WORKING IN MONOCHROME

Last summer I drove into the mountains to photograph the sunrise at Silverwood Lake.  If you’re interested in seeing a few of those shots taken very early in my photographic journey, you can click here.

After the sun had completed its ascent, my wife and I decided to drive over to Wrightwood, CA.  Wrightwood is a small mountain community where you can find a tremendous breakfast at the Evergreen Cafe – a real “Diners, Drive-Inns, and Dives” kind of place!  Whenever a Wrightwood visit is on our calendar, we always plan to stop here for breakfast.  Because of our early photo shoot however, we had actually arrived before they had opened.  Not to worry, the coffee was brewing and we were welcomed inside to enjoy some while they completed their pre-opening tasks.  In fact when the owner noticed we were waiting in our car, she came out personally to bring us inside.

On the way home, my wife noticed a brush area that had experienced a devastating fire, most likely last fall.  It presented an interesting landscape, which compelled me to stop for a few shots.  But when I downloaded the shots, they just didn’t seem that appealing to me.  Because of that, they were set aside with the thousands of shots that never make it to this blog.

Going through some of my old photographs, I came across them once again and decided to experiment with some monochrome techniques.  In my re-examination, I began to imagine how they might look if I could extract the color and heighten the detail.

This first shot is the original photograph.  You can easily see why I was not impressed with this presentation.  While it shows the devastation of the fire, it really has little interest other than that.

Since it had very little color aspects to begin with, I decided to experiment a bit with a monochrome presentation.  First, I extracted the small amount of color that was present.  Then I lightened the shadows and at the same time I darkened the highlights.  Because of this initial process, when I adjusted the mid-tone contrast it just seemed to make the detail pop!  Everything that was hidden in the original shot, seemed to spring to life in this modified version.  Next, I added a hint of noise which seemed to even further enhance the effect.  Finally, I slightly sharpened the entire image to bring out even more detail.  And, this is the final product.

This is interesting: When I added the noise, it created a really nice effect in the original shot and in the smaller shot I posted here.  But if you enlarge this shot in WordPress, it seems overdone.  When I go back and look at the original in Photoshop, it doesn’t look that way at all.  I’m not sure how to explain that.  Maybe the noise was too much.  That’s where you come in.

I’m really hoping many of you will comment as to your sense of this presentation.  I haven’t worked with black and white at all, but I know many of you have and are very good at it.  Chris Tisdale does a lot of work in monochrome.  You should check out his blog.  I know you stop by often, Chris – I hope you’ll offer a comment.

Thanks for your evaluation.  And as always, I hope you’ll feel free to leave a comment – even if it has nothing to do with the technical aspects of the post processing.  Maybe you just like or don’t like the shot – either way, let me know.

Thanks for stopping by today!

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~ by photographyfree4all on October 21, 2010.

17 Responses to “WORKING IN MONOCHROME”

  1. I really liked this. And with or without the “noise” I think, it just being shown, in black and white, brings back the beauty of the plant life, even before the fire. It takes you back to its original body. So to speak. Or at least thats my thoughts. But what I love is your sense, to want to bring it back to life, in any way that you could….sort of sentimental….by your trying to revive the beauty of it. For the potential was there. Inspiring, to sum it up.

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  2. I like black and white, also. But, however, in this case I think I like the first one the best. I can see the partially burned growth, even a slight tinge of green, and I sense that the plant is struggling to recover.

    Bob

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  3. I like them both, for reasons already mentioned in the first two comments. The black & white, when I viewed it large, did look as if the noise was overdone. I’ve noticed that large versions of photos are sometimes distorted on WordPress. I don’t know why.

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  4. Thanks, Elena! There was a part of me that thought, if I take this to monochrome it will not appear dead – but alive. I’m not trying to conceal the harshness of the fire – well, maybe I am. But, in a way that enhances the shot. I’m glad you stopped by.

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  5. I think the original shot shows the destruction of the fire – where the second shot seems to hide that fact. I imagine if I would have posted only the secong shot and not mentioned the fire – most people would never suspect that most of the plants were dead. Thanks for stopping by, Bob!

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  6. See, that’s what I’m talking about. I really like the noise in the smaller version and in my larger original. But, something happened with the WordPress transition of uploading. I’m glad you stopped by today, Robin. I think each shot displays a different side of the same scene – which is rather intiguing, I think!

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  7. Hey, Bob! I forgot to mention, I loved jumping over to your blog and seeing your recent birding endeavors! I also loved the tour of Big Bend you shared with us!

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  8. I wanted to thank you for the nice comment on my blog the other day! Also…love your photography. I’m going to add you as a link on my blog…if it’s O.K.

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  9. Thanks, Sherry! That would be great. I’m glad you stopped by today!.

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  10. The black and white version is beautiful! I love working in black and white! I often find that the colour can distract from the form. This is the case here, I’d say, since, as you said, the colour is not very interesting in the first shot. But you’ve done a good joc with the black and white, it just looks so much better, especially as you’ve got an excellent composition! I agree about the noise when you click on the image, although I also think it looks over-sharpened…
    Also, I love those older landscape photos, and I left a comment.

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  11. Aren’t you curious to return and photograph the area again? Has the area begun to restore and regrow?

    They are both nice images – just depends on the message you wish to convey – enjoy the exploration!

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  12. I’m really glad you stopped by, Kai. I appreciate your comment. I did have fun with the B&W processing. I think that’s how I learn best – to experiment and learn from the good and the bad. I hope you’ll stop by again, soon.

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  13. I think it’s a great idea to make a trip back there to see the growth of this section as it comes back to life. Maybe you’ll see an update in the future, Dawn. thanks for stopping by.

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  14. I think you made the right choice to re-process the photo in black + white. there are some shots that just don’t generate the same kind of impact when seen in color.

    as to why something may look different in Photoshop vs WordPress, it all has to do with perceived scale and how software downsamples an image.

    if you are viewing a picture at “fit to screen” in photoshop, any effect you apply to the image will be less noticeable than when you view at “full size” or “100%” in any software.

    if you open a large image in your web browser, and then it auto-scales to fit to your window, it will generally look terrible. why? browser software is not nearly as advanced when it comes to resizing and resampling pixels as Photoshop is, so the photoshop “fit to screen” image will look much cleaner and more accurate than your “fit to window” image in a browser window. the busier the image in terms of noise and detail, the more freaked out your browser software will be.

    hope that helps. again, nice use of b+w!

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  15. I love monochrome images, as you probably realized by now 🙂 In this instance I think the image is better served in the coloured format, but I like the way you are experimenting with the monochromatic medium. In my case, as soon as I take a shot I usually know whether it will be a coloured or monochromatic image in the end, something about the scene just speaks to me that way 🙂
    Keep experimenting!

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  16. John, thank you for your comment! Your information is especially useful when it comes to understanding the scale process in WordPress and Photoshop. I was hoping you would comment because I’ve seen so much of your work and know you love B&W photography. You and Michael Lam both do a lot of monochrome work and it’s very good. Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing your expertise with this shot!

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  17. Michael, I so glad you commented, too! I knew you did a lot of B&W, so your take on this is very important to me. Do you think it has to do with what you’re really trying to show? Because I think with the B&W, you really don’t get the impact of the fire. But, with the original shot, you can easily see the fire’s destruction. Is that what you’re thinking? Or, is it even something else? I hope you’ll stop by again and offer your expertise in these situations! Thanks!

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