Black and White Photography of New York - Dave Beckerman

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Dancing Hasidm

30 September, 2008 (20:18) | 8 comments

dancing-hasidm-5494 Dancing Hasidm

Sigma 30mm / ASA 400 / Camera: 40D

Not much time to shoot lately because business has picked up a lot.

On a more technical note - I did a 23 x 36 inch print straight through LR without using my usual extrapolation program, and it turned out - well - excellent.  I just cropped it (it’s really not cropping is it if you go larger?) to the desired size.

In the print settings, I set sharpening to LOW. Paper to Glossy (this is on Silver Rag).  In the development module, just a touch of sharpening (15%).

No artifacts.  Nice and sharp.  And a bunch of things in the shot that I didn’t see when I was looking at it on the screen.

There are three tiny dots in the sky which are now fully visible, crisp seagulls. You can see untied shoelaces.  Who’s wearing glasses and who isn’t (uh, they’re all wearing glasses except for one kid).  And you can see every gleaming button, even the holes in one of the buttons -  on their clothing.

I printed it at 180 dpi (usually for smaller prints I like to print at 360dpi).  In short, given that this is as large as I can print a shot from the 40D on my Epson 7800 - impressive.

The 50D / 5D II will give me the ability to crop as needed and to go super large.


Amazon S3

29 September, 2008 (13:52) | 8 comments

A while back - maybe a year or two - I signed up with Amazon S3 for archiving purposes.  At that time, my upload speed with roadrunner was too slow to do anything meaningful.  But the speed has increased, and this morning I setup S3 with Jungle Disk software and voila - I’m in business.  I’m getting something like 500K to 900K / second and I can now do an export from Lightroom (just pick the good files) and export them to my Z drive which is an S3 drive.

I can keep the same file structure as I’m using on my local drive.  And I can schedule overnight backups.

So for once, I think I have a reliable archival system (i.e. hard drives and DVDs all fail at some point or other).  It will also free up more usable space on my own local drives for production work.

* * *

Jungle Disk

Amazon S3


E-Mail Bag (50d II or 5D)

27 September, 2008 (20:50) | 10 comments

Mr. Beckerman,

All I wanted was to ask you is: why don’t you use a full-frame camera body? Why did you choose a 40d over a 5d?


Hi W.

Good question.  At the time that the 5D and 40D were available, the 40D had something that I was very interested in: highlight priority.  This is a setting that allows more info to go into the higher end of the histogram, and makes one of the problems with digital cameras (getting decent highlights) easier.

I had used the 20d before, and sold it because I had too many issues with “blown highlights.”  The 40D with this highlight priority setting immediately solved that issue for me.

Now that I have to choose again (or do I), between the 50D or the 5D II, I’m inclined towards the 50D for a few reasons though it’s a VERY close call.

- I have a sigma 30mm f1.4 cropped sensor lens which I love.  Almost all my shooting is done with that.

- When you are using a cropped sensor, you can “cut out” the softer parts of the lens (i.e. the corners) so you’re always using the best part of the lens.  On the other hand, they are building fixes for this light drop off into the 50D and the 5D II, so maybe that’s no longer an issue.  Though it doesn’t solve the issue with most lenses where the best resolution is in the center of the frame.

- The 40/50/d cameras are a bit smaller and lighter.

- For street photography, the cropped sensor gives you more depth of field than when you’re working with a full-frame sensor.

- I don’t think I need, or want 21mp, at least in terms of storage / archiving / backup that’s going to be an issue; though on the other hand you can just set it to 21mp when you want something that you know you’ll want to go really large.

All in all — frankly — I don’t know myself what to do and I’ve been going back and forth between the 50D and the 5D II.  The II can go a bit further in terms of ISO, but I don’t know if that’s overkill or not.

And I suppose, that finally - there’s the price / lifecycle of a digital camera.  The life cycle of the digital camera is say 18 months.  Then the latest and greatest comes out.  I think I’m more comfortable going through the 40D - 50D - maybe the 60D etc. rather than plunking down more money for the 5D II and whatever comes next in that line.  If I were shooting commerical studio work, etc. then maybe the top of the line is necessary.

BUT  as I say — I could go either way right now.  If I bought the 5D II, then I would need to buy a fast 35mm f1.4 Canon lens and a good one is costly.

That’s my thinking.  If you follow the blog and find out that a few months from now that I’ve decided to go for the 5D II - don’t be surprised (though I don’t see that in the cards right now).  But I could just as easily go for the 50D (given that I  love the 40D).  In fact, my only reason for upgrading is for a few more pixels and an extra stop or two of ISO.

So that’s it.  I hope that shows you that my thinking is as confused as everybody elses :)




Lightroom 2.1

20 September, 2008 (00:23) | No comments

The “release candidate” of Lightroom 2.1 is available.  Bug fixes, and I’m wondering if some progressive slowness issues with the brush tool were fixed as well as some Photoshop interoperability stuff.  Anyway, I had run into a number of other bugs that are now reported fixed.  Will download and install soon.

Here’s the link to the fixes.

* * *

A day later.  Yes, the brush painting in LR 2.1 is working much better.  So far it hasn’t slowed down to a crawl as in the previous version of LR.  The upgrade went smoothly for me.  No issues.


Fruitstand - Infrared

14 September, 2008 (13:31) | 2 comments

fruit-stand-0450-copy Fruitstand - Infrared

It’s taken me a while to get around to it, but I’ve made a Lightroom preset that creates this interpretation from the Lifepixel converted XT RAW file.  It uses one of the custom DNG profiles I made and a bunch of LR tweaks.  I’m pretty happy with it so far.  It does have a tendency to blow out highlights, but that can be easily corrected with one of the graduation filters, or by dropping the exposure a bit.  But it’s a very good starting point.

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Contact Sheet (Two Kids)

14 September, 2008 (09:12) | 2 comments

contact sheet

Here’s one of those examples where I never did quite get “the shot” that I had in mind, but it gives you some idea of how I was going about it.  I suppose that I was hoping that both kids would be turned to face me at the same time, and that the two nannies would get closer together and maybe something magical would happen, at least in terms of symmetry… expressions… something.

People kept walking into the shot.  The kids were squirming this way and that.  And nothing really did fall into place.  Even if it had, I’m not sure it would have been a great shot, but it’s a good example of what goes on when you are trying to make something happen.

Most of my better shots - are just quick snaps with maybe one or two lesser shots around them.

I suspect that most good photographers are a lot like prospectors.  They know that 90% of the time they are going to return empty-handed.  But when they make that one great strike, it makes the rest of the failures worthwhile.


Lightroom Killer Tips

12 September, 2008 (08:36) | No comments

Lightroom Killer Tips is a great site, with lots of good instructional videos.

As mentioned, I’ve been using the Camera Calibration tab a lot lately, and one of the great tips that LRKT had recently was to setup presets with each Calibration Profile that you use.  What this gives you is the ability to roll the mouse over each camera preset and see the results in the navigator.

Here’s a link to the LR preset video.

This way you don’t have to select each preset to see what the results will be.

On a similar note, when you are searching for a starting white balance, once you’ve selected the white balance tool (just hit W) you can roll over the image and see the results in the navigator.  When I began playing with white balance, I was confused by the term “neutral area.”  Did they mean that the balance should be taken off something “white,” or “gray.”  Turns out that neutral means that all three channels (RGB) are pretty close in value.  Also, that white is not the way to go.  Usually something gray is a good place to start, but I was surprised to find that by rolling over various areas, it wasn’t always the gray area that gave the most pleasing results.

Anyway - just wanted to give a nod to the Killer Tips site as it has been very helpful to me as I’m learning color processing.


Waiting for the Pope

11 September, 2008 (07:44) | 9 comments


pope-5615-copy Waiting for the Pope

I think this is a good example of the different effect of a color street shot v. black and white rendition.  The color shot gives a lot more information, what the colors are of the participants.  This tends to place it more into a certain time and place.  It is more real in that way.  While it brings out the fashion, the skin color, the accessories etc. this also hides some features.  The babies eyes, for example, peer out at you in the b&w shot.  In fact, all of the expressions are “stronger” in the black and white version.  And some things are left out in the b&w version.  It’s not as clear that the woman with the baby is a nurse.

When people say that black and white has a timeless quality - I think this is why.  Colors, especially in street scenes, but in many other instances, bring you into the present time.  The b&w removes these color clues, and the sense of time is not as strong.

The color shot, in twenty years will seem very set in time.  The black and white shot, not as much.

Of course, neither one is better or worse - but the effect is different with street shots.  If you’re shooting nature, then the colors don’t give this sort of cultural clue as tree colors etc. are pretty much the same in any era.

Well, I think that explains why color has been tougher for street shots; whereas b&w can keep the forms, the expressions etc. without placing them in a particular era unless that’s something you want to do.

pope-bw-5615 Waiting for the Pope

There really is no secret formula for creating color shots that have the features of black and white.  Yes, I’ve seen all sorts of attempts at it, subduing colors, only using several tones etc. (and I’ve played with them all) but it is a matter of trade-offs.  The color street shot is simply going to give more information, and more clues to time, fashion,  economic status, race, and all sorts of odds and ends; and the black and white street shot is going to simplify the scene so that expressions, eyes, how people are standing, how the figures are relating or not relating to each other, will be more prominent.

I knew this before on an instictive level.  Now I feel I understand what was behind that instinct.

There is a third choice - which is the toned photograph.  This keeps the aesthetic elements of b&w in place but gives a feeling of warmth or coolness.  Sort of a middle-ground.

(As an aside, neither one of these shots have been carefully prepared - they’re just presets in lightroom.  If I were going to choose one to work on it would be the b&w shot.  I’d like to bring out the restaurant worker in the background that needs to be lightened up. )

However, just to further complicate things - some images - yes even street shots - are better in color (such as this one below).  So - some sort of conclusion is called for - and this is it: it mostly depends on what information is important in the shot.  I think that has something to do with how many elements there are.  The red lipstick, the blue hat - I think they make this shot more interesting.

And sometimes, there are too many elements to control in the color shot and black and white brings out the important parts (or what you think are important) better.

bird-lady-5643-copy Waiting for the Pope

So my not-so-brief forrays into only color, or only b&w seem to be winding down. I suppose that I’ll simply have to live with the fact that in the future, it won’t be all or nothing, but what works best for the image.

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Turnstile Swipe

8 September, 2008 (19:46) | 4 comments

Yes, I realize that I posted this one before, but it was in b&w.

turnstile-swipe-18641 Turnstile Swipe

On a technical color note - I am having trouble getting the web image colors right.  By right, I mean what I see in Photoshop or Lightroom. (Monitor calibrated.  Prints with profiles for particular paper, correct).

So I’m working in colorspace: Adobe 98, and then I convert the file to sRGB.  With the “Windows” proof selected, it looks correct.  With “monitor” proof, it has a reddish cast, and is more saturated, or maybe just darker.  And when I do “Save for web” and do the “2-up” thing so I can compare the source and destination images - the web destination image is definitely too red.

What I’ve done is to create an action to put some more cyan into the web image, and that is closer to what I see in Adobe RGB.  So what’s the trick?  Do I have to be working in sRGB as my workspace in PS so that it doesn’t change when the jpg is created for the web?

If I change my workspace color preferences to “monitor” - then “save for web” output matches the photoshop source output exactly.  But that’s not good for printing.

Anyway - I’m sure you have the solution.

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Man on Rock (2)

6 September, 2008 (13:16) | 2 comments

man-on-rock-2977 Man on Rock (2)

Yes, I’ve redone this shot.  The man (who preaches, or at least used to) on Park Avenue everyday - usually waving a torn bible in your face - sits on the rock after a deluge and lets his clothes dry in the sun.

In my world, I continue down this narrow path of working in color and infrared and make some progress.  I want to try and take some of the techniques I’ve learned and apply them to “normal” color shots I’ve done.  I suppose this is a water-color sort of technique, where various tinted washes are daubed onto the paper.  Lines and tints, but at least for me, no visible brushstrokes.

To create this image, the workflow goes like this:

Start with the RAW file in Lightroom.  Make sure it is zeroed out, i.e. no sharpening, linear curve for tone, etc. and I use a recipe I created in Adobe DNG profiler which which takes the very red raw image and helps separate tones from it.  In general, the best I can do from infrared is come up with distinct tones, usually, red, blue, yellow, white, and black.  Sometimes a bit of green will come through.  Read more…

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New Inkjet Paper for Me

4 September, 2008 (12:37) | 5 comments

After using the Crane Museo Silver Rag since before it came out - I was able to get beta of the paper - I’m starting to use the Epson F Gloss Exhibition Paper for orders.  I can’t really use it for the stuff that normally would be done with roll paper, the larger prints, but so long as I don’t mix papers in one order, I’m going for the Epson paper.

I know that we’ve come to a point where there are now lots of new fiber (darkroom-ish) papers being produced and I really can’t test them all - nor do I see any reason to.  The Epson F paper is excellent for the black and white prints and I like it very much for the color infrared work I’ve been doing.  I think it’s more expensive than the Silver Rag - but as I say - I like it very much.

You probably read this and say - but he doesn’t tell what it is about the paper that he likes better.  Hard to put my finger on it.  The print looks more photographic than the silver rag prints.  It has more of a “gleam” than the silver rag.  Does that tell you anything - I don’t know.

(In case you’re wondering about the metal hinges - that’s how I flatten the rolled paper).

some-prints-2005 New Inkjet Paper for Me

Craig writes: “I received a promo package of the Epson paper and found it too warm. Recently I tried Calumet Brilliant Museum glossy paper. Its very similar to the Crane Museo Silver and I think cheaper in price.”

And this is what I should have included: I’m printing on the Epson 4800 and Epson 7800 with K3 inks.  I’m using what they call the advanced black and white driver.

In other words - your results may differ with different printers or different workflows.



Canon 50D Announced

29 August, 2008 (17:39) | 5 comments

Here’s the preview of the Canon 50D (pre-production).  Uh, I’ll take one.

You can already pre-order them on  (Amazon says they’ll have it Aug. 26th) but they don’t have it yet.

- New sensor (15.1 mp).  This gives you a 13 x 19 (approx.) inch print at 240 dpi without any interpolation.  (Uh, I’ll take one). Read more…


Canon 50D

24 August, 2008 (21:09) | 1 comment

There have been a few leaks about the 50D and a number of people - well - two - have sent me links.  Thanks Markus and Elliot.

Here’s a link that leads to a bunch of other links about the Canon 50d camera.

As I’ve said before, the only thing I’m interested in is the extra pixels, although as my eyes go from looking at too much infrared light (who knows what that’s been doing to me) the face recognition technology will be helpful.  But seriously - I think by the time I can’t focus on faces properly I should hang up the camera.


Woman with Shoes, Subway

24 August, 2008 (08:38) | 1 comment

woman-with-shoes-0709 Woman with Shoes, Subway

Basically what I did - was stand by the first car of the shuttle and wait to try and catch people running to catch it. Since there is always another shuttle in a few minutes, it is very New York to see how desperate people are to catch the train before it leaves to go to Times Square (from Grand Central). The flute player, just rides the trains back and forth. There are tons of cameras photographing me as I photograph the dash to the train.

The infrared flash is great for these deep rich black Read more…

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Lightroom 2.x

13 August, 2008 (14:55) | 15 comments

I’d just like to repeat something… Lightroom version 1 was great. Lightroom version 2 is better. I used to be a programmer. Sometimes, software comes out that you just have this warm and fuzzy feeling about. Not that it’s perfect - nothing is perfect - but that the people who are producing the product have a clear vision. Read more…


Adobe Lightroom 2

7 August, 2008 (18:36) | 6 comments

Just downloaded (bought) and installed Lightroom 2. So far so good. What’s nice is that it automatically creates a new catalog from the old one, so you can easily go back. I’ll just back up the old one onto something and continue with the new one.

There are a lot of reviews already of it so I’m not going to do that here. I’ll just keep some notes about it in this post as I go along.

* * *

I had such a horrible nightmare last night. This is true. In the dream, I had been hired to do a big shoot, something that had to do with the political race. Someone had just been elected president and they had chosen me to take the official white house portrait. On the way up in the elevator, surrounded by secret service guys, I looked in my bag to find that all I had were two Leicas.

The boss guy was telling me that I’d have ten minutes with the president. No more. I began to try and load the film but was fumbling around, you know the way you do when you first load a Leica. It was all very anxiety producing and I was cursing myself for not bringing the 40D.

Finally, I was on the main floor and introduced to the new president - but I was still fumbling around with the camera. People were watching me and I dropped the take up spool and was hunting around on the floor for it. The dream just went from bad to worse as the spool rolled down the stairs and I went tumbling after it.

Well, with that in mind - here’s a quick show I did after I had breakfast with Matt.


Hopefully he won’t mind me posting it. I just wanted to fool around with the LR galleries a bit. And note the shirt. All his photographs - which may still be sold at Macy’s. A clothing company made a lot of them and they all sold out.

* * *

I had been doing my sharpening for the web with a plug-in. Lightroom now allows you to export to the web or wherever and set the sharpening for that media so I don’t need to go through the extra step anymore.

* * *

The brush feature in Lightroom 2 is fantastic, except for one thing, I’m not sure my PC is up to it.  I added a larger cache for LR, but so far there’s a long delay between when I paint my mask stroke and when the change appears.  Anyone else run into this yet?


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