Wednesday, December 15, 2010

B&W Fun: When Noise Becomes Grain

Lately I have really missed the joy of shooting with B&W film. I still have my Canon AE-1
and Canon Elan (both film cameras) and I am tempted to pull them out, buy some B&W film, and set up a small darkroom.

I miss the grain. I miss the chemical smells. I miss the softer almost mysterious look of film, where sharpness was not the ultimate king. I especially miss the surprise of each roll.

Last night I had to go lock up the chickens so I grabbed my camera, 50mm f/1.8 (nifty fifty) lens and set it on jpg, monochrome, and 6400 ISO to try to capture some of the allure of B&W film. And it was wonderful.

Maple was shot in low light at 6400 ISO, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/320.  You can't tell in this low res. image, but there is grain (some people might refer to it as digital noise) and I love it.  I spend so much time worrying about shooting at a low ISO so I won't see noise that this was a refreshing change.  Noise in color looks ugly, noise in B&W can be beautiful.

Break the rules and go shoot at high ISO in B&W for those grainy shots.  Sure, it is not film and probably won't fool anyone, but you might be surprised and pleased with your results.

I still miss film, so don't be surprised if I try opening up my darkroom again in the near future.   I sometimes get tired of the "perfection" of digital.  But most of all I miss the surprise of each roll. 

I have a grain texture with tutorial I will be posting in the next day or two so you can convert your noise-free perfect digital color images into grainy B&W's.

I adore that stupid dog...


  1. So glad that there are others out there who enjoy some grain. Love the shot. Love the post and I'd be lost without my Nifty Fifty

  2. What camera do you shoot with?? Or at least did you shoot these with?
    I have a Canon Rebel XS and the highest ISO I can get is 1600. 6400 is mind boggling to me! That's amazing. That 50mm lens is on my wish list at Amazon. I am so hoping to get it sometime after Christmas!
    I love the shot of your dog, mine is afraid of the camera and runs and hides when I get it out :(

  3. Amy, I just received the Canon T2i for a combo Christmas/birthday present from myself! My Canon XT was having focusing issues after being dropped many times.

    The XT has some nice noise at 1600 iso, that should work fine! And my dog tries to eat my camera, so shooting at high ISO speeds and not worrying about noise allows me to finally capture her before she grabs my camera. ;-)

  4. I love the picture of your dog! I'm with Amy. 6400 ISO?!?!?! What?!?!?! I have a Canon EOS 40D and it only goes to 1600. I think I would love to be able to shoot some shots with a higher ISO.

  5. 6400 ISO? That's a sweeeeet camera ya got there! :) I love the look of that b/w shot with the 'noise.' Very cool. I can see why you adore that pooch. He's a beauty!

  6. Great blog post! I never had the opportunity to be able to set up my own darkroom; I envy you that!
    I have two recent blog posts that I think you might like to take a peek at, both similar to on the joy of black and white and one on the (surprising) joy of having to wait for our photos, instead of the instantness (is that a word?) of digital. Please have a look if you have a moment :-)
    I'm thinking now of pulling my old Rebel out of the closet.......

  7. I liked your picture so much that I actually took your advice and went out and shot some of my own. I was really happy with the results! I hope you do set up that dark room. I'd love to see some of your film pictures!

  8. I read the most awesome posts here, and yes I admits that I am super lame about commenting --

    but this was just too super....

    thanks ---

    hoping you have some really special holidays!

    cheers and thanks for all the great work and gifts you contribute to the cyber - world - may all your energy and good "stuff" come back to you millions times over!

  9. Love the pictures! I still have my Canon AE-1 Program and parts of my B/W darkroom from the early 80s. That camera was the "official" Olympic camera of 1983.

  10. Beautiful shots rita. Though I must admit I am NOT a fan of film. I'm way too impatient for darkroom work. And I'm afraid of the dark.

  11. What an idea! When we are all trying to get every pixel perfect and you are breaking the rules. I love it! and I can't wait to try it.
    I sure am not one to miss those days of film. Loading the film from the canister onto a reel in the dark was nerve wracking for me. Often the film was not rolled on properly and it would stick together.
    And my exposure skills were never good so it was harder to get the photo right with burning and dodging. No thank you. I like the digital world much better. LOL