Somerset Levels; 29 Aug 2009.

I bought my first digital camera early in 2009 and, with what’s left of my mind, have been thinking that I made a total and immediate switch to digital, with my film gear and remaining films becoming at once obsolete (my last, unused films are in fact still in the fridge).

However, some images that I’ve found this morning, including this one, show that this was not the case – and I know why.  Because while digital colour pictures were fine, I just couldn’t get digital black and white to be anything other than bland, characterless and antiseptic.

Bland?  Yes, bland, and for two reasons.  First of course, I wasn’t yet aware of the editing software – most notably Silver Efex Pro –  that would solve these problems.

But second, I’d also had a thing for using fast black and white films – Fuji Neopan 1600 is the one here, but also Agfa Scala Black and White Slides – and then having them commercially push-processed.  Push-processing involves uprating a film’s speed during development so that, for example, if I’d exposed a 400 ISO film at 400 ISO, I would ask the processing lab to develop it as if I’d exposed it at 1600 ISO – and this sort of processing gave wonderful contrast and grain – its made the images really atmospheric, moody and gutsy.  (I push-processed colour slides too, most notably Fuji Provia 400X, and loved the results).

And so, when I found digital black and white to really not be doing the business, I returned for awhile to slamming away with push-processed mono film in my Nikon F6 – and this photo is an example of that.  I mean, just look at the grain in those clouds – was I photographing in a blizzard???  And the whole thing looks old – this is definitely not antiseptic newness.

But there is an irony here – and the joke is on me.  Because when I’d managed to get digital black and white doing what I wanted, via various editing programs, and then thought that I should use those programs on scanned versions of my push-processed film images >>> failure was everywhere in the air! 

Because although these pushed films look good as they are, they simply do not contain the vast wealth of image data found in a full colour, digital Raw file – full colour, digital Raws are really by far the best jumping off points when converting images to black and white.

F6 with 12-24 Sigma at 12mm;  Fuji Neopan 1600 black and white film, push processed 2 stops to 6400 ISO, to achieve a grainy effect.  The extreme wideangle lens (12mm focal length = 122 degrees angle of view) captures detail from almost beneath my feet to the far distance.


About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

6 Responses to ARCHIVE 148 – TRACK, TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

  1. Nelson says:

    Do you know if the first post-processing software were very expensive when they came into the market? I remember that the price of the first digital camera were not cheap, the software to “work” the photos must cost an arm and a leg at that time


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Nelson, I can’t give you a definite answer here because I was still using film when digital started to take off, software and all – but I seem to remember reading something recently about the high cost of software in the early days. But by the time I was thinking about software things weren’t too bad.

      Well, when I say “not too bad”, I think it was well under £200 for everything except Photoshop (which I’ve never used), and prices have further reduced since. “Well under £200” may not seem cheap, but I’ve always been of the view that, having invested in digital camera and lenses, it would simply not be commonsensical to skimp on software – it would be a bit like buying a car but refusing to buy petrol because its too dear!

      To me, good editing software is a must have if digital photography is contemplated in anything like a serious way. Having said that, the software does not have to ne mainstream, but it does have to do the job. I still use Nikon’s old Capture NX2 as my base program, and then move on into Nik software, which runs as a plug-in in Photoshop Elements. I may have to move more into the mainstream later on, at which time I’ll probably be thinking of Lightroom and Nik. Adrian


      • Nelson says:

        When I came back to photography two years ago I wanted to be a purist and not use photo editing software, it lasted 3 weeks. I think the software is another tool like filter or tripod. It won’t make a photo from average to masterpiece but it can help you correct some small problems.


        • Adrian Lewis says:

          I totally agree, software is another photographic tool and, to my mind, it would be insane not to use it – to whatever degree YOU decide. Its your choice, your photography >>> go for it!!!

          One thing that blogging has taught me is that we’re all different, we’re all individuals, and this applies as much to our visual tastes and photography as to anything else. So some may favour a purist line and that’s fine but, personally, I want to create beautiful and/or striking images by whatever means are at my disposal. My bottom line, my mantra, is that if an image looks good then it is good, end of story! – no matter how it was produced. In black and white photography in particular, I often subject images to extensive post-capture manipulation. Adrian

          Liked by 1 person

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