Thursday, January 09, 2020


I need to go filter shopping. Colored filters are an anachronism in the digital age, but when shooting black & white film, they're important if, say, you don't want your sky to be an undifferentiated sheet of gray.

A photo I shot on, of all things, color film provided a handy illustration of this the other day.

I was heading back up to Broad Ripple from the downtown Roberts Camera store, sitting at the traffic light at College & 38th, when something about the light and composition of the view out the driver's side window caught my eye. So I rolled down the window and popped off a shot with the Elan II.

Here's the negative as scanned:

Straightened and cropped and minor fiddling with levels in Photoshop resulted in what I saw that made me take the photo.:

Although in this case, it was the light and texture and shapes that drew my eye, not the colors, so lets get those out of the picture and see what it looks like with just light and shadow and shape and texture...

And now we run into the undifferentiated sky problem (although not quite as bad as it would have been on black & white film).

This is where the filters come in handy in B&W photography. From yellow to orange to red, they'll add more pop to the sky (red makes vegetation look funky, too, and will make a blue sky look black and an overcast sky look apocalyptic.) Generally a yellow filter will give a result that looks natural to the eye. In this case, though, a simulated red filter had an additional side effect...

I can't put my finger on why, but I like this shot.

Note that this was only doable in Photoshop because the color film, like a color sensor, had all the necessary info encoded. You can't retroactively employ a yellow or red filter in P-shop to a B&W negative and get the same result because the film itself had "seen" the sky as an undifferentiated sheet of white or gray unless you interpose the filter in the shot itself.

I need to shop for some 77mm filters if I'm going to be doing B&W shooting with the Canon EOS-1N and L glass...