black is not as black as black...
believing black is black, never stopping to think about all the subtleties lying beneath it's dark core is, at the very least, limiting and leads very quickly to a boring dead end.
Black is all sorts of shades of grey. Actually, it's a subtle layering of shadows, tones and midtones all of which influence black's blackness. I approach my black and white images in the same way I approached my drawings: in stages.
A good b&w image (for which a common definition still has to be defined) - no matter whether it's a photograph, a drawing, a painting - has several stages. It is not created in post-production. First, it has to be visualised (conceptualised: "seen") - then shot in camera and only then polished in post.
Creating b&w by dropping the saturation to zero just doesn't cut it. It only results in a very simple flat monotone image. Black has depth, several layers and coaxing them out, giving them space is the whole art behind a real black and white imagery.
When capturing the photographed image you have visualised with your minds eye, you are in fact capturing light (a wonderful combination of highlights, whites, blacks and shadows) as it bounces on and off objects or people. Understanding this as knowing the effect that available light will have in the final image is key.
Only a strong image - an image with a clear message, feelings and (in my case) drama - will make it into post-production. This is the stage in which that I sculpt my vision, focus my feelings into the final image. So many tools can be used: popping a smidgeon of light grey in the highlight, dodging and burning, adjusting the tone, pumping up (or down) the midtones to bring out more dimension, increasing contrast to sharpen drama, sprinkling a beautiful soft grain into the shadows, dehazing for feeling... the options are endless. Like passionate cooks we add our own special ingredients, create our own special recipes which we infuse into our images.
Combining an idea, a vision with personal taste acquired knowledge to rustle up owns unique b&w sauce with black is more than just black is where the thrill is.