If you do, then run! Run to find a great foreground and subject to put with them. Clouds have the magic to transform the common into uncommon just by their very being. The key is to place your subject in the clouds but not letting the clouds overcome the subject. You want to use the clouds to give the imagination to roam and then bring the mind’s eye back down to the subject. This requires not only a great shape but also highlights and shadows that move the eye through the frame. In this process, you might have to use a split grad and the point of capture and Curves in post to manipulate those highlights and shadows. But if you have clouds, you have photographic gold!
A bigger file with greater “depth” should by defacto produce a richer B&W image. I thought I would push that just to see if the math works. This is a hangar shot where 30% of the light is from sodium vapor. Processing is simple Silver Efex Pro 2 and the results, well I am quite thrilled with this impromptu test!
We had driven past it a couple of hours earlier, but it was in full sun with bald skies. Yuck. When we came back by, the thunderstorm was building and the aperture in the clouds let enough light in to bring drama while providing a great background. So was required was an illegal U turn as we were shooting.
The only real question was, what lens to use? There was actually no right or wrong answer because everyone could make up and tell their own story. I went with the 18AF for a couple of reasons. One was its angle of view, the other is because it’s rectilinear (that’s not a PC). With that, it was simply a question of getting in the right place to relate the three buildings the way I like in concert with the clouds. So, I danced a little as the clouds and the aperture in them moved about.
The bottom image is the one I like the best, then the color version and finally the top image. When I stopped, I saw this at a B&W image but the clouds were changing and that made me move changing how I wanted to actually arrange the three buildings. Then a burst of sunlight came out when made me think color. All of these images are a handheld, 7 image HDR finished with Photomatix Pro and Photoshop.
Ad you know, I love to chase clouds. What you might not know is I can get really frustrated when I see great clouds and can’t do anything about it. This is just such the case. The storm cranked through Mammoth and the last clouds were really cool, this fishbone pattern. No matter where I drove, where I walked in the few moments I had, I couldn’t make a photo of this cool pattern. Time is the biggest issue because with the high winds, the clouds change shape and move much faster then I can do. In these cases, I still make a shot and stick them in a file as a visual reminder of possibilities. Argh…such a cool formation, what a suckie photograph!
Purty simple, the after & befores. My B&W recipe is all over the site. The location though is what sells it!
“Why did you frame it that way?” This question comes up often when I post landscape images. I appreciate the compliments that come from these images but with them often comes frustration from folks. Why can’t they take the same images? Everybody can, it just take a little time and, a little thought and, a little gear and, a ton of passion. These are the two images from our Mono Lake outing that I like the most. Why, and this is the really important, are these my favorites? It has as much to do with capturing the moment as well as the capture!
The vertical is an image I had previsualized and hiked to the location on the slope where I thought I would be able to make the image. From where we parked, the clouds on the left merged too much with the crest. At the same time, Mono Lake was too much of a sliver in bottom of the frame. So by moving up the slope and to the east, I was able to get the frame you see. Yes, I knew when I went click that the final image would be B&W. Quite often when I have clouds like this with that type of blue sky behind them, I know the contrast between the two sings in B&W. I use that knowledge in the framing of the entire image. Using Informal Balance, I use the two banks of clouds to pull the eye down to the saddle (Conway Summit) and then to Mono Lake.
The bottom frame I have to admit, looses something in this smaller thumbnail. The visual depth set up by all the clouds heading all the way down to the eastern horizon is something I waited for the wind to create. Then in the foreground is the sage that has a great pattern in its detail but is lost in the thumbnail. It’s the visual depth in this combination along with the slipping on my ass down the slope to make the click which is why I like it.
And here’s the deal, you might not like them and that’s OK! If I didn’t have a blog, you most likely would never see these two images. They are just a special moment in time when in chasing a storm, I made clicks that bring home that adventure. In this day and age when so many post images on the web looking for reassurance their images don’t suck (and many do but no one has the nerve to say so), look for that reassurance from the inside. And realize that next week that photo you liked today you might not like then. That’s how your photography grows!
Sometimes, just sometimes I like both ways so I take both because, they both work!
Ya Hooooo! While it might be just a one day wonder, right now I’ll take ANY storm that brings moisture and mood to the Sierra. Sharon, the dogs & I loaded up the truck and headed north in search of some atmosphere.
We didn’t have to go far, just over the ridge to find the clouds coming down into Mono Basin. I pulled over and made the click just in case the wind kicked up and took what clouds we had and either stacked them up so there was no light or, they scattered to the east falling apart. Thankfully, the evening just got better and the chasing more productive. Oh, the star burst, that’s just shooting with the lens closed down all the way. What you see here is what I saw from the highway and what I saw in my mind as the finished image. This is a 5 image, HDR hand held finished in Photomatix Pro, ACR & then Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.
Our storms so far this winter have been short, sweet and scant. All the snow we’ve had so far as melted off at the house. So chasing storm fronts has been challenging to say the least. I typically set out with just one lens on the D3x, the 24-70. I do this because the sky, the clouds are where the drama resides. I minimize the foreground, pointing the lens up. If there are some wild linticular clouds taking over the horizon, I might go wider but I tend to find going tighter and focusing on specific cloud formations is much more successful. One thing you should notice is there is a foreground, a middle ground and background. Foreground is the sage and grasses. Middle ground are the mountains and the background are the clouds.
When it comes to finishing, that’s pretty much right out of my basic B&W play book. I go into ACR where it all starts. I then go to Silver Efex Pro which does the heavy lifting and then I use Color Efex Pro. There, I use the graduated neutral density and to me, the Blend is the most important slider. You move the Blend slider back and forth and you will see how it does just that, blend the split and it makes a world of difference. Finishing time per image, less then 30sec, down easy stuff. That is of course because the photograph was taken to be B&W.
The bottom one is by far my favorite because of the micro burst, it just brings the storm to life in a still image. And in B&W, it just looks cool.
What follows below are the same images but Silver Efex Pro has not been applied. This is the image right out of ACR. In ACR the blacks are dropped down a tad, Highlights are moved up a tad and the blue is drawn down. And that’s it, it’s real simple finishing. As full color images, there is only one that kind of intrigues me enough to finish as a full color image. Which one is it? I’ll let you guess.
So the outside temp is up to 25, the sun is shinning and my Nik B&W Webinar starts in an hour. Thought I would warm up with a quick shoot. Step outside, looked for the light, detail and texture and went click. What you see above is the results. But it started with this….
How did I know this would work, run it through Photomatic Pro and create a 1 image HDR and then through Silver Efex Pro & CEP4? Drop on by and I hope to share all that and more with YOU so you too can have fun and success in the B&W realm!
The Close Ceremony of PSW was the best ever! It’s hard to wrap up in that short time all the amazing going ons of Photoshop World but we sure do give it our best effort. After my closing piece, my good bud Dave Black during his closing remarks called me Mr Clouds. It is true, I love clouds as I’ve mentioned more then once here. Well on Saturday morning we woke up to some great clouds! So with lens pressed against the glass and towel killing reflections, I made a click.
Well, the clouds followed us all the way home (or we followed them). It took a long time to get home, I kept stopping to shoot the clouds. I would stop when I saw patterns in the landscape and clouds (especially shadows on the ground) that would so the size and grandeur of the clouds. Now quite often when it comes to clouds I find less is more and these are some examples of that.
Now I really love this photo and for a detail you can’t see in this thumbnail. But if you click on the link below, you will see why. In the lower right corner is a 18 wheeler, a nice, all white one that I waited to get right where you see it in the shadow of the cloud and at the bottom of the frame. It says size better then anything else. And it is a little detail! And how was it finished? Well, just come to the Nik Webinar and find out!
Well, after the Liberty landed, I went looking for other subjects to put with the clouds. That’s actually a pretty common tactic of mine, I find a background I really love and then look for something to put in front of it. And when it comes to our fabulous summer thunderheads, the chase is on. So at the Minden Aviation Roundup there was a small static display they called a Zoo (planes with animal names) for the kids. I wondered over there since the light on the aircraft look good.First aircraft I came to is an old favorite, the Grumman G-73 “Mallard.”
The first thing I did was do a quick looksie through the lens to see if I liked the clouds in the background. Then, I moved backwards until I got the cropping I wanted of the Goose. Then I slid sidewise real slow until the center frame of the glass lined up with the tail. I then, using the grid in the E Scrn, but that line in the center of the line on the center line of the E Scrn. Click! While I really like the paint job on the Goose, I like it better in shades of gray with that sky. Finishing was a snap, Silver Efex Pro, a lot easier then waiting for the folks to move from the front of the Goose. That’s one thing you have to have when shooting is understanding. Shooting with the 200-400, not a soul knew what I was pointing at way back where I was standing let alone realize they were in my photo. But to compact the scene and get the cropping I wanted, the long lens was the only option.
Why the long lens? Most aircraft are taller then we are so the physically closer you are, the less your see in the cockpit and of the tail. The tail is everything I think so in order to lessen the angle, moving back and shooting with a longer lens permits you to see in the cockpit and the tail. So this Do-28 Dornier with the clouds reflecting off its nose instantly grabbed my attention and just like the Goose, I moved, slid and lined up the lines to make the shot. Finishing was just as simple.
Then I saw the thunderheads start to rise and wanted to find something to put with them. When I took this shot, I knew I wouldn’t like the resulting image but wanted to blog it. What do I think is wrong with it? The clouds look like they were put in using Photoshop. While that’s not the case, because of the perspective and depth of focus, they simply look phoney. It was a great start to what turned out being a great day!
Photos captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film
There we were in Warbird Alley as the sunset with a line of P-51D Mustangs glowing. There was a great photo there. The question is, how to get it? What my imagination was going to was an airfield in WWII, Mustangs ready to take flight. The only element of that I see in reality are the three Mustangs. How do I get the rest that my imagination saw? I knew that there was no way I could in reality get what my imagination was seeing in one click. And as Jake just posed in his blog, how much post is right to use?
That means that in order to get the final photograph my imagination sees, I will have to use Photoshop (one reason I love wildlife photography, I never have to think this hard). OK, with that thought, time to go to work. The subject is the line of Mustang canopies, gotta start with making the most of them. The lens on the camera was the 70-200VR2, looked through the viewfinder, not enough compaction. Switched to the 200-400VR2, compaction was good but….I couldn’t see all the canopies. They were all stacked up behind each other so the feel of “many” was lost. At the same time, there was of “junk” in the viewfinder that would simply take way too much time to remove. And the other problem many don’t think about when they know they have to work in post is, there wasn’t enough material to work with to make the junk disappear. How can I solve my problem?
Go Up! I looked around and behind us were the five row risers for the theater presentations. They were further back but they are the only elevation around. So I ran back to them and got up on the top riser. I looked out with my naked eye and liked what I saw. Put the camera to my eye and my heart sank. While I loved the canopies, the junk still remaining in the frame was a killer. The shutter speed was already down to 1/50 @ f/4 (ISO 100) so there wasn’t much time to do anything else. Click!
Keep in mind that my own personal standard is, if I have to spend more then two minutes with an image in post to finish, I abandon the image. I knew when I went click that this was going to take more then two minutes to finish. But it was real simple, how often have I seen three Mustangs lined up in killer light on a GRASS field like you might have seen in WWII? The time in post was worth the click. Keeping the subject in mind, the canopies, I took the image into post. I did my normal in ACR for aircraft (don’t know that that is, come to my session at Photoshop World in a couple of weeks) and then took the image into PS.
While when I took the click I assumed I had the skills to pull off the image, well, you know what happens when you assume. So the first thing I tackled to see if I would pull it off was reconstruction of the leading P-51Ds wings and wheels. Once that was accomplished I dealt with the middleground of the photograph. Last think I did was to take care of the background, the easiest. The entire time I kept one thing in mind, the subject. That’s why I filled in the trees in the background, created what looks like a taxi way in the grass and removed and rebuilt the elements. And the total time invested to get to this point, 8min, but I was liking what I was seeing on the Cintiq.
To get to the finished color image required a solid click to start with a basic game plan for finishing in post. Making the click without that knowledge, finishing in post would be near impossible. And all of that would have been not without the imagination creating the image to begin with. Because what I was looking for was an image reminiscent of an airfield in WWII. That meant going to B&W which was a simple single click with Silver Efex Pro. And that was that.
Do I like the final image? Yeah, I do, it fits what my imagination saw and it pulls at my passion for aviation. And I can hear what some of you might be saying right about now. “I no where have this ability.” Well, a number of years ago I didn’t either (ok, a decade ago now). How do you get this skill level? You gotta start by pushing yourself, take on challenges the simply make you sweat, have you doubting yourself and make them work. It’s not until you have a problem and then find a solution can you move forward. Now if a two day discussion on this very topic, looking and problems, solutions and applying them to your photography, Photoshop for Shooters is the class for you. You gotta start with your heart, add in imagination, sprinkle in camera gear and technical talents and you too will come up with those photos you desire. Push, take the time and make a great click this weekend and don’t panic when you can’t do it without post!
“When do you shoot B&W?” It’s a continual question I receive most often after I blog a B&W image. I truly wish there was a little recipe I could post that one could follow and it would create success for photographers. But I’ve not run into such which is why I keep posting B&W images with the hope that if I babble on about how I shot it, something might click for you to help you with this incredibly dramatic medium. It also has me looking at those photographs of mine that are B&W asking myself, “What did I see that told me to go B&W?” And in this case, a resounding answer doesn’t come flying back. There is something about the light, but what exactly it is I can’t put my finger on. This photo is a good example of what I’m referring to.
At Oshkosh in the Warbird Theater are featured aircraft each day. They aren’t exactly simple clean shots, there is all sorts of “stuff” around making getting a clean background a challenge. Now I’m fascinated by the Focke-Wulf 190 because it’s very simplistic looks are misleading to its lethal reputation. So when I saw this parked in the circle I walked around and around and around it just staring at it. Of course I had my camera in my hand but making clicks was a bit of a challenge. When I was at this angle you see here, I liked the drama of the angle and was happy to see a clean background, but the clouds weren’t enough. The biggest obstacle though for me was the backlit fuselage. The paint pattern is lost in the backlit, that is until you go B&W. I would love to tell you that this thought process went streaming through my consciousness but that’s not the case. Looking at the elements I placed in the viewfinder, I think that’s what came together when I went click. All I know is that when I made this capture, I knew it was a B&W photo.
The finishing is for the most part pretty straight forward. The first thing I did was finish my normal way in ACR. Then in Photoshop, the first thing I did was to remove some “stuff” over the left wing. Then I used my favorite B&W tool, Silver Efex Pro (did you know you can get a discount buying it clicking on the button at the bottom of the page?). I did my usual move with Structure and then used 5 control points in the sky to darken it. Then in Photoshop I darkened the tarmac on the right. Lastly, I using Stamp Tool > Luminosity to remove some halo around the tip of the prop. And all of that took less then two minutes to do. And I think that is kinda the key to knowing if the image you thought would make a good B&W is really a good B&W. Of course you need a clean black and white in a B&W image, but if you have to spend a lot of time getting there, then perhaps the image doesn’t make a great B&W image. These are just some random thoughts that I hope click with some helping them getting involved in this very romantic pursuit.
Photo captured by D3x, 14-24AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
As the thunderstorms leaving can be just as good as the coming. I love the drama as the energy is released!