Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seascape at Stony Point in black and white

Stony Point, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

The coastline of South Africa is stunning in color, but processing images in black and white give the seascape a different kind of depth. I've always admired the work of Ansel Adams, and I enjoy seeing his black and white landscapes. He was able to give each photo a degree of depth that one would not expect to see in a black and white photo. Adams spent hours developing each negative using a variety of darkroom techniques.

The digital darkroom is the software used to process digital negatives (i.e., RAW format files). The digital negative has data that is recorded from the sensor. Using a single lens reflex (SLR) camera, one has control over aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and all the other aspects of film photography. The difference is in how we "develop" the negatives.

I use a variety of software packages in my digital darkroom. Most of the time I start by loading my files into Aperture 3. I adjust levels there and get rid of highlight and dark clippings by using the recover and black point sliders. Then I adjust for clarity by using the Definition slider. Finally, I may add a bit of vibrance and then adjust the exposure curves.

After all those steps, I pull the image file into one of the Nik software plug-ins. If the ISO is 400 or less, I skip Define and go right to Viveza 2. That plug-in allows the adjustment of structure, contrast, brightness, etc using control points and sliders. I like that format of adjustment.

After Viveza, I usually will pull the file into Color Efex Pro and use a variety of effects there to tweak certain aspects of the photo (tonal contrast, graduated neutral density filter, polarization, glow or soft focus - depends on the image). In this photo, however, I used Silver Efex Pro to process in black and white. Selecting a flim emulator is the start of this work flow. From there I adjust the filter sensitivities, add some control points to lighten or darken areas of the image, and adjust structure, contrast and brightness. The final touch is to do some split toning - very subtle adjustments of tint to give the photo some depth.


Anonymous said...

Hello Andi,

I keep coming back to look at this picture. It's stunning. The best description I can come up with is "painterly"...

I've never been as taken by a landscape photograph. It's just wonderful.



Andi Wolfe said...

Thanks, Andy.

I am surprised at how much I've enjoyed seeing some of my photos in black and white. The color of this particular seascape is stunning, but I think the black and white brings out the details to direct the eye in a much more striking fashion.