Black and White Beach Photography – Film in the Digital World

Black and White Beach Photography is just one of the many subjects I love to photograph using B&W film.
My fine art work is taken with an old manual Leica rangefinder and a hand held light meter. To me this is the purest way to capture subject, light and texture.

There was a point in my life where I stood firm and stated I would never go “digital”. But as I learned more about the software and it’s capabilities, it has now become a “tool” for the final image in my creative process. My chosen software is Adobe Photoshop.

As a black and white nature and street photographer based in NYC, access to darkrooms is limited. I didn’t have the flexibility I needed to work on my photographs. So I developed a work flow that suits my creative style. I love the fact that I can be working any time day or night using the few pieces of equipment I have in my studio. I share my methods to allow you another creative option and bridge the film and digital world.

Most of my black and white beach photographs are taken at dusk; I shoot with ISO 400 B&W (35mm) Ilford film. This is my favorite time a day to capture the light and shadows. Once I have completed my day of shooting, I take the film to a lab on 22nd street in NYC. (*When you use a lab, make sure they are experienced in processing Black & White film. Color processing and Black & White processing are very different; your film can be ruined if not done correctly.) Ask them to develop the film without cutting. You can also have them print contact sheets, but I find this unnecessary as you will see in the next step. (A good lab will also ask you if you “pushed” or “pulled” the film while shooting so they can compensate in developing.)

Once your film is ready to go, the next step in this process is scanning the negatives on to your computer. I use an Epson V700 flat bed scanner. As with all equipment there are pro’s and con’s with each type. Ultimately your choice will be made based on your budget and image end use. When setting up the scan, set the resolution for how big you final output will be. I usually scan the negative at 100%, with the resolution at 6400dpi. That gives me a large image to work with once I convert the scan to 300dpi in Photoshop. I also suggest leaving the scan pure, meaning don’t let the scanning software adjust exposure, remove dust, sharpen etc. As great as these features sound, they are all pre-set and may do more harm than good. If you scan the film without adjustments, you can make changes in the editing stage with Photoshop. This give you the freedom to make all necessary changes as you see artistically appropriate.

I usually fill the negative carrier with 4 strips (or 24 images) and let it scan. Based on the size and resolution you choose for your output this will take up to 60 minutes. Shut down all other applications to keep this running smoothly. (I would also recommend scanning to an external hard drive as these files will eat up quite a bit of space on your computer.)

This scanner also gives you the option of choosing one frame at a time, where you will “marquis” the size. I use this with night shots where the scanner cannot pick up the edge of the frame. I also use this when I want to include the negative border as part of the final print. Once you compete the scan, you can then print your own contact sheet.

Part of why I enjoy this process is that I know there will always be a negative to work from in case anything crashes or gets deleted. As you continue with this process you will find what works best for you.

In my next article, I will talk about how I use the Photoshop Software to enhance the image. I look forward to comments and questions. I hope you found this information useful!

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