LESS IS MORE, a bicycle I recently created for my own pleasure
Although bicycles and motorcycles have nothing to do with my photography, photographing them is the best way to share my creations with people who are hot on two-wheels riding and fine mechanics as I am. This is why I just opened a new Flickr account where my custom-made bikes (both engined and pedalled) will be showcased. I will not post production models (I own some too), it would be pointless. If your are interested, follow the link to Two-wheeled Galassi and enjoy yourself. A couple of new bicycles I'm currently working on will come in the next months, so if you like what you see, stay tuned.
The derelict Mira Lanza factory in Rome Sigma DP2 Merrill - Fixed Sigma 30mm (45mm eq.) prime w/polarizer 1/100" f8 ISO 100 Converted into monochrome with Silver Efex Pro 2
Commenting my last post, PhotoGraphia reader Mark asked me if I could share some of my monochrome workflow. Here is a concise how-to which I hope you will find useful:
In your camera's menu, set sharpness to the lower value: white-border artifacts tend to become obvious in mono conversions.
Again in your camera's menu, set picture mode to the most "natural" or "standard" or "neutral" color value: oversaturated or overcontrasted files make lousy b&w conversions.
While shooting, use your live histogram in order to avoid highlights clipping; if in doubt, underexpose a little bit.
Remember that sensors, like film, feed on light: more light always means better results.
Rely on jpg if you are a good photographer and are very familiar with your camera's behavior. Otherwise shoot raw.
At home, open your file in your photo-editing application and tweak levels in order to get a full-range histogram, from far left to far right (a brightness-calibrated monitor is de rigueur).
Launch Nik Silver Efex Pro plug-in and select the red or yellow color filter to begin with. You can also tweak filter's hue and/or intensity according to your needs.
Second step: generously push the luminosity/midtones slider to the left. This will exceedingly darken your image: it's all right.
Now try and recover highlights by alternatively pushing the dynamic-brightness or the white-enhancer cursor to the right (the former could cause halos around objects surrounded by a plain dark sky, while the latter could give too much contrast). This is when your photograph almost takes its final looks.
Never use "structure" sliders on the whole image: this will spoil your job with fake-sharpness borders and artifacts. At most, sharpen your image locally (see next step).
Use Nik's control-point technology to brighten/darken/contrast/uncontrast/sharpen/soften limited areas of your image: you can activate as many of them as you wish, and -believe me- the whole job is a breeze.
If your composition needs a little visual help, maybe you would add some vignetting to it. You better postpone this enhancement and use your photo-editing application: Silver Efex does a lousy vignetting job.
And now the final step. Go to the toning options and select a hue value of 30° with a 20% of "silver tone". This is the way I always warm up my black&white tone a little bit, in order to be sure that the CMYK printing conversion will remain on the warm side (I hate random blueish tones in my printed photographs). Of course cold-tone lovers can pick their tone values accordingly.
Back to the photo-editing application, check the histogram: sometimes the highlight slider needs a little adjustment.
The final touch, if needed, is a smooth curve tweaking, in order to get exactly the brightness and density your photograph deserves.
Proudly post/print your photograph and be happy.
Chimneys of the Aragonese Castel in Ischia Island Sigma DP2 Merrill - Fixed Sigma 30mm (45mm eq.) prime w/polarizer 1/100" f8 ISO 100 Converted into monochrome with Silver Efex Pro 2
Sigma DP1X - Fixed Sigma 16.6mm (28mm eq.) prime 1/640" f5.6 ISO 100 Monochrome conversion via Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
I'm not the typical wide-angle photographer. Most of my best photographs have been shot using a focal length between 50 and 140mm (full-frame equivalent). So, after adding the DP3 Merrill to my Sigma Foveon kit I wouldn't spend the same amount of money for a DP1 Merrill. I managed to find an affordable second hand DP1X instead, and immediately tested it to see if the former generation Foveon sensor, despite its far lesser definition, could deliver the same deep, creamy, tack sharp and threedimensional mono conversions as its younger Merrill-series sibling. Judging from those first-day images it does. Surely a 2640x1760 native definition won't allow huge printing, but, thanks to its stunning resolution, for book publishing purposes it's more than enough, and I'm fine with it.
Sigma DP1X - Fixed Sigma 16.6mm (28mm eq.) prime 1/1000" f5.6 ISO 100 Monochrome conversion via Nik Silver Efex Pro 2