I gave my self a three part project today. Something pretty simple, but a culmination of three different crafts. The over all goals of the project were to practice lighting, work entirely in black and white, and do all the adjustments to the photos using nothing but curves.
The first part, photographing something, was the most challenging. I used everyday common items in my home as subjects. Finding items that would communicate shape and form was a little hard to do. I ended up with a handful of very common items of all shapes and sizes. The other challenging part was the commitment of using only one light. Because each item had a different reflective quality I would get good results for one item, but then receive very different result on another. I shot the items as best as I could and figured that I would see how well I could handle the problems in post.
The second goal was to edit the images only in black and white. This may not sound too difficult but I feel that black and white will only enhance a photo when it is used properly. I am not a fan of simply taking the saturation out of a photo or hitting the easy button to make an image black and white. B&W is about tones and the translation of those tones through and image. A flat gray image is NOT a b&w photo, it is a photo WITHOUT color.
The last goal for these photos was to use ONLY the curves adjustments in Aperture to tweak and modify the tones. I did use a b&w adjsutment to convert the image initially, but after that I used only curve adjustments to fine tune the image. Each image had a minimum of 3 curves applied to them, with some having 5-6 total. I applied an overall s-curve to the entire photo to get a starting contrast pop. Each subsequent curve was brushed in so it's effect was only applied to a portion of the image.
These photos are not the pinnacle of work, but they do show that even boring everyday objects can produce rather dramatic results when paired with a somewhat proper use of black & white conversion.
For the strobist folks out there I used a SB-900, snooted and very lower power to get the rim lighting.