In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little, human detail can become a Leitmotiv. —Henri Cartier-Bresson
The cat wasn’t nearly as enthused as was it’s human. Actually, dear cat hated being stuck in a carrier and absolutely loathed riding in the car. By the time they had made the hour trip to us, dear cat was nothing short of royally pissed. He expressed his displeasure by yowling and hissing from inside the carrier as she brought him in. Thinking it might help him settle down a bit, the model decided to let the cat out so he could roam and get acquainted with his surroundings. The problem with that thought? We were shooting from Nick Tucker’s place on the South side of Indianapolis. Nick had a dog. A very large, friendly, and slobbery Saint Bernard.
You can probably guess what happened next. Even though the poor dog was sequestered to a separate room, the cat took one whiff of dog and ran for cover. Finding and retrieving him took so long that we had to drop one of the sets planned. By the time we actually got the extremely miffed cat in the pictures, the model was exhausted, which shows. The cat scowled the entire time, I think. It can be difficult to tell with cats like this; they have a resting grumpy face that never really changes.
What makes Ilford Delta the best choice for this image is its sharpness and such fine grain that it is nearly grain-free, even under the most severe of conditions. Given the tonal range of our image, even Kodak professional films would have difficulty matching what Ilford Delta could do with this shot. The challenge, of course, is finding a digital conversion that meets that standard. This one took a while, but what we finally came up with is this: reds- 34, yellows- 76, greens- 40, cyans- 66, blues- 25, magentas- 61. That back-and-forth approach hits just the perfect tonal balance for pulling out detail without introducing unnecessary noise. Once we had that conversion setting, we made only the slightest adjustments to contrast before closing the file.
Shots like this are difficult to convert to a good digital black and white. It’s too easy to go too low on the contrast, which leaves the photo looking flat. Take the contrast just a tweak too far, and the highlights are lost. I’ve used this conversion method on several different challenging images, though, and it has yet to fail. It even manages to make a grumpy cat look almost friendly. Don’t be fooled, though. He wasn’t.