Archive for the ‘monochrome’ 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: 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: Cool!   11 comments

Everybody is posting winter images these days.  In some parts of the U.S. it is very hot.  Not too hot.  It’s summer after all, and to complain about heat in Texas during July is rather pointless I think.  It’s supposed to be hot there in July.  Besides, we should enjoy these summers.  They’re cool compared with what’s coming in the future.  But this isn’t a post about global warming calamities.  Just a winter image I captured in February, and probably my favorite one so far this year.  It’s also a post with good news!

The reason I like this picture is because of the (lucky) timing and unusual combination of weather forces.  The Columbia River Gorge occasionally freezes up.  Doesn’t happen too often, and when it does, local photogs. head out to shoot frozen waterfalls.  It never lasts very long.  This time it lasted 3 days, and I was out there at the stormy peak getting shots of big icicles and such.

On the 4th day a warm front started moving in.  I went out to the Gorge, curious to see what the melting would look like.  The freeway was a mess.  Cold air had held on within the Gorge, causing sleet to fall overtop the snow.  I finally made it with not much day left, and only had time for one stop.  Instead of a waterfall I walked through the thick brush to the river at this spot I know with a view of Beacon Rock.  Ice had glazed over all the trees and branches, and at the riverside the mossy rocks had a layer of ice-covered snow on them.

But what was most intriguing was the sky.  The warm front was riding up and over the cold air, causing some very angry-looking cloud formations.  I grabbed a few shots as the freezing rain started to turn to slushy rain.  I love shooting at transitions like this.  It often produces strange but beautifully moody pictures, and this time was no exception.

The reason I’m posting the picture (again) is that I’m hoping now to get an even better picture this year.  I couldn’t say that with confidence before yesterday, because I didn’t have a good camera.  The one that allowed me to capture this image, as most of you know, took a dive into a waterfall last spring.  I’m happy to say I can finally put that episode truly behind me.

Yesterday I rode my motorcycle up to Seattle to meet a woman who sold me her Canon 6D.  It’s a much simpler and cheaper version of my trashed 5D Mark III.  She was upgrading to the 5D in fact.  And she had not had the 6D long; it’s in new condition!  So now I’m almost home free.  All I need is to buy a lens to replace the one damaged in the waterfall and I’ll be back to full strength.  I’ll post new images from it soon.  That’s right all you wonderful people in blogville, I’m back baby!!

Crashing Skies:  A winter storm passes through the Columbia River Gorge, Beacon Rock sitting on the Washington side of the river.

Crashing Skies: A winter storm passes through the Columbia River Gorge, Beacon Rock sitting on the Washington side of the river.

Monochrome Monday: Foggy Mornings   4 comments

A barge on the Columbia River waits for heavy fog to lift before continuing down the river past Portland, Oregon.

A barge on the Columbia River waits for heavy fog to lift before continuing down the river past Portland, Oregon.

I’ve been back home about a week and a half and have not been shooting much.  But I got out the other morning to see what the fog presented in the Columbia River Gorge.  Since I didn’t do my usual Sunday post (blame football), here’s a rare Monday offering.  Fog is just made for black and white!

Though some of these images do work well in color as well (the barge shot especially), I decided to convert them to monochrome to highlight the mood.  They are copyrighted and not available for free download, sorry.  If you are interested in any of them just click to go to the main gallery section of my website.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for, please contact me with any requests and I can help you personally.  Thanks for your interest.

Fishing for winter steelhead is a popular reason to visit the Sandy River near Portland, Oregon.

Fishing for winter steelhead is a popular reason to visit the Sandy River near Portland, Oregon.

Fog shrouds the Sandy River Delta natural area along the Columbia River in Oregon.

Fog shrouds the Sandy River Delta natural area along the Columbia River in Oregon.

The lower Columbia River Gorge is near home, so it was easy to get up early enough.  The fog was heavy in town so I expected it to be shrouding the Gorge as well.  But I soon broke out of the fog into windy & crystal clear air just after sunrise.

Then I saw the barge (top image).  Normally I wait for these to clear out before getting my shot.  But this time I saw a photo where the barge was heading into the fog bank covering the lower river.  I was in a hurry to park and set up, but I didn’t need to.  The barge just stayed there.  I realized he was waiting for the fog to burn off before continuing.  With the heavy ship traffic on the Columbia this suddenly made perfect sense.

After the sun rose a bit and light got harsher, I retreated back to the fog.  I took a short walk on the Sandy River Delta, which is just off the interstate as you exit the Gorge going west.  It’s a popular place for people to go run their dogs.  It also is a very large area, and flat as a pancake.  The shot with the single tree and the fog is from here.

Fog and wintertime set a mood along the Sandy River in northwestern Oregon.

Fog and wintertime set a mood along the Sandy River in northwestern Oregon.

I drove a short distance up the Sandy River on the old historic highway.  Winter steelhead are the main draw this time of year on the Sandy, so the only people I saw had fishing poles in their hands.  I’ve been wanting a foggy shot of the Sandy for quite some time, and I think I got a good one (above).  What do you think?

I finished up shooting a small waterfall.  When you drive up the Sandy, you skirt a steep escarpment made up of the lava gravels of the Troutdale Formation.  In the wet season many waterfalls plunge off this cliff.  Since the Gorge’s famous falls are nearby, these get short shrift.  A beautiful little falls.  Thanks for reading and have a great week!

A small waterfall along the Sandy River, Oregon.

A small waterfall along the Sandy River, Oregon.

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