“Patagonia in Black and White”. By Ossian Lindholm

Some people consider B&W photography to be a higher art than color photography. Regardless of whether this is true or not, the fact is that a B&W image provokes a powerful visual impact. 

In they days of Ansel Adams there was no alternative but B&W. But in the digital era we have the option of editing the same photograph either in color or in B&W. Just as masters like Adams finished their work in the dark room using the techniques of dodging and burning, today the digital photographer must learn how to use software – that continually evolves – in order to achieve the desired results.

El Chalten. Los Glaciares National Park . Argentina 
f/6.3  1sec  ISO200 @90mm    

In my previous newsletter,  “A Glimpse into the Wild”, I wrote about Patagonia, its unique landscapes and the characteristic wildlife of the very southern tip of South America where I lead an exclusive Patagonia Photo Tour.
Here are images of this part of the world from a B&W perspective.

Glaciar Perito Moreno. Los Glaciares National Park . Argentina.
Nikon D7100 + 17-55mm   f/5.6  1/250 ISO100 @80mm 

With the absence of color we need to pay extra attention to the expressiveness of the lights and shadows, in the forms and especially in the textures. The B&W impacts the observer differently who will probably spend more time contemplating the image and returning to it multiple times and each time finding something new.
B&W demands from the photographer more attention in the composition and more creativity. In color photography the different colors can balance a composition, but in B&W many of those colors will have the same shade of gray. That’s why shapes and textures are so important when you need to differentiate objects in a image. Not always a color photography looks attractive in B&W.

Torres del Paine National Park
f/16  1/100  ISO100  @15mm

Clouds can be an important compositional element in B&W photography.
In Patagonia the clouds have curious shapes and are dynamic due to the characteristic winds of the region.
Patagonia is a region where  fantastic Lenticular clouds can be observed.

Torres del Paine National Park
f/16  1/1250  ISO100 @30mm

We can achieve attractive photos choosing a foreground with good textures. In the following photo taken before sunrise with 2.5 seconds of exposure, the grass provided a nice compositional element.

Torres del Paine National Park
1
/16  2.5 sec  ISO100  @15mm

Overcast conditions can create a soft and diffuse light that makes gentle images, while with stormy weather we can get images of great drama.

Torres del Paine National Park 
f/6.3  1/1250 ISO200  @90mm

Wildlife photography can also be attractive in B&W.
The lights, shadows and texture of the background play an important role.

Puma in Torres del Paine National Park 
f/9   1/160  ISO11400  @850mm

The golden lights of a reddish sunrise or sunset are not useful for B&W photography. But what is interesting about these moments of the day are the special shadows  produced by the low angle light of the sun and the backlighting that we can achieve. In the following photo, taken during sunrise, we can see the rim lighting on this puma cub.

Puma cub in Torres del Paine National Park. Chile. 
f/9  1/1600  ISO900 @850mm 

My flow to achieve a B&W photo
Always bear in mind that a nice B&W photo comes from a very good color one.
1. Always shoot in RAW. This files have all the information obtained in the camera sensor. In RAW we have a greater dynamic and tonal range, something extremely important in a B&W photo. Remember that we work with shades of gray, the more tones we have greater aesthetic possibilities. A greater dynamic range give us more information in the shades and in the highlights.
2. Shoot in color. We need to save all the color information. More colors, more shades of gray.
3. Start the process in camera RAW or Lightroom, like you do for a color photography. In this part of the process it is important to conserve all the possible colors and tones from the photo. Avoid contrasting the photo much.
4. Open the photo in Photoshop and do the work like you would do in a color photography, levels, layers, masks etc. But remember to keep all the colors and tones. The photo may look that it needs more contrast, but that is fine.
5. Process to B&W. Bear in mind that tones and textures is what will make the photo attractive. There are many ways to do it,  but for me the best is the use of the filter Silver Effect Pro2  ( NIK Collection ) , a complete tool that allows a high customized work.

 

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