Chalk it up to old age if you like, or just a trip down memory lane, but I've been thinking a lot about black & white photography recently. Most of my photography career was dominated by the practice, in the lab and behind the camera. In fact, both were necessary components of the magical black & white arts: you shot it, and you developed and printed it. Along the way were incredibly expressive tools and techniques. Sometimes I miss that, smells and all.
And toners; we had tons of toners. Chemical toners were largely used as a means of increasing image permanence in the photographic print, but they also imparted a fine, subtle coloring of the image as well. Selenium was common; it produced a cooling, slightly purple-ish tone to high-silver papers which was lovely to behold. And everyone, of course, is familiar with the warm brown tones of sepia, often used to give prints an "old fashioned" look. I rarely liked it. But you get the point: a combination of paper and chemistry could result in a remarkable range of possibilities.
So let's cut right to the chase: can the modern digital photographer find love and happiness in black & white? Well, yes, maybe even more. There's some mind-blowing, incredibly beautiful photography going on out there. And onOne Software, for example, re-creates the look of actual black & white films, some of which disappeared from the market years ago. How cool is that? But for me, the great black & white experience can't ever be fully duplicated. I miss the cloister of the darkroom too much, but I'm not complaining. I think I'm finding more expression with my photography than I ever have, it's just...different.
It's more colorful.