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Creativity - using scene modes

I went walking from Torver to the shores of Coniston Water on a grey day. As usual I had my little Olympus camera. It's of the "mirrorless" kind and has the feature that whatever scene modes you choose - e.g. black and white, square format - that's what you see in the viewfinder.

I imagine some purists might think this is cheating. I find it a great help in visualising the scene. More than visualising, I find it helps with the ideas in the first place.

On this day, on a whim, I decided to put the camera into "grainy black and white film with pin-hole" effect. Just to see what happened. For belt and braces security, though, I recorded both the JPEG and the raw file.

Here's one of the JPEGs I got (on the left) and my own interpretation, processed in lightroom from the raw file (on the right).

Looking at the scene in colour (from the raw file in lightroom before processing) it was pretty uninspiring but the JPEG from the camera was more interesting. It gave me ideas about how to process the raw files and I got four good shots as a result. Doing the processing from the raw file gives me less harshness and more control over where and how much to darken and lighten.

I've used this trick a handful of times in the past and enjoyed it each time. Recently I read that Pentax had released a pure monochrome-only digital camera. It only records monochrome tones, it has no colour filter on its sensor. I read people saying this was a solution you don't need, mirrorless cameras let you visualise in monochrome but still have the choice of going for colour during processing. The point made, though, is that sometimes its good to be forced into a way of working. This is the downside of my Olympus and its art modes. My own processing of the raw files into black and white gives better results than the camera's JPEGs but that's not the point. If I had just one camera and it was only capable of recording grainy black and white (hmm... sounds familiar) then I would be forced always to think and visualise that way and accept the results. I would have to adapt my work to the medium and in doing so I might produce work that is truer and better.

I still have my film cameras and I could try going out with some rolls of black and white film. Perhaps I will one day, but I need to be making more money from my work first, film processing nowadays is quite expensive. The real moral of the tale, though, is that sometimes it's worth playing with effects to give your creative juices a boost.


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