Bl ack & White l and scapes

Bad weather and long ex­po­sures are just a cou­ple of rea­sons why land­scapes are made for mono – find out the facts for best re­sults

Digital SLR Photography - - The Beginner ’s Guide -

Black & white pho­tog­ra­phy is rooted in the works of so many great land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers – ansel adams, Michael kenna and Josef holehner, to name a few – that it's no sur­prise it's still in­spi­ra­tional. their im­ages have helped keep the beauty of film pho­tog­ra­phy alive and in­spired count­less pho­tog­ra­phers in their wake to cre­ate mono­chrome master­pieces, en­sur­ing the qual­ity and va­ri­ety of black & white scen­ics is still as strong as ever.

like film, dig­i­tal im­ages should be cap­tured as neg­a­tives – in other words raw files – and that's never more im­por­tant than with land­scapes. to cap­ture max­i­mum de­tail through­out the frame and to re­tain as much con­trol over your tonal range and qual­ity as pos­si­ble, shoot­ing in colour and raw for­mat is para­mount. when you’ve taken so many care­ful steps to cap­ture your pho­to­graph, where's the sense in sur­ren­der­ing at the fi­nal step and let­ting your cam­era de­cide what de­tail to delete by shoot­ing in Jpeg- only? as we've men­tioned pre­vi­ously, shoot­ing raw+ Jpeg lets you pre­view your con­verted im­ages in- cam­era and gives you the dig­i­tal neg­a­tive to process at your dis­cre­tion. it's a win- win! hav­ing such power over your pro­cess­ing also means you can ex­ploit what lim­ited tonal range you have at cap­ture.

Not all scenes suit mono­chrome, but there are some that make a per­fect pair. Night- time land­scapes, for ex­am­ple, with its in­her­ent high isos and noise; cities with monochro­matic sky­scrapers, strong lines and ab­stract shapes; and the coast that's full of op­por­tu­ni­ties for sim­ple ab­stracts and creative long ex­po­sures. Some land­scapes are made for mono once they're sub­jected to cer­tain con­di­tions, such as fog, mist and back­light­ing, as it of­ten cre­ates low- con­trast scenes with al­ready monochro­matic tones, pro­duc­ing amaz­ing mood.

a brood­ing, dark stormy sky is also per­fect weather for great black & whites as you can re­ally ex­ploit the nat­u­ral con­trast in the sky with a strong ND grad fil­ter. how­ever, if it were in colour you’d prob­a­bly need to wait for the sun to break through the clouds for sim­i­lar im­pact. Nor­mally, when shoot­ing in colour, you'd want to avoid flat light­ing but with black & whites, the strength of the light is far less im­por­tant than its qual­ity. Dull, over­cast days with lit­tle di­rect light may de­liver flat, life­less land­scapes straight out of cam­era – but they of­fer far more op­tions in pro­cess­ing. the even, soft light from cloud cover re­veals the small­est of de­tails that may other­wise have been lost to deep shad­ows and bright high­lights that can be a strug­gle to con­trol. in­stead you pro­vide your­self with the per­fect dig­i­tal neg­a­tive that en­ables you to ex­pand the tonal range with­out the worry of los­ing de­tail in the high­lights or shad­ows. you can process for con­trast by bright­en­ing and dark­en­ing mid­tones to im­prove dy­namic range. the flip- side of flat light­ing, how­ever, is a washed- out sky, so you may want to use a grad­u­ated ND fil­ter to im­prove the avail­able tonal range or con­sider re­plac­ing the sky in post- pro­duc­tion.

of course it’s not only bad weather that pro­duces great black & whites im­ages: strong direc­tional light from a low set­ting sun, for in­stance, can work won­ders for re­veal­ing tex­ture and adding depth, so it’s still worth head­ing out dur­ing the golden hours to utilise the low rak­ing light. when the light is vi­brant and warm, as it of­ten is at sun­rise and sun­set, you may find it dif­fi­cult to jus­tify a black & white con­ver­sion. But trust us: give it a go. colour of­ten masks the shapes and true tones of a scene, which a change to black & white can bring to the sur­face, so don’t dis­count it when you’re pro­cess­ing a raw file – you've noth­ing to lose.

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