Of course digital photography changed all that, and along with the profoundly powerful editing software, made converting images to black and white a snap...actually, a click--often times a single click.
So I've got Lightroom (LR) and I've got Photoshop Elements (PSE), and both have powerful black and white processing tools--more than the average, or even above average photographer would ever need. But sure enough, there were photographer friends of mine that swore by a program which was dedicated to nothing but black and white imagery--and that program was Silver Efex Pro 2. Similar to the way Photomatix (which I also have) is dedicated to processing HDR photos, Silver Efex Pro (or SEP as the "in" crowd calls it) is dedicated to black and white conversion.
Each step of my journey has included a reluctance on my part to taking the next step. So you can imagine my resistance to getting SEP. Really, with LR and PSE and Photomatix, do I need another program, and one dedicated to such a small area of processing, b&W? Of course not. Well, maybe. Ok, yes, absolutely I need it. And now that I have it, I wonder how I ever got along without it...just like my journey's steps to PSE, and LR, etc...this step was another significant step forward.
Now I'm looking through my viewfinder and am seeing the end result of a black and white images. The above shot was one such vision during my visit to Union Station in Los Angeles. Who hasn't been bored waiting for a plane, or a bus, or in this case a train...but with a stack of hats? Yes, this required a photograph, but to me the interesting part wasn't just the man with the hats, but look at the treasure this photograph reveals in the background. It was the man with curiosity (and a steaming cup of coffee). It was that expression of curiosity and wonder that compelled me to take this shot. Glad I had SEP waiting at home for me!
You really don't know where your photographic journey will take you, but hopefully you'll be less resistive to each step than I've been. I don't regret a single decision I've made with either hardware, software, or camera gear. Each step and been along a maturing curve as my skills and interests have evolved and improved. It's a journey without a roadmap, and as I've said previously, without even paths...
If you have questions, comments, or would like to share some of your own experiences, please feel free to contact me at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com. You can also visit my extensive photographic web gallery at http://costamesaphotography.com/.
(Metadata 1/60 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1800, focal length 105mm with a 70-300 Nikon lens)