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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Black & White?


First a little back-story on the photo. These docks line the water on a lake in Utah near a natural hot spring. So even during the coldest months of winter the water is open and free of ice. This is great for fishing, and especially for bass fishing because the water is warm enough in the middle of January to catch some lunkers (I'm sworn to secrecy and I can't say where this lake is). The other advantage is the hot springs create a dreamy layer of steam and fog that makes for some very cool photo opportunities. I loved the look of the frost covered dock and the way the sunlight highlighted the steam's ebb and flow. I shot from a few different angles but this composition stood out the best.

After uploading this shot and applying a little processing, I loved the finished look of the photo, but I couldn't help but see it as a black and white image. The subtle coloring of the original made it easy to see as a viable option for a B&W conversion and I always try to keep an open mind about making good shots better.
As for when to do the conversion I am definitely in the school of thought of taking pictures as color first and then converting them to B&W in your favorite software later. My main reason is that the majority of my time shooting is spent looking to capture the brilliant colors coming from or highlighted by the golden hours of the sun and I  don't want to give those colors up too often. The other reason for shooting in color is that you can always keep the original, while shooting in monochrome there's no going back.

For the conversion there are almost always just a few keys I follow. Whatever software I use to make the change to B&W the first thing I do is bump up the contrast until the blacks look just right (you know black). The second key is the brightness usually needs a small increase due to darkening from the conversion and as long as the whites don't blow out we're good. The last step is a little bit of noise reduction to clean up any contrast noise introduced and I mean as little as possible to keep the details as sharp as possible. And that's it finished.

So for this picture I really liked both the color and the B&W versions and luckily I don't have to choose, I can use both.