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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Ultimate Black & White

New technology and techniques are giving rise to the ability to create the best black-and-white images ever

The Ultimate Black And WhiteThere's something magical about watching an image develop on a piece of photo paper in the developer tray…to see it go from just a blank white piece of paper to becoming a photograph is what many photographers think of when they think of black-and-white photography. That process of watching the image develop is what got me hooked on photography over 30 years ago, and black-and-white is where my heart really lives, even though I've done more color work professionally. I used to have the brown stains on my fingers like any good darkroom tech, but commercially, I turned toward color photography. Later, when going digital, I basically gave up being able to ever achieve what used to be commonplace in the darkroom—until recently.

At about the same time, Kodak announced it was going to stop making black-and-white photo paper, and Epson introduced its new line of digital inkjet printers and a new ink set, UltraChrome K3 (with three blacks, hence the K3). These developments gave me hope of returning to darkroom-quality prints, but with a digital printer, instead of working in a smelly darkroom environment. Combine the new printers with the power of digital image processing in Adobe Photoshop and the capabilities of recent digital cameras and I predict a strong trend toward photographers going digital to get the best black-and-white prints possible.

Making the optimal digital black-and-white print isn't done simply with a click of the shutter and push-button printing. There's work that must be done to achieve high-quality black-and-white prints. Some may argue that even with work, digital prints will never surpass silver gelatin prints. That's a challenge I'm willing and eager to take on, except for the current lack of quality inkjet printing paper. In this one aspect, digital black-and-white prints have yet to surpass silver, but I'd bet that obstacle won't stand for long, especially with traditional black-and-white papers soon becoming a thing of the past.



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