An over active imagination? Ya, I have one of those! My love affair with rocks is pretty well known and that’s due in part to my imagination. For example this one at Lake Tahoe, it looks like a fish monster rising its head from the depth to spit out some chewing tabaco on us dumb photographers getting up early on a bald sky morning to shoot rocks. Perhaps a little more nuts is not only seeing this but then shooting to bring it out. Getting down near water level with D800 (ya, even wanted extra detail in the head) with the spooky sharp 18-35 and then processing it in Perfect Suit 7 B&W. Of course, when I say out loud what I was seeing, I was perceived as nuts and that is probably very correct. But then getting up early on a bald sky morning, is nuts!
My latest class on Kelby Training, Master B&W Landscape Photography is now posted and ready for you! Why am I telling you this again? A whole lot of you asked why it was called Outdoor and not Landscape. Well, you’ll now notice it’s back to the original Landscape. Some have asked why there is Nik B&W and not onOne in the finishing. That’s because when we filmed the class, onOne hadn’t made their B&W public yet. Thanks to ALL of you making this one of my most successful launched.
There are many reasons and uses for B&W photography just as there are for color. In understanding some of these, you can expand your use of this very romantic medium. One that I’ve not talked about (at least I couldn’t find it on the blog) that I use a lot is detailed texture. No, this is not some official photographic term, just the simple term I keep in the back of my mind when it comes to B&W photography. While in Yosemite a week ago, I was fortunate to have a number of opportunities to practice this concept. It starts with “flat light,” light where there is no real shadows. Why is that important? Because you can then use the contrast of B&W to bring out detailed textured rather then fighting shadows. Next, spring hadn’t spring so there were lots of bare trees and bare branches work great for this. After that, just had to let the magic of The Valley in and go click!
What I have here are two different foreground but the same basic everything else, trees. Now the one thing you might think is a requirement in capturing detailed texture is a D800E. Well lots of megapixels aren’t required! This was shot with the D4 with 18-35AFS. What is required is lots of DOF (shot at f/22 / f/29) and since shooting in a forest, a tripod. Then a personal thing, I underexposed a little more than normal so I have tons of highlights to pull out in post. Then it was simple a little ACR processing and then my favorite, onOne perfect 7 B&W shooting the Detail slider up to around 35. The one drawback to B&W detailed texture is that this image size you see here really doesn’t show off the detail. I’ve already made a 24×30 of the top image and at that size, there is oodles of texture and just sucks you in. Just thought I would pass along the thought.
John Muir called the Sierra, while in Yosemite Valley, “The Range of Light” and all it takes is to give it a moment, an open mind and heart and you can see exactly what he was talking about. With that simple phrase in mind (and he wasn’t thinking photography when he said that), B&W just seems to scream at me. This past week in Yosemite, the B&W possibilities were endless and I did my best to bring back those few that graced our path.
The top image was taken on the Merced below Mirror Lake on a gorgeous evening. Shooting with the D4 with 70-200VR2 with a polarizer attached, it was pretty much a simple click with the only real challenge was how much creek at the base to include or not. The next photo was taken from the sand bar in Lower Pool with D4 and my new favorite lens, the 18-35AFS with polarizer attached. And the bottom image was taken at sunrise from Superintendent Meadow with D4 with 70-200VR2.
The only real “trick” to getting these images is standing still and let the magic of The Valley work for you! When it comes to post, these were all finished in onOne’s Perfect 7 B&W which is all I’m using now. In every sense of the word, Muir had it right, it is the Range of Light and it does not disappoint!
As you might imagine, I get asked a few times, a minute, “What were you seeing when you took that photo?” This along with wondering what I was feeling are really great questions that might help one move their own photography forward. The one problem is, a lot of the time I’m not “seeing” and feeling on a level that honestly, isn’t like, screaming outloud in my head. I don’t want to say I’m going on auto pilot but I don’t want you to think I’m really thinking deeply either. So when folks as me this question, often my answer is a puzzled look on my face, like something else is about to come out. The other problem is, since I am constantly pushing my photography, the approach to going click is never the same. Hopefully, it’s getting better and more productive. So how to answer this question providing you with an answer that will help you? For the last few months, I keep bouncing this question around in my head.
One of my issues is, I don’t react the same way and approach each photographically opportunity the same way that can provide a meaningful answer. It wasn’t really that long ago, I shot like a madman, I mean astro blasting and I enjoyed it. Until I got back and had to deal with all the images, I didn’t enjoy that. That caused me to look at what I was doing in the field strictly mathematically in what I refer to “Calories in – calories out.” This basic animal instinct I applied to my photography. How much time and energy, camera clicks was I putting out to create those images that I really liked? Those images I wanted to take my precious time to finish and then share with others. With my huge push to shoot more, filing more just for the sake of filing lost its luster and doing the math, shooting like a madman wasn’t showing a huge increase in images that I finished and loved. If that was the case, was there a way to improve on the calories in – calories out results?
What you see here is a photographic answer to this question for myself. I realized that to tell someone else visually that where I had been, what I experienced and what I felt about a location really only took one photo, the photo. Ya, I would love a helluva lot more, I’m not insane but on the flip side, to feel successful for that outing, I only need that one. The problem is, getting to that one! During our Death Valley Adventure, we ventured out one afternoon to Stovepipe Wells Dunes. This gorgeous location is explored by many, you know by all the footprints in the sands. That was my first thought of what I wanted in my photograph, all the footprints to show the joy so many had exploring the tunes. But then I turned to an old theme I always love to explore, the sands of time. I love the patterns the winds creates in the sand, it seems to always suck me in. With the D4 / 24-70 I narrowed down my vision and looked for those lines and texture to make for me, at that moment, the photo. I only shot about 50 images the whole evening, but I came back with a high percentage of ones I finished (using onOne P7 B&W) and like. Now does any of this help you? I don’t know, I really don’t. It’s where my time behind the camera has brought me and who knows, it might be where yours takes you, if you know that’s a destination for going. Getting down to the photo.
K&M Adventures is down in the Grand Canyon where this morning is was a bright, crisp 0 with the wind! Didn’t stop the hot shooting. This image from last night is a simple D4 / 24-70AFS click. What is “special” is that the B&W was done in the new onOne Software Perfect B&W! And I’m here to tell you, I ~really~ like it! Those who have followed me know I’ve been a SilverEfex Pro guy from the get go. Well, Perfect BW has some features not found in SilverEfex including color targeted mods. You might be wondering about a “Structure” slider that is so big to me with SilverEfex? Well, try the Detail Slider…I like!!! I’m in my first week of playing with 7 and so far, really loving what I’m seeing!
PS…Thank Eric for letting me use his hot spot…first time online for days!
You’d think for a guy who’s been on the road for three months, he might just stay home after just getting home. What can I say, moss doesn’t grow under my %)&.With a presentation in Los Angeles and a “big” snow storm coming in, Sharon & I threw the dogs in the truck and headed south to the warm home of our marvelous friends. I’ve written many times and shared many an image from the Eastern Sierra when a storm rolls in. The skies, the light, the texture, the mood is just something else. Not every storm is the same, each has its own character and this one was no different. This one had wicked winds and at two different altitudes which created some amazing skies. The big problem was, I would be driving and see some amazing photo but by the time I found a place to pullover, the winds had scrambled everything. I would stop, scene changed so I went then stopped again, get out and shoot, jump back in and repeat. I did that for nearly three hours. I loved it!
Shooting with the D800 & 24-70AFS mostly, and what you see here is a 24mm shot (top) and a 70mm shot (bottom) but both taken knowing I was shooting B&W. Why one focal length vs another? It has to do with the light and bright ratio to the clouds with dark character. I love to play those two against each other so I’m always looking at that ratio in the viewfinder. At the same time, I’m looking at the lines those clashing tones create to lead the eye around the frame. It’s all of that in combination which for me, determines the focal length.
And this photo? This is what it looked like behind me. That peak which is just short of 12,000 feet has disappeared all but its base in the snow storm that chased us out of town. We did finally make it down to a very warm home with great friends and food with a whole lot of images on the flash card and little gas left in the tank. A perfect road trip!
A few years back, Sharon & I started a new tradition of spending Veteran’s Day down in Mesa, AZ. With snow knocking at the front door, we got in the truck and headed down the road. It was a gorgeous day to drive through the desert! With D800 / 24-70f2.8 AFS in my lap, we dumped the dogs off with the sitters and off we went!
Now when I say, “Shootin down the road,” I mean just that. The window goes down, the camera gets stuck out and the motordrive goes clickin away. I started doing this long ago because there never seems to be a place to pullover when I see the shot. And if there is, it’s never where I want to stop or, I go by it so fast, it’s too late when I see it. So, I go shooting down the road!
I’ve gotten real good at sighting over the lens barrel, guessing pretty closely to the framing and then laying on the shutter release to take a whole bunch of frames. Leveling I have down because of how I rest the camera on my left arm, old habit. Finishing was real simple, Silver Efex Pro 2. mtc…
This past weekend was simply great! We held our last Mono Lake Workshop for the year with simply a really great group of photographers! Lots of great shooting, laughs, teaching and of course, gorgeous Eastern Sierra weather. I’m always intrigued how each workshop seems to have its own tone, theme and techniques that want to be learned. They are never the same and this weekend had its own. In that process, I get in a couple of clicks here and there. We had two very different mornings with one being pretty typical of no clouds and another with some high, scattered clouds.
A number of folks asked about me and clouds. They’d noticed I shoot a lot of them and on occasion, they turn out pretty good. So they asked what was my secret. There is really only one, and that’s selecting the clouds and matching them with the subject. Clouds tend to have a pattern to them, a pattern that “points” to something. So the trick is having an interesting something. Once you recognize that, you then just have to decide how you want to wrap the bow on it. In this case, D4, 18AF with Silver Efex Pro is how I decided to wrap a bow on it. Oh ya, I started with a 5 image handheld HDR assembled using Nik HDR Pro. mtc
The drive home from Photoshop World was great! We were fortunate to have our sons Brent & Jake join us at Photoshop World and than follow us home to head out together in a day to the Reno Air Races. The skies were simply killer so once we turned off Hwy 95 and started to head west, I grabbed the D800 & 24-70 and drove with them in my lap. When I saw a photo, I would stop in the middle of the road, shoot and than keep on going. This really slowed down our progress but gave me time to think about things.
About thirty minutes later I noticed the boys weren’t behind us anymore so I pulled over. After a while, we started to wonder so we turned around and drove back about five miles to find them pulled over shooting. These shots came from that stop. The top is a simple click with Silver Efex Pro doing the heavy work. The bottom photo is a pretty common site here on the eastside. I popped out the flash on the D800 to give it a little glow. I’m posting this now because they are forecasting snow for us this coming weekend. Fall is here…ya baby!
You know when you have a friend in Joe McNally when on his blog he bestows you with such a title. While I don’t think I’m that light on my feet, I do love clouds! During our Napp Photo Safari during Photoshop World, the heavens gave us a heck of a show and I was more than happy to watch, shoot and hopefully inspire others with the experience. Both of these shots are in my book simple clicks, taken with the D4 and 24-70AFS
The scene above is the one Joe describes in his blog. For me, such a scene is a simple click but for many, clouds and B&W is a mystery so I explained what I was seeing with my eyes and how I would translate that to a photograph. We start with the light and how we want to use it to pull the eye through the frame. With that known, we than look at those elements that prevent that movement of our eye and do what is needed to exclude them from the frame. Than we make sure we still include those elements we do want, set the exposure comp to -2/3 and go click. Than head into Silver Efex Pro 2 and do a simple 80 structure move, a little levels for the blacks and we’re done. Some from the safari have emailed asking for the video I mentioned. You will find those along with all my videos in, yeap, the Moose’s Video Library. Thanks to all the folks who joined us…great day!
We are incredible fortunate to live in paradise! As I’ve mentioned probably too many times, summer in the Eastern Sierra is great with our monsoon storms. The clouds just play in the heavens as they float by. For this reason, I’m constantly heading out to the front deck to look up and see what is floating by. My favorite rig is the D4 with 24-70AFS, the format fits perfectly for shooting among the pines in the front. Here’s a series from last evening.
What you have here is the out of the D4 Jpeg and the finished PSD file. In this first image, first step in finishing is ACR using my Landscape preset. In Photoshop, the Apsens in the dead center of the frame were replaced with the Clone Tool with fir as in the rest of the frame. Then the image was run through Silver Efex Pro 2 and finished with Pro Contrast in Nik’s Color Efex 4. The entire finishing process took less than two minutes.
This next image in the series is the one I like the best. Camera gear and finishing all the same except this time, Pro Contrast was replaced with a Levels layer just to pull the blacks down a tad. Oh ya, I removed a couple of tree tops in the lower left corner with Content Aware Healing Brush. Why do I like this one the best? I have that “burning bush” feel to it, really strong graphics. I like that.
I like this last image more as a color than B&W, I think. I like the shape of the cloud but the tree is a little too bulky for me. The camera was all the same. In finishing, the first thing you’ll notice is the limb in the top left missing. That was done with Content Aware Fill. Then the rest of the finishing was done exactly the same as the first image. I hope this series will encourage you to just step out your door, no matter where you live, look up and make a click. Exploring the backyard and simple processing can open up all sorts of creative doors!