Got my start there as well circa 1970, the year I got my first SLR. B&W is a good discipline. Ended up building my own B&W and Color darkroom in the mid-70s. B&W certainly lives a life of its own.
Indeed it does. One reason I miss it is that lacking an inkjet printer capable of making a decent b&w print (that I know of), I have stopped seeing in black and white. I would have to reprogram my ever-shrinking brain for b&w work.
I know there are plenty of people making b&w digital prints. I don't know if they get the best possible results only if they're using specially outfitted inkjet printers. B&w prints I've seen as examples at camera stores that sell higher-end Epson and Canon printers have not been inspiring. They look like the best a person could ever get from the "utility" RC enlarging papers -- not the best that could be obtained using fiber-based papers. The inkjet papers don't ever seem to provide the punch of, say, a well made b&w print that has been selenium-toned, which is how I used to process them. (I realize that camera-store samples do not an art exhibit make...)
That said, I would love some time to see an exhibit of good b&w digital prints and see if I can learn something about how they were made. (Do people need to go to, say, a high-end Fuji printer using paper with a silver-containing emulsion before they can get that kind of b&w quality?)
The relatively new Harman inkjet paper (the matte surface) is claimed to hold some promise for b&w printing. The d-max in the matte doesn't seem all that great to me. Good for portraits in which 'punch' isn't called for, though. I do like the Harman gloss. It's hard to describe why but there's just "something" about those prints...
That aside the Harman papers don't seem to produce the rich black I was accustomed to when printing on enlarging paper. I'm about to get some printer profiling equipment. Maybe a good custom profile -- once I learn how to make a good one -- will help d-max-wise. (For now all I have is Harman's "canned" profile.)
Of the inkjet papers I've used, the strangest two displayed the best d-max. One was Epson's velvet surface 'art' paper, of all things. It lived up to Epson's claims about it: a deeper black than any other matte paper I've used (now why would that be? Why that
paper?). But the surface is hard to live with and is so easy to damage (the Harman gloss, likewise). The other: Pictorico's high-gloss white film -- when I printed on it with a dye-based printer. The film provided a much deeper black than I've seen before or since in a glossy paper. I decided to live with the ultra-high gloss -- a surface I wouldn't have tolerated in the past.
Unfortunately, the interesting look (and d-max) of images printed on the Pictorico film went away when I switched from the Epson 1280 to the R1800; the film shines with dye-based ink but not with pigment-based ink. And Pictorico, now owned by Mitsubishi, has doubled
the price of the film for some reason. As more and more people seem to be using pigment-based inks, I don't know who they think will be buying the film at those prices. Anyway, goodbye gloss film... :-(