Black & White Flower Silhouettes

Macro flower photography is one of my favorite disciplines to practice during the winter; cold temperatures, dreary weather, and naked trees make the landscapes less palatable for my normal ventures. With macro photography, I can often work indoors and with bright and vibrant flowers that make the frigid days feel a little brighter.

Longwood Gardens is one of the best places on the East Coast for enjoying flowers and plants, and their annual orchid festival is probably my favorite event of the year. It has been several years since I spent a day focused solely on macro flower photography, so I was excited to spend some time there recently.

Using my Nikon D850, a 200mm macro lens, external flash and diffuser, I created the following images. I purposefully used the flash to remove the background because I knew the final image would be printed in black and white. I wanted the prints to be borderline harsh, with strong contrast; I thought there would be some romance to having delicate and soft flowers reproduced with such strong effect.

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Quick Shot: Alone

It was a long hike to get this photo.....well, it was a long hike where I got this photo! After several miles of uphill through a swampy and overgrown mountainside in Wales, I began descending a steep rock face. Looking up along the cliff during my descent, I found this lone tree perched on the cliff. A lone tree would have been photographic, but the bizarre crooked shape of this tree really made the shot!

Photographed with the Leica SL and Leica f/0.95 Noctilux lens. 

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Quick Shot: Rain Storm

Bad weather makes for great photographs, which is contradictory to what most people think. I get a lot of comments from folks on the street who see me with a camera and remark "what a great day for photography" when the sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky. The problem is, nice weather is boring. There isn't drama and contrast to it.  

On the other hand, crap weather is great for photographs, even if it's not great for standing around in. For this particular shot, I had some of both. The sky was sunny and nearly cloud-free over my right shoulder, but to my left was a pop up rain storm and heavy clouds. The contrast was remarkable, and made for some great lighting and drama to photograph. 

I emphasized the dramatic clouds  and contrast of the rain over everything else.... I cropped to 16x9 to give a dramatic air to the whole photograph and converted it to black and white using Nik Silver Efex. Photographed on the coast of Wales with the Leica SL and Leica 24-90mm lens. 

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Quick Shot: I Know This Scene?

Every time I develop a roll of film, I rediscover my love of film. If I had taken this photograph with a digital camera, I probably would have deleted the photo. But with film, there is so much contrast. Such strong blacks. The long shadows catch my eyes. I'm lost..... my eyes can't decide what is happening, but I know this scene. It's familiar, but different. I KNOW this scene?

This is the heart of street photography. This is me capturing an ordinary moment and making it different..... putting a spin on commonality and challenging what you think makes for a great photograph. It's not straight. It's not colorful. It breaks EVERY rule of photography, but I love it.

Shot on the Leica M7 + 50mm Summilux with Adox Silvermax film.

Quick Shot: City Reflection

Reflective surfaces are one of the most fun things to convert to black and white - especially if there is something interesting in the reflection. I took these photographs walking through downtown London with my Leica M-P 240 and converted them to black and white in Nik Silver Effects. All were taken with the Leica 35mm f/2.4 lens, which is one of my favorites for city shooting. 


Film Shootout: Adox Silvermax 100

Film Name: 

Adox Silvermax 100

Type: 

Black and White

ISO: 

100

Grain: 

Fine

Sizes Available: 

35mm only :-(

Size Tested: 

35mm

Development: 

Following MassiveDev chart, using Kodak HC-110B developer. Seven minutes development time, 1 minute stop bath (Ilford), 5 minutes of fixing (Ilford), 10 minute rinse and Kodak Photo-Flo. 

Developing a roll of 35mm Adox Silvermax 100. I measure all of the chemistry first and use the MassiveDev app on my iPad as a timer. Film is loaded into a Paterson tank.

Developing a roll of 35mm Adox Silvermax 100. I measure all of the chemistry first and use the MassiveDev app on my iPad as a timer. Film is loaded into a Paterson tank.

Rinsing is a critical step in development. I always rinse for at least 10 minutes in a heavy flow of water.

Rinsing is a critical step in development. I always rinse for at least 10 minutes in a heavy flow of water.

Fact Sheet (Provided by Manufacturer): 

ADOX SILVERMAX is an orthopanchromatically sensitized B/W film with classical grain and a sensitization optimized for greyscale separation. The film is made from two separate emulsions in a single layer coating and yields a very large exposure latitude.

SILVERMAX has an increased silver-content compared to regular negative films. This enables him to built up a DMAX of >3,0 if reversal developed or reproduces up to 14 zones in our dedicated SILVERMAX Developer if developed to a negative.

This way SILVERMAX catches it all for you: brightest highlights and deepest shaddows. SILVERMAX is incredibly sharp due to it ́s anti-halation layer between the emulsion and the base.

The detail contrast is enhanced by this as well. SILVERMAX features an extremely fine grain, comparable to tabular-crystal films. This speed and covering effect comes from the high silver content. SILVERMAX is coated onto clear triacetate and can be reversal processed in the SCALA process or any other reversal process. 

Packaging:

Packaging of a 35mm roll is a black plastic case with a textured grip cap.  Expiration date is printed on the bottom of the label. Label contains information in both German (the film is made in Germany) and English.

The exterior of a roll of 35mm Adox Silvermax film

The exterior of a roll of 35mm Adox Silvermax film

Canister guts left over after extracting the film for developing

Canister guts left over after extracting the film for developing

The exterior of the film canister. I liked this film so much that I purchased another 10 rolls of the stuff before my first had even finished drying. Sadly, it's harder to find in the states than it is in Europe.

The exterior of the film canister. I liked this film so much that I purchased another 10 rolls of the stuff before my first had even finished drying. Sadly, it's harder to find in the states than it is in Europe.

Scanning:

The 35mm film was scanned on an Epson V700 scanner using the provided film trays and Silverfast 8 software. I scanned for internet and printing, so the files were not the absolute best the scanner can achieve, but I don't need a million DPI either. I set the scanner to 900dpi using a RGB color profile. 

User Review:

Adox is a German company that only makes a small selection of films. From what I've found on the internet, they are less commonly found in the United States - the film is also several dollars per roll more expensive in the states than in Europe! I'll be stocking up before I move back home.

Adox claims that this film has an extra silver content, which allows for extreme latitude in the exposures and, if developed in their special developer, the film will offer an incredible 14 zones of dynamic range. Holy crap! My digital SLR offers less than half that many stops of dynamic range! Unfortunately, everyone in the UK who sells the developer was sold out at the time of writing, so I had to resort to HC-110B, a popular developer from Kodak. As soon as I can get my hands on some of the Silvermax developer, I will put it to the test.

My first roll of Silvermax was shot during a long weekend trip to the Lake District in northern England. I also shot several popular Kodak and Ilford films that weekend, but the negatives from my Silvermax roll are by FAR my favorites. There is more contrast, more definition between blacks and more "umpf" than some of the other films. By comparison, those films were very blah grey- they didn't have the same contrast and grab of the Silvermax. 

I absolutely adore this film. It took one roll for me to be hooked, and I haven't even finished testing all of my other black and white films! Yes, Ilford has some nice films, but this was in another league, in my opinion. I loved it so much, I ordered another 10 rolls before the first one had finished drying following development!

Most film photographers will recommend that you find one film and stick with it so that you can learn the nuances of that film. As soon as I finish all of these reviews, Silvermax will become a permanent resident in my Leica 35mm camera.

I have two complaints about this film. First, in the United States it isn't as widely sold and it costs far more in the USA than in Europe. Second, they only make it in 35mm. I would LOVE to shoot this film in 120mm sizes, but Adox is saying that they will only offer it in 35mm and Super 8. Bummer. This means I HAVE to be a two film shooter, and I don't like that.

Even without using the Adox developer, these negatives show incredible dynamic range in the shadows and highlights.

Quick Shot: Boardwalk

Using my digital SLR camera, I was always taking a color image and converting it to black and white, but using black and white film opens a new world of possibilities. Suddenly I find myself evaluating a scene for contrast and tonality and trying to make an educated guess about how that will translate onto the black and white film emulsions.

I had been walking along a coastal section of England's Lake District taking photographs of the sand dunes and waves. While the images were interesting, I wasn't overly inspired with the subject and was headed back to the car when I turned around to see the path I'd just been walking. The late afternoon sun was casting a nice glow across the top of the grass, but there were some dark shadows along the path as well.... I figured it would make for a good black and white image, so I grabbed the Leica MP and fired a single exposure. Turns out, it was my favorite photograph from the walk on the beach!

Shot on Kodak TMax 100; developed in my home studio and scanned on an Epson V700 scanner.

Quick Shot: Classic Vinyl

Around the world, classic vinyl sales are starting to make a return with young folks wanting to enjoy the high quality sound offered by records. It seems we're all going backwards.... I'm shooting more film too!

I had the Leica 35mm MP handy while walking through an outdoor stall selling records in Cambridge. While my friend flipped through the "latest offerings" from the 1970s, I people watched, waiting to strike with a photo at the first opportunity. This older gentleman approached the records and started flipping through this stack. When he plucked one particular cover up for closer inspection, I pounced - shooting quickly to get the expression as he read the cover. I can only imagine what was going through his head..... was he reading the cover from one of the records of his youth? 

Quick Shot: First 120mm Pup

Last week I decided to expand my camera collection with a Rolleiflex T White Face, which was one of the last models made in 1974 (by my math, it was about 4K away from being the last one!).

This camera takes 120mm film, which is a new format for me to work with, but that I'm really excited about. It's larger than 35mm film, but not as big and bulky as my 4x5 large format camera. 

I recently started trying to develop my own film at home, so yesterday I decided to burn a roll around my house playing with the new camera and processing techniques, figuring "what-the-heck" - better to play around with new gear and techniques when I am not traveling!

My dog, Juno, was a pretty good sport about posing and I got several decent negatives out of the process, but I'll share this one today. This weekend, now that I've gotten the practice out of the way, I'll take the camera out for some real work!

Quick Shot: Aerial Train Tunnel

One of my favorite places to photograph in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is the picturesque train tunnel and bridge that connects the railroad in Maryland to West Virginia. The mouth of the tunnel a place I've photographed previously and knew I wanted to try and shoot during my recent visit when I had my DJI Phantom Vision 2+ quadcopter in tow.

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to predict when trains are going to come through Harpers Ferry - I've had days when it seemed like they came every 10 minutes and other days when it feels like they never come through. So although it would be wonderful to catch a train on the bridge during one of the flights, I had no expectations of actually getting lucky. About 15 minutes into my second flight, as I was coming in to land, I heard the rumble and horn of an approaching train. With barely any time to spare, I quickly moved the copter into view of the tunnel to capture some aerial photos and videos of the train as it emerged.

Quick Shot: Rocks and Waves

Like my 10 minute photograph from a few days ago, this is a merge of several photographs to create a temporal photo. Unlike the one from earlier this week, this photo only represents about a minute of time because the sand kept shifting my tripod, making it difficult to keep everything perfectly stable.

Thankfully, three photos was all I needed to catch the drama of the waves and some nice clouds! This photograph was taken near the fishing pier at Leesylvania State Park and I used two stacked neutral density filters to create a long exposure. To create the final image, I merged these into a 32 bit photo in Adobe Photoshop Photo Merge. I then used Nik Silver Efex Pro to convert the photograph to black and white.

When I took this series, I wasn't optimistic about the outcome, but the final result was much better than expected! In fact, it's one of my favorites from the weekend. 

The dramatic rocks and waves at Leesylvania State Park were captured with a merge of three photographs

Quick Shot: US Navy SBD-5 Airplane

The Douglas SBD-5 "Dauntless" was one of the US Navy's most prolific killers during World War II. Unfortunately, after the war ended, most of the aircraft were left to decay and today there are only two SBD-5's in the world that can still fly....

... and this is one of them!

Based at the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force in Georgia, this SBD-5 is still airworthy and flies routinely. I am always excited to photograph aircraft like this that are so rare - it's my chance to capture one of the few remaining pieces of US history. 

It was pouring rain all day during my shoot at the Dixie Wing, but the rain stopped long enough for a few rays of sunlight to peak through the clouds, creating a dramatic cloud scene. I got my shot and minutes later it was back to a solid grey sky and pouring rain - but that was okay!

I like this photograph in black and white because it shows off the drama of the sky and gives the aircraft an old and majestic feel. I am very pleased with how this photograph turned out, but more importantly, am satisfied that I captured one of two airworthy SBD-5's left with the beauty and glory it deserves!

One of two airworthy Douglas SBD-5's remaining in the world, located at the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.


Quick Shot: Norfolk Southern

Trains are a fascinating part of American history.... I've always enjoyed photographing trains, but I particularly adore the opportunities I have to photograph trains that are still moving America's economy today. 

Two weeks ago I found this Norfolk Southern train stopped for service and jumped at the chance to photograph it. The train was carrying railroad ties and was being used to lay and repair track along southwest Virginia. The locomotive was dirty from use, but still had a majestic look at it sat on the tracks.  

It's an incredibly simple photograph, but I love the detail in the train and surrounding scenery. I particularly like the photograph in black and white, where the symbolic Norfolk Southern jumping horse pops on the front of the locomotive. 

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Quick Shot: Moonrise

I've posted alot of bird photos as Quick Shots recently, so today I'm taking a break from birds to share a photo I took on Assateauge Island a few weeks ago. 

Although my primary goal was to photograph birds and horses, I had a great opportunity to also photograph a moonrise on the first day. My only regret was that I didn't control the foreground more!

I like this photo because it requires you to do a double-take. At first it seems to be a fairly common scene, but on closer inspection, a viewer realizes there is a large bright moon on the horizon. 

I converted the image to black-and-white to help the moon jump out of the scene. The same image in color lost some of the impact and the viewer might not realize what they were looking at. 

Shot with the Nikon D800 and Nikon 24-70mm lens. 

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Quick Shot: Grazing

During my recent trip to Assateague Island, one of my goals had been to get a serene photo of a horse grazing in the marshes. I knew the horses tended to go inland to the marsh during the day, but in several days of shooting, I'd had limited success seeing any horses that I could get close enough to photograph. 

On our final day at Assateauge Island, we set out at 7am in hopes of catching a brief glimpse of morning activity. As we arrived in the marshes, we saw a herd of horses grazing in the marshes - exactly the shot I'd wanted but had been loosing hope of actually getting. 

The horses were moving slowly as they grazed on the swamp grass, giving me plenty of opportunities to move around and vary the lighting on my subject. 

At one point I was able to get in a position that isolated one of the horses by himself. The sun was just above the tree line, hitting the top of his neck with a soft glow of light. I immediately knew the image would look best in black and white and I adjusted my exposure slightly with the final image in mind.

I shot a wide depth of field to capture all the detail and texture of the grasses and intentionally underexposed the horses body to highlight the soft light on his neck and back. 

The final image was adjusted in Adobe Photoshop CS6 and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. 

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Quick Shot: Cave

I found myself in Malibu Beach last year for a few days and wanted to shoot the coastline. There was one particular area of Malibu Beach that I knew had some caves to explore when the tide was out. I grabbed the camera and wore some water shoes to get the shot! 

The cave photo proved to be a bit of a challenge. The waves would come up high enough to hit my mid-calf with every wave. At first I tried to run in and out between the waves to get the shot and minimize how wet I got (besides the shoes, I was dressed inappropriately as I'd just come from work). That didn't work - my timing was bad and I ended up with foot prints in the shot. After a bit of trial and error, I decided to just roll the pants up as high as they'd go and hope the dry cleaner wouldn't be too mad at me!

It worked - I got several shots, but selected this one. I liked the seagull in the background and it had nice detail in the cave shadow.  

Shot with the Nikon D7000 and edited with Adobe Photoshop. Black and White conversion done with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. 

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