Archive for May 2016

Friday Foto Talk: Black & White, Part III   6 comments

A sea cave on the southern California coast I entered recently. See below for color version. 21 mm., 6 sec. @ f/9, ISO 200; tripod; converted in Nik Silver Effex 2.  A little selective color was left.

This mini-series on black and white (B&W) imaging concludes with some tips for post-capture.  Be sure to check out Part I and Part II, as this post builds on those two.  My main goal in doing these is to motivate you to do more monochrome images.  It really can help your color photography.  You learn to pay more attention to texture and tonal variations.  Although I focus here on landscapes, B&W is great for any kind of subject.

As mentioned previously, I think it’s just as valid to make a B&W image by deciding later to convert from color as it is to shoot for B&W during the capture phase.  But you should find that the more images you convert to B&W on the computer the more often you will shoot specifically for B&W while you’re out photographing.

My little boy is sorely missed. 116 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/4, ISO 200; handheld; converted in LR.

My little boy is sorely missed. 116 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/4, ISO 200; handheld; converted in LR.

Here is my general procedure post-capture:

  • Work from the RAW color image.  I always shoot RAW, which is by default color.  You can set up your camera to display in monochrome on the LCD, but the image file (as long as it’s RAW) always includes color information.
  • Import & apply keywords.  If I had shot specifically for B&W during capture, I already know in general what’s going to be converted to B&W.  For those images I apply the keyword “B&W” and usually “monochrome” as well.  If everything from the shoot is to be B&W (a rarity for me), I apply those keywords on import.  If you have a favorite B&W preset you may want to apply that on import as well, but I don’t generally use import presets.
A fishing cabin along the Quinalt River, on my recent trip up to the wonderful Olympic Peninsula.

A fishing cabin along the Quinalt River, on my recent trip up to the wonderful Olympic Peninsula.

21 mm., 1/5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100; tripod; converted in Nik Silver Effex.

21 mm., 1/5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100; tripod; converted in Nik Silver Effex.

  • Decide which images to convert.  Probably a more common situation is to not know exactly what images I’ll be converting to B&W.  So just after importing the shoot into Lightroom, key-wording & rating the selects leftover from culling, I consider whether some images might look good in B&W.  Again, texture and interesting tonal variations catch my monochrome eye, as do old-timey subjects.
  • Set aside my B&Ws to-be.  A good idea is to push the shots you want to convert to B&W temporarily into a collection you have set up for the purpose.  Just make that the target collection by right-clicking, then for each one you’d like to convert type ‘b’ while it’s selected.  Make virtual copies so you can work on the virtual copy instead of the original.  This way you have the convenience of being able to compare the two side-by-side after you’re finished.
Color version of the image at top.

Color version of the image at top.

  • Try some presets.  I have some presets I downloaded from the internet and the ones that come with Lightroom.  I’m not a huge preset person, which is probably not the best thing for efficiency.  But there are enough there to give me a nice start for quickly converting to B&W while in Lightroom.  So I take the virtual copies and try some different preset looks.  Sometimes it’s a look I like, so I spend more time editing to come up with a final image.  But for the majority of B&W images I…
I love the soft texture of this white-tail doe's fur in B&W. From Glacier N.P., Montana. 600 mm., 1/2000 sec. @ f/8, ISO 640; hand-held; processed in LR.

I love the soft texture of this white-tail doe’s fur in B&W. From Glacier N.P., Montana. 600 mm., 1/2000 sec. @ f/8, ISO 640; hand-held; processed in LR.

  • Go to Silver Effex.  Nik’s Silver Effex is the gold standard for black and white editing.  It is used most commonly as a plugin for Photoshop or Lightroom.  For example in Lightroom I just right-click the image, hover over ‘edit in’, then choose Silver Effex 2.  A dialog box comes up and I always edit a TIFF copy of the RAW image.  By the way, I occasionally use Topaz’s B&W plug-in.  It’s also very good.

 

  • Edit in Silver Effex.  Again there are a selection of built-in presets, along with a nice selection of film looks that you can add on.  I have made a few of my own presets too.  Through the use of so-called control points, the program gives you the ability to work on small areas of the image.  There are a lot of toning options too.  By clicking save the image comes back into Lightroom as a TIFF, where I may need to do a little tweaking.  This is when I scan around and clone out sensor spots, something you should always do at the very end of editing.
Springbok "pronk" through the grasslands of Namibia. 400 mm., 1/1000 sec. @ f/8, ISO 200; hand-held; converted w/cream tone in LR.

Springbok “pronk” through the grasslands of Namibia. 400 mm., 1/1000 sec. @ f/8, ISO 200; hand-held; converted w/cream tone in LR.

  • Double-edit the odd color image.  Sometimes, not often, I will edit an image for color either using Lightroom or a plug-in, then decide to convert it to B&W as well.  For example I’ll take an image into Nik Color Effex & edit to a final color image.  After it’s back in Lightroom I make a virtual copy and convert that to B&W within Lightroom.  The image at bottom was processed this way.  Or I’ll go into Silver Effex, in which case there’s no need to make a virtual copy (you work on a TIFF copy).

I’m careful with this procedure, as it’s possible to end up with something that looks a bit over-edited.  One great thing about working from Photoshop instead of Lightroom is that you can edit in the plug-in on a layer.  That way you can lower the opacity of the layer, making the editing effects more subtle.  I’m most comfortable with Lightroom however.

I know, a bit long this time.  Sorry ’bout that!  Happy (black and white) shooting!

Bollinger Mill and covered bridge, Missouri, in sepia. 19 mm., 1.3 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50; tripod; processed in Nik Color Effex then converted to B&W in Lightroom.

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: Goodbye Oregon ~ All Good Things Come to an End   11 comments

Ramona_Creek_Sunstar

Friday Foto Talk: Black & White, Part II   4 comments

Oregon's upper Salmon River in the Cascade Mtns. is an amazing place to photograph in cold wintry weather.  70 mm., 1/6 sec. @ f/16; tripod; B&W conversion in Silver Effex.

Oregon’s rugged upper Salmon River valley, an amazing place to photograph in cold wintry weather. 70 mm., 1/6 sec. @ f/16, ISO 100; tripod; converted to B&W in Nik Silver Effex 2.

This continues the mini-series on black and white (B&W) photography.  Check out Part I for tips on what types of images lend themselves to B&W.  I really like trying monochrome processing with any shot, because you never know until you see the image.  A few things to keep in mind while shooting B&W:

  • See in B&W:  This can be tough to do, since we see all day everyday in color.  One thing to try is setting up your camera to display in black and white while shooting.  If you’re shooting in RAW (which you should be), the image is still recorded in color.  It just displays in B&W on the LCD.  Also try going out and shooting only B&W, as an exercise.  Shoot Jpegs and deliberately limit yourself to B&W.  I don’t recommend doing this regularly though; give yourself options by shooting RAW.
Sunset on the Olympic Coast, Washington.  50 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/10, ISO 200; hand-held.

Sunset on the Olympic Coast, Washington. 50 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/10, ISO 200; hand-held.

B&W conversion in Nik Silver Effex 2.

B&W conversion in Silver Effex 2.

  • Look for Texture:  As mentioned in the last post, textures are just made for B&W.  That’s because color often distracts us from the underlying texture of a scene.  Remove it and voila!  Interesting textural patterns are revealed.  Many people have too limited a view of texture.  They think of peeling paint, tree bark, or a patterned rock wall.  That is texture at one scale.  In reality texture comes in all sizes, from the very fine to much larger patterns.  Try to get used to looking for texture in all its forms.
Ancient sand dunes near Page, Arizona.

Ancient sand dunes near Page, Arizona. 32 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/16, ISO 200; hand-held w/polarizer.

Converted & processed in  Silver Effex.

Bringing out the texture: converted & processed in Silver Effex.

  • Don’t Forget the Basics:  The same principles of composition that make color images work apply to B&Ws as well.  Limit the “junk” in your comps., and seek balanced scenes that are interesting and pleasing to the eye.
The foot bridge at Ramona Falls, Oregon.  50 mm., 4 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50; tripod; processed in Lightroom.

The foot bridge at Ramona Falls, Oregon. 50 mm., 4 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50; tripod; processed in Lightroom.

  • Go for Monochrome Scenes:  These are situations where the light and your subject are already monochrome, either nearly or completely so.  Often it’s when the light is quite low, since light begets color.  When things are already nearly monochrome, it’s quite easy to see and shoot monochrome images (funny how that works!).
Zooming in on Faery Falls in Oregon's Columbia Gorge, the image became nearly monochrome.  50 mm., 0.4 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod; Processed in Silver Effex.

Zooming in on Faery Falls in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, the image became nearly monochrome. 50 mm., 0.4 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50; tripod; Processed in Silver Effex.

This version, a panorama of 6 shots combined, includes the surrounding green lushness.

This wider composition of Faery Falls is a panorama of 6 shots combined & includes the surrounding green lushness.

  • Get in the Mood:  Finally, try to feel the mood of a scene and shoot it accordingly.  Foggy and mysterious is the obvious one, but there are many other moods, including bright, contrasty and optimistic.  Try to mentally impose different post-processing looks, such as toned to sepia, high-key, low-key, and so on.  For example, with a monochrome scene that is already a bit dim, I’ll try to imagine what it might look like even darker and toned with a subtle sepia or cyan.

Okay that’s it for today.  Stay tuned for more on black and white.  Have a great weekend and get out there!

Beacon Rock on the Columbia River, a landmark that Lewis & Clark mentioned in their journals in 1803.  106 mm., 1/200 sec. @ f/10, ISO 200; hand-held; processed in Nik Color Effex then given antique sepia tone in Lightroom.

Beacon Rock on the Columbia River, a landmark that Lewis & Clark mentioned in their journals in 1803. 106 mm., 1/200 sec. @ f/10, ISO 200; hand-held; processed in Nik Color Effex, then given antique sepia tone in Lightroom.

Friday Foto Talk: Black & White, Part I   7 comments

Dawn mist lifts over a small fishing lake high in the Montana Rockies.

I like to do black and white (B&W), landscapes but go through long periods where it isn’t much of a priority.  Lately I’ve been doing quite a few.  By the way the terms black & white and monochrome are roughly equivalent.  Monochrome is a more inclusive way to describe them, because it includes those where you add toning like sepia or bluish tones.

In terms of the creation of monochrome images, I divide them up into two basic categories.  There are those where, at the time of shooting, I think about how the scene may look in B&W.  And then there are those where I realize after the fact on the computer that it would make a nice B&W.  Both are valid ways to go about shooting in B&W.

The Hoh River and Olympic mountains, cloaked in rainforest.  106 mm., 0.4 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50.

The Hoh River and Olympic mountains, cloaked in rainforest. 106 mm., 0.4 sec. @ f/13, ISO 50; tripod.

Black and white processed in Silver Effex, no toning.

Black and white processed in Silver Effex, no toning.

Of course you should always shoot in color then convert later.  To do it this way you need to shoot in RAW.  If you have a good reason to shoot Jpegs, you’ll need to decide color or B&W before capture.  Here are a few things that make certain pictures better for black and white conversions:

Textures:  One thing I always look for is texture.  It’s something that nearly always shows up better in monochrome.  Fine texture or larger textural patterns, it doesn’t matter.

Layers & Other Patterns:  I know these are universally good for landscapes, color or B&W, but they just seem to jump out more in the latter.

Lack of Color:  Be careful with this one.  Monochrome conversions of wonderfully colorful images can be spectacular.  But I happen to love color, so if I’m in love with the palette in a certain photo I’m less likely to want to convert it to B&W.

Shot along the Hoh on the same hike as the above, springtime in evidence.  121 mm., 1/10 sec. @ f/10, ISO 50; tripod.

Shot along the Hoh on the same hike as the above, springtime in evidence. 121 mm., 1/10 sec. @ f/10, ISO 50; tripod.

In Silver Effex, I added a light cream tone.

In Silver Effex, I added a light cream tone.

Shadows & Local Contrast:  This sort of belongs in the category of textures, but when the sun gets low and there are plenty of interesting shadows, that’s not just a nice time for color landscapes, it’s great for B&W too.  Of course as always you need to check your histogram to make sure the contrasts aren’t making it impossible to capture detail for all the tones you need to capture.  Make sure your blinkies (the warning for blowing out highlight detail) are turned on.

Moody Light & Compositions:  When the opposite is true and you’re dealing with low-contrast, foggy or misty scenes, monochrome can also work well.  Really any scene that’s moody or atmospheric may look good in B&W (image below).

Panther Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington.  47 mm., 10 sec. @ f/16, ISO 200; tripod; processed in Lightroom.

Panther Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington. 47 mm., 10 sec. @ f/16, ISO 200; tripod; processed in Lightroom.

Old-Timey Subjects:  Some subjects lend themselves to processing that is “vintage” in some way (image at bottom).  Black and white is an obvious choice, though processing that simulates old color film also works well.  Sepia or yellowed antique tones, various grains, or cracked and flawed film looks, it’s all available through software.

We’ll continue next time with the actual shooting and processing of black and white images.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Capitol Reef, Utah. 50 mm., 1/5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100; Processed in Lightroom with dark sepia tone.

Single-image Sunday: Mossy Creek   8 comments

Springtime on Alec Creek: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington.

Springtime on Alec Creek: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington.

I found this mossy scene while exploring a creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington.  This is one of the most amazing of America’s National Forests, huge and full of hidden waterfalls.  The backroad I was on crossed over the creek and I decided it was time for some “creeking”.  Creeking involves getting up close and personal with a stream, looking for mostly small-scale intimate landscapes.  Mostly it requires scrambling over, under and around logs and rocks.  And your feet usually get wet.

In the Pacific Northwest, springtime means the color green will probably dominate the palettes of your photos.  While negotiating a section choked with huge logs, I found this mossy scene.  But it was impossible to shoot without getting very low.  The tripod was a possibility, but a simpler and easier method was just to plop the camera right down on a small shelf of rock on the stream bank, using small pieces of wood to prop the lens up.

The nearest moss was only inches away, so depth of field was a challenge.  I had to focus stack, shooting a few images with focus increasingly further away.  Then in Photoshop I stacked the images together so that in the end I had one with pretty much everything in focus.

In one respect it’s a picture with perhaps too much “stuff” in it.  But in a way it’s also a very simple composition.  It’s definitely not a very standard way to shoot a creek, from the side under a log, with an ultra-low point of view, and with super-close foreground.  I actually have no idea whether it will appeal to anyone other than me, so I’d very much like to know what you all think.  Thanks and have a great week ahead.

Friday Foto Talk – Enjoy the Moment!   6 comments

Trout fishing anyone? Crooked River, Oregon.

This is a short Foto Talk.  The light was beautiful this morning at Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon.  Even though dawn lacked that warm orange or pink glow we all associate with beautiful sunrises & sunsets, it was a lovely morning for a walk and some photography.

So in the middle of shooting, and just after getting the image at top, I paused and stood on that rock, admiring the river.  I wished I could snap my fingers and make my camera gear switch instantly to fishing gear.  The Crooked River is a fine trout stream, and all of a sudden I was into enjoying the moment, not photographing it.  Bald eagles were nesting nearby too, and at one point a half-dozen little goslings followed mom across the river.

On the grassy banks of the Crooked River in central Oregon.

So today it boils down to one tip and one tip only:  enjoy the moment.  Actually, enjoy a lot of them!  Wherever you are, and whatever kind of photography you’re doing, take time out occasionally to simply enjoy your surroundings and your subject.  It’s the reason we do this, to show others through images how we feel: about a place, a person, or whatever subject we’re focusing on.

So leave some time for those feelings to flower.  Don’t make photography so much like work.  And now I need to find a fishing rod compact enough to fit in my photo pack!  Have a great weekend everyone.

Morning sun hits the walls that line the Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.

Morning sun hits the walls that line the Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.

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