Black and White with Filters

Modern tools to mimic old-school photography techniques.

Once upon a time, most film stock was black and white. When I worked my first photography job at a newspaper in the 1960s, black and white was all I could use. I really enjoyed the look of those films, such as Panatomic-X and Tri-X.

I have been looking for a way to get authentic-looking tools to allow me to take my color photographs today and convert them. I have been testing a wide variety of products and I was not finding anything that tickled the itch quite right. The grain was wrong, the contrast was wrong, etc.

And then I found a simulation specifically for Kodak’s Tri-X, and I was really impressed. The set of plugins includes something that I had almost forgotten about: using color filters on the camera lens to alter the appearance of the photo.

The plugin is Digistock’s Tri-X 400.

For example, a red filter will darken a blue sky by blocking a lot of the blue light. (You can get less darkening with an orange filter, and light darkening with a yellow filter.)

The above photo was one I took of Mt. Rainier (of course), and I applied the red filter and it blew me away--it did just what it should do. The sky is deep and dark, and the greenery is darker, too. It really brings out the mountain, and the texture on the grass is a bonus.

Here is the original processed color photo, taken with the Phase One camera and a 150mm lens:

The mountain is obscured by haze. Getting rid of haze is one of the jobs for a red filters, and it does an incredible job in this example. The black and white conversion was more than a nostalgia tweak; it really makes a great shot.