For this exercise, choose a subject, lighting condition or picture situation that you think may look better (to you) in black and white than in regular colour. Compose and expose for the black-and-white version that you will later process. You should find that you need to deal with rather different concerns, paying attention to shape and volume for instance. Process the image for black-and-white and write down what effect shooting for black-and-white had on your choices of subject, framing, the details of composition and exposure.
This image is from the local nature reserve where I’ve passed the scene many times and I’ve made the occasional image of it. When it came to working on this black-and-white section I immediately thought that I’d find what I was looking for in the reserve. I’d made quite a few images before I came to this bench, and quite a lot more after it, but as I looked at this scene I immediately saw the image I wanted.
The form is the main thing, to me, that shows itself better in black-and-white than the colour image alongside, which is what I wanted, because the colour is changed to tones of black-and-white and does not distract from the form. The grass in the colour image catches the attention immediately, whereas the bench catches the attention first in the black-and-white. The composition and framing are no different in this image to any other I would make in colour because the bench is the subject and needs to be the dominant item there.
I also find that the texture has changed in the black-and-white version. The bench in the colour image has a slimy appearance to me whereas the black-and-white version has lost that look.
I found that whilst I was hunting for images that would process well into black-and-white I was tending to look more at form, contrast and shadow and light. I think this is because they have so much stronger influence on the outcome in black-and-white than in colour.
Ansel Adams was a past master at catching all the above in his landscapes, and when you look at his images from the Yosemite Valley series he certainly did, to me these are glorious examples and without doubt some of the best he made.