Archive for the ‘B&W’ Tag

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.

 

 

Friday Foto Talk: Color vs. Black and White in Your Landscape Photos   18 comments

Rainy weather descends on Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

Rainy weather descends on Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

I thought I’d briefly discuss this question that landscape photographers always face.  Digital is very nice in that it allows us to just shoot pictures and decide later what we want to convert to black and white.  Of course you need to be shooting in RAW to have that option.  But having that option can lead to a sort of laziness out in the field.  You still need to evaluate compositions for their value as a black and white.  Some images work well in both schemes.  But your vision for the image, its feel; that will be very different depending on which way you go.

I won’t go into a lot of detail on how to convert to black and white during post-processing.  But I will say that programs like Lightroom and Aperture make it quite easy to convert.  Start by using their B&W presets.  You just click one thing then do some tweaking to get the exact look you want.  It really is no different in practice than processing an image for color.  In fact its simpler since you really don’t worry much about color, more about tones.  If you’re really into black and white I recommend purchasing Nik’s Silver Effex 2.

A beautiful lake on the northern Olympic Peninsula in Washington, Lake Crescent is calm here under cloudy skies.

A beautiful lake on the northern Olympic Peninsula in Washington, Lake Crescent is calm here under cloudy skies.

So let’s get right on to some examples.  Below are two images and each are shown in color and black and white.  I’ll go into the thought process I had during capture then how I chose a look during post-processing, a look that matched my feel for the mood of the scene.

I love going into the mountains right after a dump of snow, as much for the skiing as for the photo opportunities.  The trees look great weighed down with snow. The photo below was taken about an hour and a half before sunset, so the light was pretty blue and things were contrasty.  The color version of this has a pretty cold color scheme.  The shadows help to increase depth in the image, and the snow-basted tree at left is an important foreground element.

Silver Star Mountain in Washington is basted with a heavy snow from a recent storm. 28 mm., 1/250 sec. @f/11, ISO 200.

I developed this shot with a warming tone using Topaz B&W plugin.  Now I would probably use Nik, but there would be little difference.

I developed this shot with a warming tone using Topaz B&W plugin. Now I would probably use Nik, but there would be little difference.

But while shooting I thought I might like it in black and white.  That’s because any time I’m shooting snowy scenes in bright light, I think of black and white.  From experience I know that often these types of shots will work better in black and white than color.  In this case, I think it works fairly well in color but better in black and white.  This is because there was a subtle golden quality to the light hitting the mountain, something that does not really show in the color rendering.  I could have warmed up the white balance but then I would have lost the deep blue of the sky.  I could have used a mask to only warm the snow and leave the sky cool-toned.  That may have worked, but it also may have looked unnatural.

So I converted the image to black and white.  I added a moderate warming tone, sort of a cross between sepia and pure warming.  I darkened the blue sky too, so that the face of the mountain would take center stage in terms of brightness.  This image definitely looks different than what I saw, but I think it better matches the feel I had for the scene at the time.  The color version is fine as a documentary portrait of this mountain in winter.  Which one do prefer?  Do you like black and white in general?

The second image was captured in Capital Reef National Park.  This is a famous barn in the park, part of the old Gifford homestead that predated creation of the park.  I hiked up a trail that ascends the slope opposite the barn in order to get a composition that included Capital Reef, the cliff that gives the park its name.  The color version really highlights the orange of the rocks and the rich tones of the barn.  The rest of the scene in my opinion is not helped by color, but the rock and barn probably make up for that.

It was an obvious vertical composition.   I did make a mistake here in not setting up my tripod, which made me use a higher ISO.  But it’s not so high that it degrades the image, and I used a fast-enough shutter speed to get good focus throughout.  So all is good.

A bit of the old west survives at the old Gifford homestead, now inside Capitol Reef National Park.  42 mm., 1/125 sec. @f/14, ISO 320.

A bit of the old west survives at the old Gifford homestead, now inside Capitol Reef National Park. 42 mm., 1/125 sec. @f/14, ISO 320.

I love this in color, but I thought briefly while shooting that it might be good in B&W too.  Just before this I had been shooting closer to the barn and I knew black and white might be best.  So my mind was already on black and white.  When I sat down at the computer right away I thought of giving it an old-time feel.

This look involves a lot of little things during post-processing, so I made the process quicker by going with a high contrast preset in Nik Silver Effex 2.  I then tweaked the brightness and contrast a bit to lessen the effect.  I also gave it a sepia tone and a vignette, both modest.  I like the look, but I wasn’t necessarily in an old-time type mood at the time.  So this is a case of changing the mood after the fact, something I don’t often do.  What do you think of it?

Processed with Nik Silver Effex 2.

Mild sepia tone processed with Nik Silver Effex 2.

I also processed it with a more standard black and white treatment.  This time I did not use a sepia tone; I simply upped contrast and clarity.  Which of the three do you like better: the color, sepia or straight B&W version?

Processed with Nik Silver Effex 2.

Processed with Nik Silver Effex 2.

Definitely try to think about scenes that might look good in black and white while you’re out there.  One thing NOT to do is use B&W as a sort of default go-to when the light is harsh.  That’s not a good plan.  Instead, separate quality of light from B&W in your thinking.  If you think about black and white during capture, you’ll be able to better determine the type of feel you want when it comes time to develop the image on the computer.

Note that all of these images are copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission.  If you’re interested in purchase options (prints, downloads, etc.) simply click on the image and you’ll go to the high-res. version.  These here on the blog are not suitable for printing.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks for your interest and happy weekend!

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