It's certainly true that a subject often looks better than the photos we capture of it. This is especially true in B&W, where we lose the advantages of color, and have to interpret how the tones will appear in a B&W print. This takes study and practice. I still struggled with it after years of using good cameras.
One of the best examples of the problems of visualizing the final B&W print is Ansel Adams' iconic Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, 1927. He had lugged a 40-pound-kit up to a fine vantage point to find the light not good. After waiting a few hours, the light was better, but he had only two unexposed glass plates of the 12 he had started the day with. The first was shot with a medium yellow filter to routinely darken the sky. Then he began carefully analyzing in his mind what the image would look like in a print, and realized the yellow filter wouldn't give him the dark sky and deep shadows the subject demanded. With his last plate he used a dark red filter (29A). Manipulation while printing further darkened the sky. This image, and the thought process that led to it, was a turning point in his career as a photographer.
A few of my best photos were deliberately conceived and executed. Others were the result of chance opportunities. I usually keep a cheap P&S camera in the car for those occasions. One of my most successful photos was captured because of having the right camera with the right film on a drive when photography hadn't even been considered. Today's adequate camera fits into a pocket. It is infinitely better than the DSLR that's left behind.
Last edited by Jim Jones; 04-13-2012 at 02:52 PM..