I recently received a 20-strong collection of black-and-white 3D LUTs from movie software maker Rocket Rooster. It was the night before a quick trip into the city, the weather forecast was cold, wet and miserable and so I visualized shooting some equally dismal-looking footage.
Little did I know the weather the next day would be anything but. Even so, the arrival of Rocket Rooster’s LUT set had planted some seeds in my mind and I found myself, unusually, seeing the city in monochrome instead of full color.
I have a confession – I am not particularly enamored of old black-and-white movies just for the sake of their being shot in black-and-white.
I am not at all fanatical about black-and-white at all as a creative tool, whether for producing movies or photographs.
I sigh whenever I overhear a photographic neophyte swoon over the romanticism of black-and-white photography and darkroom work.
If anything, I tend to stay well away from black-and-white altogether – I don’t even refer to it in those terms. Instead, in honour of my family’s European origins I prefer to call it “monochrome”. One color, despite the fact that much black-and-white photography and some black-and-white movies are rendered in subtly colored shades of grey.
I spent years mastering monochrome photography, processing and printing and gave up on it when my body suddenly gave in to photochemical toxicity. I will be glad to never see the inside of a darkroom again. But I learned so much from those long days and night spent alone in the dark and, until recently, thought I would never put all that hard-won knowledge into practice again.
But now the appearance of monochrome 3D LUTs in recent LUT collections has got me thinking and wondering. I love documenting the city, whichever city I happen to be in at the time. And some cities seem made to be seen in monochrome.
Long before analog photography gave up on me by so conclusively wrecking my health, I had switched from documentary photography in monochrome to doing it exclusively in color.
Monochrome became reserved for paid work, the somewhat surreal full-page portraits I shot of chefs, celebrities, businessman and artists for glossy magazines and top quality newspaper color supplements.
I was a fanatic for fancy film processing, costly silver-rich papers, split toning and persuading my magazine art director clients to get the very best out of reproducing my work.
Other art directors, designers and the visually-inclined, I later learned, collected my published work with a passion. By then I had long since lost any passion for monochrome.
But now, but now monochrome is starting to seem like a reasonable choice, not so much for stills photography but more for moviemaking.
Over the past few months, during those all-too-rare times I have spent time in the city, I have been seeing it in full color and shooting it in color hasn’t worked in the way it used to.
Our local version of climate change has been brutal, weird and unpredictable. The long, balmy days of spring, summer and autumn were replaced by weeks of storms, suddenly substituted with steamy but dull subtropical weather and at the moment now record cold and grey.
The certainties of sunlight and expressive full color are over. The broad, rich palette of emotions color bestows almost does not exist anymore.
Now the world around me seems to be about detail, line, mass and information. And I am still coming to terms with. The expressionistic documentary project on the many and constantly mutating faces of the city has lost its way.
It began in color and the color is gone. Will it be replaced by monochrome? Only experiments like these will tell. But it looks like I will be on an interesting ride.
This time, monochrome will not get the better of me by ruining my health. I will command monochrome via 3D LUTs, color grading suites and increasingly grading-capable NLEs. And I am already loving it, and looking to push it way beyond what you see here. [bctt tweet=”Rocket Rooster Monochrome LUTs: Rediscover the pleasures of shooting in Black & White.”]
Rocket Rooster – Tools for the Digital Filmmaker
Via Rocket Rooster:
Rocket Rooster Monochrome
Check out The new Rocket Rooster Monochrome! The pack features 20 high quality monochrome (Black and White) looks with a mix of black and white film stock emulations and modern monochromatic grades. The pack is a great tool for high end film, wedding videos, music videography and much more.
(cover photo credit: snap from Rocket Rooster)