Re-discovering my B&W Roots

Waterfall, Tromso, Norway

As a former assistant to Galen Rowell, I have spent a career chasing the light - staying up late and getting up early for untold sunrises and sunsets. (As photographers, we seem to have an obsession with the color red, as in sunsets and slickrock) So it is a bit of a revelation to suddenly fall back in love with black and white - it's sculptural forms and visual grace. And now, with digital, it is all so much easier than the days of Tri-X and Agfa paper, fixer and stop bath. I applaud those photographers still working with these classic media, but I am re-discovering my roots through the new media.

I shot this small waterfall this morning in arctic Norway, drawn by the counterpoint of rock and water.  I shot it in color, of course, but have now made a habit of looking at nearly every image with the saturation dialed back to zero. Many are not improved (icebergs, I have discovered, are still a rapturous blue - not a color  you really want to discard). But some pictures simply beg for black-and-white.  This was one of them...

Nikon D3, 70-200mm lens


    Hi Kevin,

    Do you believe taking a picture in color and dialing it back to B&W gives the same results as taking it in B&W? I’m just wondering if there might be a difference and advantage. Curious to hear your opinion.

    Hi Jim,

    Just back in town and catching up on the Blog. When you say “taking it in B&W” do you mean with film? Frankly, I don’t have enough experience with printing from B&W digital files yet to compare results with film, but I am definitely pleased with what I am getting from de-saturating color images into B&W.

    I prefer to shoot originals in color and then convert them, since that gives me better flexibility, and I can see if an image works better in color or b&w.

    As you may know, Photoshop has preset filters available under their Black-and-White adjustment that approximate Red, Yellow and other colors, as well as Infrared. All of these also come with individual sliders to fine tune the results you want (which I do with the infrared especially which tends to read too “hot”)

    Thanks for your comments,


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