Category Archives: black & white photography



For my photographer-friends, ASMP has announced what has already become my best resource for all things photographic… Take a look at dpBestflow, a site funded by the Library of Congress. Let me know what you think.

Also posted in landscape photography, processing Tagged , , |

A Final Portrait

Not long before he died, Ken Taylor needed a new photograph of himself for a magazine. He apologized for the brevity of our time together and the lack of an “inspired” location – his office.

It was not unlike him to spend our time together worrying about how he should pose. This session, like most with him, was over before he thought it had begun. It was easy to capture images of this truly humble man.

I had photographed him a number of times over the years and I suspected that this would be our last shoot together. I could not feel badly that he didn’t wish to spend more moments of what little time he had having his picture taken.

This particular photo has not been published before and I like it because – although a silhouette – it reveals much about his personality and his life. As the author of the Living Bible he could have been a very proud man. Instead he remains a humble servant in the shadows of the God he represents.


Ken Taylor

Ken Taylor

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Also posted in experiments, old photo assignment, Uncategorized Tagged |

The Value of Image Processing

“What’s this ‘processing charge’ on my estimate? You’re still shooting film or what?”

What had been “film, processing and scanning” on my estimates years ago are now billed collectively as “processing”. Although I don’t hear that from clients as often as I have in the past, some of my customers still wonder what it all means.

Rarely do images come out of the camera ready to go to print or to put on the web. In this photo of Dave Veerman, partner at the Livingstone Corporation, I used a generic fluorescent white balance setting on my camera. Having shot in the camera’s RAW format, I knew I could easily fine tune this later. Knowing that each room in which I shot this series of portraits would have a different white balance as well as mixed light sources, I opted to just come close with the white balance. Taking the time to try to perfect this in camera would have taken time away from the subjects. With mixed light sources, this was impossible anyway.

Below is the progression of the image from the in-camera RAW file to color and contrast-corrected file to final B&W file. (I aslo delivered a B&W version to the client hoping that they might use this for its corporate-warming effect.)

Camera Version

This is how the RAW file looked upon opening it in Capture NX. It was shot using a generic fluorescent white balance. The primary light source was an overhead fluorescent light. There was also light coming in from a window to the right.


Dave Veerman

image as viewed RAW

Processed Image

In Capture NX I changed the white balance to indicate a fluorescent 3850º kelvin light source. This brought the entire image into a more natural-looking color balance including the artwork on the wall. Using curves I slightly increased contrast. I then removed a considerable amount of blue from the right side of the face that had received the daylight. The eyes were slightly brightened and the hand slightly darkened.

I then changed the resolution for web use and used unsharp masking to increase overall sharpness for this blog representation. It’s important to note that the type and amount of sharpening is dependent upon final output size and type. Each use requires very different sharpening criteria.

image as processed

image as processed

Black & White File

There are an extraordinary number of options for black & white conversion. We rarely use a generic “convert to black and white.” For this image I used CS4 to create a relatively gritty look but one that I feel still conveys the feeling of warmth.

image processed as B&W

image processed as B&W

Okay, so all of this takes time and that is why we bill for processing. This is a tremendous value for our clients. We don’t consider any of this to be retouching. That will be discussed at another time.

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New Look… New Focus

The garden that has been my source of inspiration – and food – since April is beginning its natural decline.  The cooler weather and shorter daylight hours are suspending growth to all but the newly-planted carrots and turnips. It’s almost time to put it to bed for the year.

I’ve enjoyed the process tremendously and have accomplished most of what I had hoped. My experiments with gardening will continue and I will include some of those in future posts.

I regret not featuring some of my friends’ gardens as I had hoped. My friend Dave, for instance, has a wonderful garden and a greenhouse that he built. I had every intension of taking some photos and featuring that but… well, next year.

The focus of the new blog – photo-synthesis …a new light on old themes – will take a look at the creation of photographs – both personal and assignment photos. We’ll not only look at recent assignment successes and failures but I will take a look back at some early “interesting” – okay, nightmare assignments.

I would really like your input in this thing. Everyone is free to comment.

I’m using this photo of my grandson to introduce a new look and a new focus. Noah is sitting on a deserted Lake Superior beach with a blank slate in front of him. This is how I approach each photo assignment and how I want to view this blog.


Noah on Lake Superior

Noah on Lake Superior

Also posted in Uncategorized Tagged , |

My Nerdish Side Comes Out



It occurs to me that an awful lot of what happens in a garden involves insects and spiders.  Because of that I have spent an unusual amount of time watching and photographing them this month.

If you’d like to see a gallery of the results of this please take a look at Insect Portraits.

I find that observing behavior is as fascinating whether it’s children playing in a park or dueling insects on my broccoli plants. Creating environmental portraits in both situations is a challenge I’ve always been prepared to take on. Both require some patience, a little knowledge and good light – just like gardening.

Also posted in insects Tagged , , , , |

Faux Mercury



water beads on broccoli

water beads on broccoli


I’ve mentioned before that rain causes some visual transformations in the garden. This has caused me to discover an amazing fact about the broccoli plant. It is completely waterproof. Water beads up on the large leaves giving the illusion of a garden of mercury.


What is now known to be a hazardous element was years ago a fascinating childhood toy. A broken thermometer in our house was the beginning of an adventure for my brother and me. Watching the silvery metal bead in my hand – then crushing it into miniscule pieces only to have it reform into a single bead – was a miracle.

If you have broccoli in your garden you may want to run out there this week (there’s going to be a lot of rain in the Chicago area) and you may experience a little of that childhood miracle without the hazard.

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