The world is full of color, so why would one want to photograph in black-and-white? It’s so old-fashioned anyway. Are there any good reasons to make monochrome pictures in 2023?
In 1826, the first photograph was captured by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in France. It was black-and-white because the first process was B&W. But then in 1861 the first color picture was made by James Clerk Maxwell and Thomas Sutton in Scotland. That should have been the end of B&W photos, right? Actually, color photography didn’t catch on for a very long time because the process to create them was much more complex than B&W, and their color reproduction not particularly accurate. Kodak launched Kodachrome slide film in 1935, which was the first reasonably accurate color process. That should have been the end of B&W, but it wasn’t. In fact, many photographers shunned color photography, and derided it as for amateurs. Black-and-white was for the serious, while color was not.
The New American Color movement of the 1960’s and ’70’s is really what made color photography an acceptable art form. It challenged the idea that “real” photography was only in monochrome. Color images could be just as good as, or perhaps even better than, B&W pictures. It revolutionized photography.
That was so long ago. Color photography is the norm now, not black-and-white. Your digital camera captures a color picture, and you have to convert it to B&W if you want to see in shades of grey. B&W has become a niche of sorts.
So why should you shoot black-and-white photographs in 2023? What reasons are there, other than nostalgia for a time long gone? I love B&W photography, so let me offer a few to you.
Black-and-white pictures are abstract by nature. They’re not faithful reproductions of the world as we see it. Because it is abstract, the photographer is invited to capture the scene in a unique way, with a vision that is dissimilar to, and perhaps even the opposite of, reality. It’s not so much about what the scene is, but about how we see the scene through a divergent eye, and how we can express that to the viewer. It’s a timeless approach to fine-art photography.
The strength of color photographs is color, but it’s also its weakness. When color works within a color theory—perhaps contrasting or harmonious—it can create an especially dramatic or beautiful picture; however, when the colors within an image work against each other, it can be a distraction. B&W photos remove the distraction of color, allowing the viewer to see the important elements without color fighting for their attention—it’s the art of subtraction.
Black-and-white photography is about light and shadow. It’s about contrast. It’s about shape. Texture. Pattern. Space. Emotion. Those are very important elements to color photography, too, but they’re even more critical to B&W pictures. Mastering monochrome will make you a better photographer, even for your color work.
Fujifilm cameras are particularly great for black-and-white photography thanks to their wonderful film simulations: Monochrome and especially Acros. Many different Film Simulation Recipes can be made using these as the base, with a wide variety of characteristics. Pick one that looks interesting to you, and shoot with it for a day or two to see what you get. My personal favorite is Kodak Tri-X 400, but there are so many that are really good, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them.
Whether you’ve been shooting black-and-white for decades and decades, or if you never have before but are interested, I invite you to join myself and Fujifilm X-Photographer Nathalie Boucry as we discuss B&W photography in-depth on SOOC Livethis Thursday, August 3rd, at 10:00 AM Pacific Time, 1:00 PM Eastern. I’ve included it below so that you can easily find in on Thursday.
If you missed last Thursday’s SOOC Live broadcast, where Nathalie and I finished our discussion of travel photography, be sure to watch it now. I’ve included it below, or visit the SOOC Live YouTube Channel. Also, if you haven’t seen the Viewers’ Images slideshow (your pictures!), I’ve added that to the bottom of this article—be sure to watch!
I just learned that Chuck Drummond passed away this last Friday at 79-years-old. I met him once, and he was very kind. My deepest sympathies go out to the Drummond family, who I’m sure are still mourning.
This last summer my family and I embarked on an epic roadtrip that took us through Oklahoma. Pawhuska was a little out of the way, but we made sure to detour through it so that we could visit The Mercantile, the restaurant/coffee shop/bakery/gift store owned by Ree Drummond, who is also known as The Pioneer Woman.
For those unfamiliar, Ree Drummond became famous for her cooking blog, where she shared recipes used to feed her family and the hungry ranchmen, which turned into books, television shows, product lines, and The Mercantile, among other things. She lives on a large ranch in rural Oklahoma. Pawhuska was barely on the map before Ree became famous—now it’s still barely on the map, although it certainly has seen a significant resurgence, and it can become quite busy with tourists. Yes, for The Pioneer Woman fans, Pawhuska is a destination.
I’ve written about Pawhuska before, and I don’t want to rehash that; instead, I want to share a serendipitous encounter while in the small town, which I’ll remember for some time to come.
We awoke to steel grey sky and light rain. After getting ourselves put together, my family and I strolled around the small town of Pawhuska, which was almost deserted—the weather seemed to scare people off, or at least keep them indoors. We explored the streets, and I captured photographs with my Fujifilm X100V using the Kodak Tri-X 400 Film Simulation Recipe—black and white seemed especially appropriate for the weather. Eventually we made our way inside The Mercantile for breakfast, something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives—to say that it’s good is as big of an understatement as saying the Grand Canyon is big; both are true, but neither truly describe it.
While waiting for our food, an old man wearing a cowboy hat walked in by himself. He appeared weathered and worn, but in good spirits, with a smile on his face. My wife stated in a whisper just loud enough for our children to hear, “Look, there’s a real cowboy.” A true ranchman. An iconic stature of the American west. He sat at a small table near ours.
My wife knew right away who he was. This was Chuck. Ladd’s dad. Ree’s father-in-law. When the waitress came by, my wife asked if it would be alright to say hi to him. “Oh, sure,” she answered with a wink, “he loves the attention.” So my wife stood up, walked to his table, and introduced herself.
Chuck grinned, and he, too, stood up. He shook my wife’s hand, then he shook mine. He noticed my little girl’s cowboy boots, and made a comment to her about how nice they were and that he liked them. The waitress asked if she could take our picture, so with my wife’s phone she snapped one with Chuck, myself and my wife standing together. It was all very quick. Then we sat back down. Our food came, and we ate. His food came, and he ate alone, although other people also recognized him and he would pause to shake their hands and maybe take a picture. Chuck was a celebrity of sorts.
Our encounter was brief, but memorable. His kindness was obvious. His cheerfulness contagious. We met a genuine cowboy in rural Oklahoma. Just now I showed my daughter the picture I captured of Chuck Drummond (at the top of this article), and asked if she remembered him. “Oh, yeah,” she stated without hesitation, “that man said he liked my boots.” We’ll forever remember this chance encounter on a rainy day in May.
I’d yet to share any of these pictures, which were all captured on that drizzly morning in Pawhuska. I hope that you enjoy them!
Rob Morgan is an internationally touring bass guitar player. He’s a super talented musician that’s often in-demand. He’s a creative director for live shows and world tours. Maybe you’ve even seen him play before in an arena, dive bar, or coffee shop—he’s even performed on The Today Show. Rob’s out on tour right now, so maybe you can catch him live if he’s coming to a city near you.
Aside from the music and podcast, Rob is also a photographer. It started out as a hobby—simply another creative outlet—but has turned into something much more. His photographs have been printed in media globally and he’s regularly commissioned to photograph musicians. He often uses a Fujifilm camera loaded with a Film Simulation Recipe.
Curious yet? I hope so! Keep reading to learn much more about Rob and his photography.
FXW: Hi, Rob! You play bass guitar—how did you get started with that? Why the bass?
Rob Morgan: There’s a common trope in music: a band needs a bassist, so they convince a guitar player to pick it up. Me, I’ve always been in love with the electric bass. The moment I got one for Christmas when I was 14, it was game over. I knew that was it for me, and there’s never been a Plan B.
FXW: What are the biggest music projects that you’ve been involved with? What are your most memorable musical moments? And what are you currently doing?
Rob Morgan: I mean, if we’re talking about memorable musical moments… it’s always the weird ones that stick out, no? A drummer (mistakingly) trusting a fart fifteen seconds before going on stage and playing in front of thousands in Beijing, China—our guitar player and I laughed during the entire set, knowing he was going to need a new drum seat after this show.
But opening for Foo Fighters at Fuji Rock Music Festival in Japan a few years back while playing bass with the band Owl City was definitely up there. Getting to have a private moment with Dave Grohl and telling him how his band’s documentary Back and Forth was one of the reasons I didn’t quit music years before while in a dry spell… that felt like a full circle moment.
As for right now, I’m currently sitting on a bus as we drive through Washington on tour with Caitlyn Smith.
FXW: Let’s switch gears. How did you get started in photography?
Rob Morgan: Growing up, there were these photography kits for kids—it came with a film camera and instructional book—that my mom got me back in the day, but I didn’t really start diving in deep until a few years ago. I was halfway through an Asia tour when I found myself wandering around Tokyo with my friend, guitar tech and stage manager Alex Perkins, who always had a Fuji X camera on him. On a tour that big, you don’t have access to your instruments outside of shows, and through him I realized one of the things I love most about photography: at any given moment, you can enter into the creative process.
FXW: Tell me about your cameras. Why Fujifilm? What do you shoot with now?
Rob Morgan: You can absolutely get a killer synth sound on a laptop, but there’s something about the tactile feeling of twisting a knob to change a sound on an analog synth that I love. While on that tour, I picked up a Fujifilm X100 for the same reasons. The fact that you changed the aperture and shutter speed via actual knobs (instead of touching a screen) reminded me of the cameras I grew up with, and the X100 series is still the closest digital version of a film camera I’ve found—its small size and vintage profile also play a large part in my love for it.
Artists and musicians (uncomfortably) can sense a large DSLR being pulled out instantly. This thing feels far less invasive and my propensity for zone-focusing and manually dialing in the exposure in advance means I can be extremely fast.
Through the years, I kept advancing through the line, moving to an X100S, X100T, X100F, X100V, and back again to my current camera, an X100F. The reason for going backwards is a pretty unpopular opinion: although the technical specs of the X100V are “better” it lost the mojo of the earlier models. The feel of the metal, the tilting screen, and even the shape all seem clunky to me, and I found myself reaching for my camera less often.
I love the X100F’s 35mm equivalent prime lens, but I also travel with the TCL and WCL adapters. I feel like I see the world in 35mm, but If I’m taking portraits of an artist, I throw on the 50mm TCL. If I’m bringing my camera in close quarters, on stage, or in the tour bus, I like the 28mm focal length (that the WCL allows me to capture) while in the middle of it all.
FXW: What Film Simulation Recipes do you use and why?
Rob Morgan: Whether it’s Daniel Kramer’s photographs of Bob Dylan, the authentic moments backstage captured by Danny Clinch or the iconic photographs of Anton Corbijn… as I started paying attention to the images that moved me, I realized the majority of them were shot on Kodak Tri-X 400 film (often pushed to 3200). As I said, I treat my X100F like one of my film cameras, and, thanks to your “Pushed Tri-X” recipe, I’m able to take it a step further and make it feel like I’ve loaded the camera with a roll of that film. It’s seriously been a game-changer for me! Shooting JPEG+RAW also allows me to not question it and focus on light and composition knowing that if it calls for something else later, I have the option in my back pocket. Sometimes, I’ll switch over to your HP5 recipe to change it up, but 99% of the time I stick with Tri-X.
FXW: How does being color blind affect your photography?
Rob Morgan: It’s tough to say. I’ve always had a propensity for the timelessness of black & white photography despite being red-green color blind. Ted Grant said, “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” I love that, and I think I’d still be shooting the way I do even if I wasn’t color blind, but it’s definitely cemented my style. Now that I shoot portraits of artists, record labels will often ask for color options, too, so I’ll shoot RAW and use a wallet-sized grey card to adjust the white balance in Lightroom. But normally, they’re bringing me in to shoot because they want my gritty B&W style.
FXW: Tell me about your behind-the-scenes photography. What do you try and convey through these pictures?
Rob Morgan: I’m fully aware of how incredibly fortunate I am to get to travel the world playing music. But, once you do anything on a regular basis, it’s easy to start taking the small moments for granted: whiskey cheers in the greenroom before walking on stage, a candid moment on the tour bus, the band goofing off during soundcheck…. Like anyone else diving into photography, I started taking photos of the world around me. As I started sharing them online, and people connected with them, I realized how rare of a vantage point I have. I’m no Linda McCartney, and I’m not married to one of The Beatles, but the candidness and behind-the-scenes trust seen in her photography have always been something that inspires my work. I’m glad artists and fans connect with the photos I’ve taken, but at the end of the day, it’s purely selfish—I want to remember all the tiny details of this wild ride.
FXW: Tell me more about your interest in street & documentary photography.
Rob Morgan: I adore the documentary photography of Dorothea Lange, and she’s often quoted as saying, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” That’s everything to me. Whether I’m on tour with an artist or traveling Europe with my wife, Sarah—as long as I stick to my rule of NO ‘CHIMPING’ (looking at a photo you just took), photography helps me to see the moment and my surroundings more clearly. The street photography approach of “F/8 and be there” (setting your aperture to f/8 and hyper-focal zone-focusing) has been massively impactful to my approach, whether backstage or wandering a new city. It’s taught me to anticipate a moment and has given me the speed to capture it, especially if I have a bass in my left hand. See a moment, grab the camera, snap the shutter, put it down, and get back to rocking out.
FXW: Thank you so much, Rob, for carving out some time while on tour to do this interview!
For those keeping up with my move (from Utah to Arizona) and adventure: I’m on the road again. The long story is that we found a home in Arizona, but the moving company can’t deliver our stuff for a couple of weeks. The short story is that we’re off on a new adventure! Among some other stops, we’re enroute to the central California Coast—one of the most beautiful places in the world, in my opinion—while we wait for our furniture and such.
Shooting out a dirty window at 75 miles-per-hour isn’t ideal; however, in whatever situations that I find myself, I try to do the best I can with what I have. That’s all anyone can do. I’m not always successful, but I thought this series was decent enough to share. I hope that you enjoy!
Season 2 of SOOC kicked off this morning! You can watch it (above) if you missed it. It was a really good show full of fun and surprises, so you’ll want to hit play. In our usual fashion, the broadcast went a little long, but I hope you find it well worth your time.
For those who don’t know, SOOC is a monthly live video series, with each episode focused on a different Film Simulation Recipe. It is a collaboration between Tame Your Fujifilm (Fujifilm X-Photographer Nathalie Boucry) and Fuji X Weekly (Ritchie Roesch). SOOC is a fun and educational experience where we not only talk about Fujifilm camera settings, but also answer your questions and give tips and tricks. Basically, we’re trying to help you master your Fujifilm camera, with a focus on simplifying your photographic workflow.
In Episode 01 of Season 02, among other things, we conclude our discussion (from Season 01) of the Kodak Gold 200 Film Simulation Recipe, and introduce the next recipe-of-the-month: Kodak Tri-X 400. We had a special guest, Anders Lindborg—it was fun talking shop with him, and seeing his wonderful photographs. Thanks, Anders, for joining us live! To submit pictures captured with the Kodak Tri-X 400 Film Simulation Recipe for Episode 02, click here.
Something else to note: we had our first Pre-Show, that was a more informal experience. You can watch it (above) if you missed it. The Pre-Show will be a regular feature, so if you have a few minutes before a broadcast, be sure to join in!
Thank you to everyone who watched, to everyone who participated, and for all who submitted pictures. You all are the best! Episode 02, where we’ll conclude Kodak Tri-X 400 and introduce the next recipe-of-the-month (Kodak Vision3 250D), will be April 14th, so mark your calendars now! See you then!
Leaves in the Forest – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200 – “Kodak Tri-X 400”
The number one black-and-white film simulation recipe that I’ve been asked to create is Kodak Tri-X 400, but I’ve never been satisfied with my own attempts. Thankfully for you, Fuji X Weekly reader Anders Lindborg (Instagram) was able to do it! This is brilliant, and I’m sure you’ll love it. It’s the only B&W recipe I’m using on my Fujifilm X100V right now.
Kodak introduced Tri-X in the early 1940’s, and in the 1950’s they began selling it in 35mm format. Ever since, it has been the “standard” high-ISO black-and-white film for photographers. It’s been made in ISO 160, 200, 320 and 400 versions; this recipe is based on Tri-X 400. Kodak re-engineered Tri-X 400 in 2007 with finer grain and lower contrast, but it’s still nearly identical to the old stock.
Anders actually made three recipes in one: low-contrast, mid-contrast, and high-contrast. Tri-X, like most films, can be made more contrasty or less contrasty based on how it’s developed (chemicals used and/or development times) or printed (contrast filters). The recipe further down this article is the mid-contrast version. For low contrast, set Highlight to -1 and Shadow to +2. For high contrast, set Highlight to +1 and Shadow to +4. This film simulation recipe was designed for the X-T3 and X-T30, but I changed a couple of things for the X100V: I set Clarity to +4 (which isn’t available on the X-T3 and X-T30) and Grain to Strong & Large (on the X-T3 and X-T30, Grain is set to Strong). Because it adds contrast, setting Clarity to +4 actually makes this look more like the high-contrast version. If you are using this on the X100V, X-Pro3 or X-T4, feel free to try all three contrast versions, with or without Clarity, to see which you like better. For X-Trans III cameras, which don’t have Color Chrome Effect, you can still use this recipe; while it won’t look exactly the same, it will still look very similar. In other words, even though the title says “Fujifilm X100V Film Simulation Recipe” you can actually use it on any camera with the Acros film simulation—I’ve tried it on an X-T30 and X-T20, and it looks great!
Forest Edge – Fruit Heights, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600 – “Kodak Tri-X 400”
I found that this recipe looks best when set to ISO 1600 or higher. From ISO 1600 to 3200, the results more resemble newer Tri-X 400 film. From ISO 6400 to ISO 12800, the results more resemble older Tri-X 400 film. I want to give a big thank-you to Anders Lindborg for creating this recipe, sharing it, and allowing me to publish it here—you are appreciated! Thank you!
Acros (+Y, +R, +G)
Dynamic Range: DR200
Noise Reduction: -4
Grain Effect: Strong, Large
Color Chrome Effect: Strong
Color Chrome Effect Blue: Off
White Balance: Daylight,+9 Red & -9 Blue
ISO: ISO 1600 – 12800
Exposure Compensation: +1/3 to +1 (typically)
Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs using this Kodak Tri-X 400 film simulation recipe on my Fujifilm X100V:
Fallen Trunk – Fruit Heights, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
The Forest – Fruit Heights, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Light in a Dark Canopy – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Sunlight & Leaves – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 12800
Monochrome Backlit Leaves – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Drops on a Window – Fruit Heights, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Half Leaf In The Road – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Footstep – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Barrier – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Corner Benches – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 6400
Drinking Fountains – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Feel Like A Kid Again – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Walking at an Amusement Park – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 1600
Waiting at the Exit – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Diagonal Light Boy – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 12800
FED 5c Film Camera – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Coffee Grounds in a Filter – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Rainbow Feet on the Floor – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Girl in Zebra Shirt – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 12800
Rainy Day Siblings – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Level Up – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 12800
Wet Leaf in the Grass – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 5000
Wet Tree Leaves – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Leaf of a Different Color – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Emptiness – Roy, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Empty Boxes in an Abandoned Home – Roy, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 12800
Nobody’s Home – Roy, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
White Truck – Roy, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 3200
Dead End Night – Roy, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 12800
Trolley Bus – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 12800
Wrong Way – Centerville, UT – Fujifilm X100V – ISO 12800
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