Optic 2016: Somewhere over the Chromatic Rainbow, with Vincent Versace


Nikon Ambassador, Epson Stylus Pro, and Lexar Elite Photographer Vincent Versace has traveled extensively to remote locations and returned with stunning black-and-white imagery that not only captures the spirit of the place, but enhances an aesthetic value that makes each photograph an instant masterpiece. In this B&H Online Video, Versace shows you how to train your eye to maximize photographic style and impact using the latest DSLR cameras that are capable of taking images in extremely low light.


I wish that I was able to attend this event. Vincent provided great information, but I have some questions.
1) What about the use of B&W contrast filters: yellow, orange, red, and green?
2) Different films have their own unique look. Kodak TMAX is sharp while Tri-X has a photojournalism look about it. How can conversion of digital to B&W emulate the look desired for B&W?

B&W has a classic look about it. I rediscovered B&W when I got the opportunity to photograph the final Space Shuttle landing from NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC. Since it was a pre-dawn landing, shooting color would be wasted, I picked up a three-pack of Kodak BW400CN and exposed it at ISO 1600, which was still too slow. I should've ordered TMAX 3200 from B&H with next day delivery, but logistics with my invitation approaching the Jewish Sabbath, I didn't think I'd get the 3200 in time for my trip. I did find Kodak Ektar 100 locally to photograph the final launch of Atlantis, but that was a scavenger hunt.

In finishing the rolls of BW400CN, I decided to shoot the year of 2012 exclusively with B&W film. It would be a year of experimentation and of growth for me with the use of various B&W films and B&W contrast filters. It took about three months of shooting before I was able to visualize in B&W. I had one year long project where I photographed the sunrise of the equinoxes and solstices. Did I have "buyer's remorse" about restricting myself to B&W? Absolutely! Particularly when I saw a stunning sunrise or sunset; but I stuck with shooting B&W.

I used traditional silver-based B&W film and C-41 film. I found that Kodak BW400CN scanned images have a sepia tone and Ilford XP-2 has a blue-grey tone.

With the addition of a used film camera in 2013, I now have one loaded with B&W and the other with color. I also added a DSLR in 2013.

While Vincent Versace does not specifically mention B&W contrast filters, I don’t imagine him suggesting them for digital.  B&W contrast filters enable you to assert some control over the tonal value of a film stock (different film stocks having different tonal reproduction curves).  Vincent Versace states that with digital “we can make image specific tonal reproduction curves that are image structure specific” (roughly 10min in).  This is going to be far more fine-tuned than using a filter.  I find that it is better to get as much information as you can to work with when shooting digital, so that you have more latitude when converting or processing the image.  As he says, start with a great color image: you know that an image is a B&W image (Chromatic Grayscale image) when the gesture is so powerful that color would detract from it. 

As for B&W film stock, each does have its own character.  Though in digital, again, you have the ability to fine tune the tonal curve for each image, rather than working within the confines of a set tonal reproduction curve.  That being said, if there are certain film stocks on the market (or perhaps long dead) that you love and would like to emulate, there are plenty of programs that presets that let you choose between various simulated film types: Silver Efex Pro being one, DxO FilmPack 5 Elite Edition being another.