Color or Black and White?

On February 13, 2011, in California, by admin

Death Vally Sand Dunes – Original and Black and White

For Christmas my son gave me the book Ansel Adams in the National Parks. Two of my favorite things in one book!  Having traveled to many of our national parks, I was somewhat surprised that I had images similar to several of those in the Adams book.  The major difference is that mine are color while the entire Adams book is black and white.

This got me to thinking how my images would look in black and white.  The image above is similar to one Adams did in 1948 (Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park).  On the left is my original image, on the right is a black and white rendering of the same image.  Photoshop and other stand alone applications make converting and image from color to black and white easy.  Many digital cameras  allow you to do black and white in the camera.

The black and white image is a significant improvement over the original.  I think the black and white really accentuates the waves in the sand and highlights the dune edges.  This greatly increases the impact of the image.

Some might say that altering the image in Photoshop is “cheating”.  The book describes the process Adams followed to print each copy of the Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake image.  The text says that each of these prints required seven minutes of dodging and burning.  Photoshop and other such applications allow one to do many of these same techniques in a fraction of the time without the chemicals.

The most interesting line I read in the book was that “Ansel found photographing in Hawaii difficult”.  Oh no, I have a trip to Maui planned for the spring…

This is a great book for photography ideas when you travel to many of our National Parks.  I will use this book as a reference whenever I plan a trip to any of the parks mentioned in the book.

Sand Dune Sunrise, Death Valley National Park

What do you do when you are going on vacation and want to maximize your photography opportunities?  Obviously, do your research before leaving home and you will not be disappointed.  One of my favorite sources for out of town photography are the newsletters put out by Robert Hitchman at Photograph America.  Robert has put together 115 of these newsletter (and counting) that cover most everywhere you would want to take a photography vacation within the United States.  I have used these for several trips and have never been disappointed.

I took the above image at sunrise in the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park during a two day, one night trip to that park. To capture this image, I left my hotel room at 2:30 AM (I was on a business trip and had the weekend off).   I drove 2.5 hours to the park, hiked almost a mile into/around the dunes (mostly in the dark!), and set up my camera for sunrise.  I then spent the next two days photographing other areas of the park.  While I did not have time to hit all of the recommended locations at the right time of day, I did get the key shots I wanted.  More importantly, I did not waste time trying to figure out where I should be.  After reading the Death Valley newsletter I knew where I wanted to be every part of the day.

Exposure Settings

On September 26, 2010, in New Mexico, Photography Tips, by admin

White Grasshopper, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

During classes at the Washington School of Photography we spent quite a bit of time discussing proper exposure.  Because your digital camera will try to make the average color value in your image a mid-tone gray, there are scenes in which your camera will struggle to get the correct exposure.  Two classic cases in which your camera will struggle is the polar bear on a snowy surface and a black cat in a coal bin.  Since the camera will try to make the  average color value mid-tome gray, both the white polar bear and the black cat will appear gray.  Not very pleasing!

On a trip to the White Sands National Monument I found another scene where my camera struggled to achieve the proper exposure.  A white grasshopper on the white sands!  During a sunset tour of the park with one of the rangers we ran across this guy (almost stepped on him before the ranger pointed him out).

I varied my exposure compensation but just could not achieve a good exposure (from what I could tell using the small display on the back of my camera and using the histogram).   I finally let the camera set the exposure and then adjusted the image in Photoshop when I got home.  Since this was a difficult exposure, I did not feel it was “cheating” to use Photoshop to correct the image.

By the way, I also saw one of the local ranchers riding a camel through the dunes.  Now THAT was an unexpected sight!  The park ranger said that the rancher brought the camel to the park every evening for exercise (for the camel, not the rancher).

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