Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Scotland in Black and White--New Book

Scotland in Black and White: 90 Photos
Here's the cover of the new book.

My newest book, Scotland in Black and White: 90 Photos, is just about ready to go on the market. It’s my first attempt at a “photo book” and it’s been an interesting project. In this post I’ll tell you the story of the book. [Except for the first and last photos in this post, all the photos are ones which didn't make my cut for the book.]
Mountains in Glen Ogle

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

Bridge in Callander

First, though, why a book of black and white photos? Photography as we know it began in 1839 by Daguerre in France and Talbot in England. And through all its iterations it was a black and white medium until the early 1900s when color processes were developed. In 1960, when I took my first photography class at Montclair High School in southern California, I learned photo processing in black and white (film developing, printing, and enlarging). Color processing was too complicated and too expensive for learners—it was the medium of certain professionals—portraitists, fashion, etc. Even though I now shoot almost exclusively in color, black and white photography still holds special meaning for me and many others.
Mountains of Glen Coe

Nets at Pittenweem Harbour

Part of Scotland's remaining fishing fleet.

What is it about monochrome that makes it special? On the practical side, black and white can have advantages for the photographer. It can mitigate bad lighting—lighting that might ruin or distract in a color photograph can actually save the photo when converted or taken in black and white. Black and white photography also is more versatile—it suits any type of photograph (portrait, landscape, architectural, etc.). Shooting (or thinking) in black and white can help a photographer focus more on composition without being distracted by color.
Crieff church in fog


Path near Pitlochry

Beyond the practical, aesthetically black and white has certain benefits over color. The black and white image has a more “timeless” quality that makes it difficult to date. This is often expressed by viewers as black and white photography has a more classic or artsy feel or look. It’s also said that black and white images will distance subject matter from reality making viewers look more closely. Black and white photography can also change the perspective of the viewer so that it highlights shape, form, pattern, and subtlety of tones. Black and white images can amplify the use of negative space—the areas of an image that has nothing in it. In many cases, all this adds up to a better connection with the audience. Ansel Adams is certainly good proof of that; although he has produced fine color photos, it is his black and white images that everyone knows.
Old Man of Hoy in the Orkney Islands

Boat on Loch Sheil

That’s a little about the why of Scotland in Black and White, but what about the how? For me, this project was both exciting and frustration. This book was far more creative than our golf books or travel story books. While I enjoyed writing the other books, they were plodding projects—research, organize, write. For this book my first job was selecting photos which could represent my feelings about Scotland and tell the Scottish story. Then I had to make sure those photos would look good enough in black and white. There were many images I wanted to use that simply did not work in black and white. For all the images I tried I had to take the color digital image and using Adobe Photoshop CC, Nik Silver Efex 2, or Elements 15, convert it to a black and white image. I ended up with about 160 images that I thought would be effective in a book. Next, I had to narrow that down to 90 pictures which I could use to tell the Scottish story—an arbitrary number based on size and price of the finished project. 
St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney

Round kirkyard near Ballater. Round so the Devil would have no corner to hide in.

With photos selected and converted, the next step was to decide what commentary to put with each image. I didn’t want to say the same thing over and over, so I had to find history to go with some image subjects, stories suggested by others, and technical details for some. With all that done I thought I was on the home stretch. Think again.
Highland castle

Mt Etive

When I started the publishing process with Create Space, the Amazon publishing arm I’ve used for my other books, I found that producing the kind of photo book I wanted was very different from my other books. Trying to match up photo to commentary on opposing pages was quite a task. Anytime I’d add a line of text all the photos in the book would shift (sometimes several pages). Once, I added something and found that all the photos below with their commentary had reversed position and all had to be reset. Since I had written the book using Apple’s Pages program, I had to convert it to a word document—something I had done with all my other books quite easily. When I did it with this book, two-thirds of the pictures randomly reordered themselves. 
Sample two-page layout from the digital proof of the book.

I now am at the point where I have proofs of the book and it’s ready to publish in one format—using standard print paper. The images are acceptable, but they can be better. I have now decided to quadruple the printing cost of the book and put the photos on glossy paper to give them more depth. Amazon will raise the price of the book, but I won’t—I’m doing this because I love the project and not for the profit.  The finished book will soon be available on and for about $35.50US plus shipping. A special signed and numbered limited edition (100 copies) will be available only from me for $25 plus shipping. The limited edition will have an extra photo mounted in the front of the book. Let me know by phone (503-266-6577), email (, or in person if you’re interested in one of the special editions which will be available soon [numbers 1 and 2 have already been spoken for].