I seem to have a preference for wide views. Hence my attraction to stitched multi-frame panorama images. They’re a great way to extend the field of view of lenses you have with you.
Keith H. and I walked around downtown Orlando for a few hours one day last week. I made a lot of photos, and after getting home and reviewing them, my favorites all turned out to be stitched panoramas. I guess I just enjoy being able to see the whole scene. Here are three examples:
Back alley break – A woman takes a work break on the back stairs. 4 frame panorama
Also, I hardly ever make selfies, but on this walk I ended up with two that I like – although they aren’t typical of the genre.
A window selfie – Looking south across Church Street from the 4th floor of the Plaza parking garage. That’s my reflection in the glass towards the middle bottom. Infra Red, Black & White, 4 frame panorama. (Click for a larger view on Flickr)
And this next one isn’t a Black & White photo – the sidewalk and wall were that color.
Cracks me up – A shadow selfie. 3 frame panorama.
You might find you like stitching panoramas too. I’ve written about them before. This article has a detailed workflow example and there are some more ideas in this post. Composition can be difficult since you can’t see the final image through your viewfinder as you capture it. Try to cover a larger area than you think you’ll need so you can crop into the assembled image to fine tune the composition. And watch out for long lines and patterns of lines. Look for any errors / mismatched lines between frames after you stitch them together and clean them up with the clone tool.
Besides downtown itself, there are several areas in Orlando with interesting photo ops: the Plaza Theatre, Leu Gardens, Lake Eola, Meade Gardens, and Greenwood Cemetery. I’ve collected photos from all of them in this set on Flickr.
Sometimes it’s obvious that an image is good the first time you look at it. With others, it can be difficult to visualize what they’ll look like after processing.
If you use raw format in your photography, they look different from jpg photos. Raw format is just the data read directly off of the sensor with no processing by the camera. Depending on how you configure your camera and software, raw image contrast and sharpening can be very low, white balance may not be optimized, and exposure is often set for capture / low noise instead of display / print.. This can make it tough to judge raw photos and decide which ones merit further processing.
When I returned from Maine and reviewed my photos, I bypassed some. When I finished working on the ones I’d identified as “selects”, I went back and re-looked at those I’d set aside. Some of them deserved attention.
A calm morning on Bubble Pond
It’s not just raw images that can be difficult to evaluate. Infrared photos usually need processing to optimize too.
Bass Harbor Light
And multi image panoramas make seeing composition and field of view a challenge before the individual frames are stitched together.
Behind Sand Beach
I can’t tell you how to rate your images and select your best. But what I can tell you is to be very careful not to discard something before you’re very sure that it’s not worth pursuing. Give your photos a second chance. Learn your software so you know how far you can go with adjustments. And as with any thing worth pursuing, practice will make you better.
Here comes the sun – Sunrays shining through offshore clouds mirrored on calm inshore water. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. GPS: 28°38’8″ N 80°46’33” W
I’ve been adding Lat/Lon location info to my photos for several years. It’s helpful to others to see where I made each one. And I like to look back and see the info too. If you click on a photo in the blog that I’ve geo-tagged, it’ll display on Flickr with a map showing the location below the photo.
I use Lightroom’s Map module for this. If I know where I was I can easily drag the photos to that place on the map. For unfamiliar places, I try to remember to make at least one iPhone photo so I can copy its GPS info to the other photos I make there. That’s what I did on my recent trip to Acadia National Park and it worked well. But I want something a bit less manual.
It would be nice if all cameras did this automagically like the iPhone does. The only other one I have with GPS capability is an Olympus TG-2 underwater camera that I use when kayaking. Nikon makes an add-on GPS, but it only works with Nikon, you’d have to remember it, not lose it, and it plugs into the remote release socket – so it’s a pain when you’re shooting from a tripod.
I’ve experimented before with using my phone to record GPS tracks. On our trip to Alaska in 2009, I used an app and later synced the tracks to photos back on my computer. That was a pain too (the app and software weren’t very reliable). But it seems I wasn’t paying attention to Lightroom updates since then. I completely missed that it now has the capability to sync a captured GPX format track to photos in your library.
Lightroom Map Module: The track interface is hidden in a pull down menu at the bottom of the screen.
Using the interface at the bottom of the Map Module (shown above), you can load a track and use it to auto-tag the location of photos in a folder. And it works very well!
So how exactly do you do this? There are three steps:
Before you leave, make sure you set the time in your cameras correctly. The time stamp is used to sync the position from the GPS track to each photo.
Use your GPS unit or an app on your phone to record a track of your movements. There are several iPhone apps that will capture the track info. I tried GeoTagr ($4.99 in the app store) and it worked well. Motion-X GPS (no longer in the app store?) also works. When I got back home, I emailed myself the .gpx file with the track information. One warning: sometimes these location recording apps can be power hungry. You might want to check to make sure you don’t run down your battery doing this.
Move the .gpx track file to the folder on your computer with your photos. Then load it into Lightroom and apply it to the photos. Easy-peasy! It all just works!
Two more geo-tagged photos from a quick trip to Merritt Island early last Thursday:
Nearby Mangroves and distant storm. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. GPS: 28°38’8″ N 80°46’33” W
Morning by the causeway. Parrish Park. GPS: 28°37’21” N 80°47’45” W
I like this method and I’ll probably use it in the future. It’s much less fussy than what I tried several years ago. Now all I have to do is remember to start the app at the beginning of a photo-op. I wish I’d worked this out before my trip to Maine. It was an effort to figure out where each of those photos were made.
By the way, MINWR was still quiet last week – not much wildlife or birds about. I did see a group of White Pelicans there. Usually, they don’t show up until November. I’m not sure what that means, but they were fun to watch.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And geo-tag them!
Sometimes, you can arrive at a “bucket list” location and it’s disappointing when it doesn’t live up to your expectations. So let’s get that out-of-the-way now: That won’t happen at Acadia National Park. It’s an utterly awesome place. If you haven’t been there yet, make sure it’s on your own bucket list.
“The Bubbles” mountains from the southern end of Jordan Pond. I used a polarizing filter for this and I like the way it renders the nearby rocks through the water and the trees on the left. ISO 100, f/16, 1/10 second, at 16mm.
This place on the south shore of Jordan Pond is one of the most iconic views in the park. I looked and was surprised there weren’t any holes worn in the rock from all the tripods over the years. But I didn’t let the fact that everyone takes a photo here stop me – I couldn’t resist making one of my own.
I’ve wanted to go to Acadia for a long time. My friend Kevin M. went last year and raved about it. When Mary Kate suggested I go up with her, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
It’s a landscape photographer’s paradise. I spent almost 6 full days there. I met MK and her coworker Ryan on Friday evening and they left Sunday afternoon. Fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. arrived Monday afternoon and we stayed until Thursday morning. It’s brimming with photo ops: rugged shorelines, sandy beaches, granite mountains, calm mirror like ponds, beautiful forests, gnarled trees, lighthouses, fishing villages, whales, birds, and more. It felt like there were photos everywhere I looked.
Acadia is small for a national park (at least compared to some of those out west) but it still covers a very large area. And getting from the Bass Harbor Head Light all the way to the Schoodic Peninsula can take some time, especially with traffic during the peak summer season. This map shows where I made my photos.
You can see I made it to much of the park, but I missed an even larger part of it. Not to mention that I mostly stayed close to the car. I didn’t explore any of the hiking trails and carriage roads. I guess I’ll have to keep it on my bucket list and go back!
I visited several places more than once and the changing light and weather made them look very different. Bubble Pond, Schoodic Point, and Cadillac Mountain were my favorites.
Looking north-west from Otter Creek Drive, with Cadillac Mountain in the distance. A 5 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W. ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, at 28mm (equivalent focal length).
I found the spot above just driving around, not from a guidebook. The fog in the distance and the lily pads in the nearby pond called out for a photograph.
Schoodic Peninsula is in all the guidebooks and you must go there. We spent hours looking for compositions hidden in the rocks, cliffs and waves. Just make sure you’re careful. The rocks can be slippery and unexpected waves have washed people into the water.
Schoodic Point Waves. I used a Hoya ND400 filter on this to slow my shutter speed. Even though the sun had been up for a while, I could expose at ISO 100, f/16, 4.2 seconds, at 16mm.
Sieur de Monts is in all the guide books too and when I saw photos of the birch forests I knew I had to stop there. Tom and I initially made a wrong turn, but finally found it. And what a wonderful place it was – well worth the walk!
Paper Birch and sedge grass forest, along Jessup’s Path. This is a 6 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W. ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/100 sec at 28mm (equivalent focal length).
We saw wildlife too. On Saturday morning, MK and I took the Puffin / Whale tour offered by Bar Harbor Whale Watching. It was a bit foggy, but nice enough and the captain managed to find both Atlantic Puffins and Humpback Whales for us. We also saw several lighthouses that we wouldn’t have spotted otherwise. In addition to the puffins, I photographed four other new life birds: Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots, Great Shearwaters, and Great Black-backed Gulls. And there may have been a few others that I didn’t recognize / identify. Back on land we saw deer a couple of times, and (heard about) a bear. But sadly, no moose.
Two Humpback whales show their tails on the way back down after surfacing. We watched a group of three feeding together. As the boat idled they often came close. Researchers keep track of the whales and ID them from the patterns on their tails and backs. The whale on the left is “Bottleneck.” (HWC #8807) and was first sighted there in 2004. The other whale is “Vee” (HWC # 0372) and it was first sighted there in 1983 and has also been seen in Puerto Rico.
ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec, at 155mm.
After the boat tour, MK and I drove up to Prospect Harbor to visit Janet M. She was Mary’s music teacher in Orlando and retired to Maine. She and her husband Arnold are outstanding tour guides – they drove us around the Schoodic area and showed us many sites from a local’s perspective. And then they shared a delightfully delicious dinner of Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese, salad, and Maine Blueberry pie for desert. What wonderful hosts!
There’s a lot of information available about this area, so I won’t try to write an exhaustive how-to guide, Instead, here are some of the references I used. I bought and read these two books and I’d recommend either one (or both):
The Bar Harbor Whale Watching Puffin / Whale tour posts photos taken on their tours on their Flickr stream.
Finally, I’ll offer these hints that may help when you go:
I brought a full (and heavy) photo backpack and used a lot of the gear. We flew into Bangor on smaller planes so be careful that your photo luggage meets the carry on restrictions. I was very glad I had a wide-angle lens, my IR modified camera, a tripod, and polarizing and ND400 filters. Kevin M. loaned me his 70 – 300mm lens and I used that for whales and puffins.
I filled up my camera memory cards for the first time in a long while. Bring extra, or some way to back them up so you can safely erase them.
Atlantic Puffins are small – and far away from the boat! There’s one tour that actually puts you on the island where they nest inside blinds close to the birds. But I heard that the waiting list is over a year long.
Whales on the other hand are large and sometimes close to the boat. You can get some good photos even with a phone.
Make sure you practice your photography skills before you go. And know your equipment – no new gear right before the trip. You want to know what to do when you get there, not figure it out in real-time.
Guidebooks and research are helpful, but don’t get too focused in on what others have photographed. Photo ops are easy to find and I enjoyed trying to put my spin on some of the well-known locations.
It’s crowded in July and August. Especially Bar Harbor and the main park visitor center. But you can avoid those areas and find places / times where there’s no one else around.
The food (especially seafood) is wonderful – arrive hungry!
I’m from Florida, but the weather was hotter than I thought it would be (highs in the 80s) and the biting bugs were worse than I thought they would be.
The weather varied too. There was some fog / mist and drizzle. I was actually glad, because the coast of Maine is known for that, and it gave us some distinct looks. Bubble Pond looked very different depending on the time of day and the wind and visibility. But fog did spoil one sunrise (after getting up at 3:30 am!) and Tom’s offshore lighthouse tour. So plan on some reduced visibility and stay a few days longer if you can so you can go back to some locations.
Finally, enjoy yourself. Relax – don’t get overwhelmed. Create a lot of memories, not a lot of stress.
Bar Harbor Blue – The town lights at night from Cadillac Mountain. ISO 200, f/8, 25 sec, at 120mm
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came home exhausted. I took too many photos and spent too much time going through them after I got home. But I like how they turned out – please take a look at the other ones in my Flickr album when you get a chance.
I’ll leave you with a short conversation I overheard on the top of Cadillac Mountain while Tom and I were photographing Bar Harbor after dark.
A little girl, pointing at Tom and I: “What are they doing Daddy?“.
Her father: “Taking pictures with really big cameras.”
Girl: “Do we have one?”
Dad: “No, but Mommy wants one.”
Girl: “Why don’t they use their phones?”
Dad: no answer
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And use the biggest camera you can!
Lynn and I spent a week in Georgia this month. She had a school reunion and we wanted to visit the north Georgia mountains for a few days beforehand. We have fond memories of weekend hikes along the Appalachian Trail when we were in college. I can report that the area is just as pretty as I remember, but the trails seem a lot steeper now.
We stayed in a cabin at the Enota Mountain Retreat, between Helen and Hiawassee. This was only a few miles from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. The Cherokee people called this mountain Enotah.
Brasstown Bald is in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and there’s a small entrance fee at the parking area, but if you have a National Park Service Senior Pass, you can use that. The 0.6 mile paved trail from the parking area to the top is very steep, although a bus runs between 10am and 5pm. We arrived after 5 on our first day – it was well worth the hike to the top. The spectacular 360 degree view was the best one we saw.
The view from Brasstown Bald – This is the highest point in the state of Georgia (4,784 feet). 5 frame infrared panorama, B&W.
Compare that to a very similar view from an un-modified camera to see how the infrared sensor helps cuts through the haze.
Color view from Brasstown Bald – Looking a bit to the right of the IR version. Also a 5 frame panorama,
Good vistas don’t seem as common here as they are for instance in the Rockies. The small roads have places to pull over, but the view is often blocked by trees. Which makes the outlook from Brasstown Bald exceptional.
North Georgia also has a huge number of waterfalls – but some are more difficult to find, get to, and see clearly than others. There are four on the Enota Resort grounds. The trail to this one was steep and muddy in spots and led up along the side of a ravine to this spot across from the falls. We couldn’t find a viewpoint with a clear view through the trees, although there were other paths that we didn’t have time (or energy) to try.
Hidden falls – Along a trail inside the Enota campground. ISO 200, f/8, 0.6 sec.
We did visit other waterfalls that are easier to get to and see. There’s even a pull off just outside Vogel State Park where we could view a large waterfall from the road (no hike!). Anna Ruby Falls is on federal land inside Unicoi State park near Helen. The paved path to the falls is about 1/2 mile long and not too difficult with resting places along the way. We also visited Amicolola Falls near Dahlonaga after our wonderful lunch at the Smith House Restaurant. This falls also has a relatively short and easier paved path to a wonderful open view. But the hike might be even easier when your stomach isn’t so full!
Amicalola Falls – Near Dahlonega, Georgia. ISO 100, f/16, 0.1 second.
I used a variety of shutter speeds on the waterfalls and I think 1/10 to 1/2 is the range to play in to make the water look best. Unless you find a pool of swirling water – where a longer exposure might be better. Try different shutter speeds while you’re there so you can pick the best result when you get home. Most of the time I could get my shutter speed in range by adjusting ISO and aperture. I did have a variable neutral density filter with me that I used a couple of times – it was handy when the sun was out. Most of the time it was cloudy enough so that I didn’t have to worry about using the filter or fight the extreme contrast of sun shining on white water.
As far as wildlife goes, we didn’t spend a lot of effort looking and we didn’t see many animals. I was able to photograph one new life bird: a Louisiana Waterthrush. Lynn found it foraging on the ground outside (while we did the laundry!).
After our time in North Georgia, we headed to Atlanta for the reunion. For various reasons, my photo ops there were limited, but we did have a nice vantage point from our hotel room.
Incoming Storm – Atlanta. During a long exposure needed to capture this ominous cloud rolling in, I also caught a flash of lightning.
One place I’ve heard great things about but didn’t get to visit is the Georgia aquarium. I’ll have to save it for next time.
All in all, an exceptional, relaxing, and photogenic trip which we both thoroughly enjoyed. These and other Georgia photos are in this album on Flickr, where you can view larger versions. Also, if you haven’t seen last week’s post about the Narcosee Indian Mound, please take a look at that.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
For the past week or so, my photographic pursuits seem to be in slow motion. Creating photos is difficult. Friction and frustration are up and harmony and flow are down.
What’s going on? Glad you asked. 1. I’m having problems finding things to photograph. 2. I’m also having problems with the software I use to process photos. 3. And I’m having problems with my blog. Hmm.
1. The Images
I was a little busy this week (with #2 and #3) so it left me less time to photograph. But I did go out on Saturday with Kevin M. He needed a park pass and suggested we drive over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to pick one up at the Visitor’s Center. Of course, I talked him into leaving early for sunrise and we went by Gator Creek just before dawn. This is a nice enough image, but leaves me wanting better. The sky’s a little bland and I couldn’t find a nicer foreground. And the no-see-ums were fierce!
Another Gator Creek morning – a 4 frame panorama, ISO 100, f/11 at 2 seconds
We also drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive, but honestly, there aren’t many birds or animals there now. We saw very few of the regular birds and a wild pig, but most of the wildlife seems to be somewhere else. Summer slow down indeed. When we swung by the Visitors center there wasn’t much bird activity there either. I carried my infrared camera and experimented with IR insects. I like this one – but it also leaves me wanting.
An infrared butterfly
I guess the moral of this part of the story is that making good photos isn’t easy and some photo ops aren’t as good as others. Don’t let all the good ones you see on the web convince you otherwise. Keep looking and shooting. And don’t go just looking for photos – you should also go for the experience. Enjoy being out and don’t make it all about the image. And in Florida, in the summer, before dawn – bring insect repellent to cut your hostile friction with the bugs.
2. The Software
I’ve had issues for some time using the “Edit in Photoshop” command in Lightroom. Photoshop would open, but sometimes the file itself would never show up. If I tried to open the file directly from inside Photoshop, it worked every time. With the latest updates to both programs the problem got much worse. Every time I tried to open a RAW file in Photoshop from Lightroom, it wouldn’t work.
After several searches on Google, I found others are having this problem too. But there wasn’t any clear-cut solution, so I called Adobe. They told me to uninstall both programs and reinstall, but make sure to reinstall Photoshop first. This is a pain since I have to also reinstall all the plug-ins and presets I use too. I did get through it and it’s now working better, although it’s still happened a few times since. Frustrating friction.
3. The Blog
If you follow this blog via email or Twitter, you probably didn’t see last week’s post – a shame – I thought it was pretty good!
For some reason, the server isn’t sending email or Twitter notifications when a new post goes up. I’ve tweaked some settings and hope it’s corrected now. If not, I’ll have to keep troubleshooting. Curious, conflicting friction.
Kevin K., Kevin M, and I went to Viera Wetlands last weekend. We’d had heavy rain the week before and the roads were closed to cars, so we walked.
Handsome Blue – Little Blue Heron
You’ll see different things walking versus driving. When you drive, you can cover a larger area and maybe see many more things. But sometimes the faster pace and the isolation inside the vehicle will make you miss something that you might see if you walk. And when you walk, it’s easier to stop and really look at something. Or stop and wait for something to happen. When we first saw the Little Blue Heron, it was in the shade. But we stayed for a few moments and the sun rose enough to put it into some better light. Worth waiting for, and we probably wouldn’t have if we were driving.
We started too late for a sunrise photo, but I did manage to make this infrared image of the moon setting into the marsh.
Marsh Moon – The moon sinks into the clouds over Viera Wetlands. IR, B&W, 3 frame Vertical Panorama
We also stopped for a bit to watch a family of Sandhill Cranes. With all the birders that frequent Viera Wetlands, they’re very used to people and you can get pretty close without disturbing them. They’re interesting birds. Whenever I see two adults foraging, they seem to take turns keeping an eye on things. One will be head down, while the other is up and looking around. When there’s a young one with its parent, it always seems to mimic what the parent is doing.
This one! This one is a good bug to eat! – Sandhill Crane and Colt at Viera Wetlands
Even though the birding action in our area might be slowing down as summer approaches, we still enjoyed ourselves. We spent some quality time out in nature, and made a few photos we like. Another good day for a photo-op in Central Florida.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
Lynn, Mary, and I spent the first weekend in May at Lake Louisa State Park (LLSP). It’s located just southwest of Orlando in Clermont, Florida. LLSP is 4500 acres of rolling hills including six lakes with 105 acres of shoreline. There’s a range of camping options and 20 very nice, two bedroom, furnished cabins that you can stay in. Activities include fishing, canoeing and kayaking, biking, swimming, hiking, and horseback riding.
This is another case of me wondering why it took so long to visit somewhere. My friend Kevin M has mentioned it several times, but I never seemed to get over there – until now. It’s truly scenic and I’ve included more images than normal in this post – I apologize if it loads slowly.
Info for Photographers
There’s a lot to photograph there and the variety of landscapes is greater than many places in the area. Hills are rare around here, but this park has them, some over 100 feet high. I made this photo on the hillside above the road by the cabin where we stayed.
Wildflowers and dewey grass at dawn
May 5-11 is national wildflower week and LLSP was doing its part. Several wildflowers were blooming, including Prickly-pear Cactus, Passion Flowers, Lantana, and others. I think we were lucky to see such a variety in bloom. The Passion Flower blooms are supposed to last for only one day.
All of the lakes in the park are great habitats for Cypress Trees and Spanish Moss – very scenic and a classic Florida landscape look.
Lake Dixie shore – From the fishing dock in the campground on the south side of the lake
The Cypress tree trunks can also be very interesting.
Nature’s sculpture – The older, weathered cypress tree shapes can be very unusual
There’s a variety of wildlife at LLSP, although not as much as some other locations in Central Florida. For instance, eBird lists 112 species at LLSP vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We spotted nesting Ospreys (with chicks / juveniles), Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Wild Turkeys, Nighthawks, a Swallow-tailed Kite, wading birds, vultures, Gopher Tortoises, Alligators, Deer, Crayfish, grackles and a few other species.
An Osprey returning to her nest to check on her chick
Most state parks in Florida seem to open at 8am, which makes early morning photography a challenge. Since we were staying there, we could photograph whenever we wanted. This one is on the western shore of Lake Louisa.
Cypress dawn – by Lake Louisa.
Tripod/Monopod: Yes – take yours and use it when needed.
Lenses: There are so many photo ops here that you could probably make use of every one of your lenses. Macro for flowers, wide-angle for landscapes, long telephoto for wildlife, etc. You’ll have to decide how much to carry and what to concentrate on.
Best time to visit: Any time, but of course winter months will be cooler. Late April and early May will be better for wildflowers and nesting Ospreys too. We often heard Ospreys calling. It was fun to watch the parents bringing food back to their very demanding offspring!
There’s a nice beach and picnic area on Lake Louisa. If you swim there be careful though, there’s no life guard and there are alligators.
The park also is a popular place to bicycle, so bring yours if you have room.
The kayak launch at Lake Dixie across from the cabins is an easy put in. The one at Lake Louisa requires a long carry, so bring a friend or a kayak trolley if you plan to paddle there. You can also put in at the Crooked River Preserve just to the north of Lake Louisa and paddle down to the lake.
I didn’t get a chance (yet) to hike the many trails in the park. There are 9 main ones ranging from 1/2 to 5.5 miles and some of these lead to smaller lakes which might be very scenic.
The Citrus Tower is close to the park. It was built as a tribute to the citrus industry in the area. There’s a great view from 226 feet up, but a lot fewer orange trees visible now than there were in 1956 when it opened.
Cloudy in Clermont – View from the top of the Citrus Tower, looking south along HW27.
There are also many restaurants within a short drive from the park if you don’t want to cook in your cabin.
Lake Louisa State Park is a relaxing and scenic destination. It seems a world away from busy downtown Orlando. It’s perfect for a weekend get away. If you haven’t been there yet, you should go. I’m very glad we did.
B&W with film used to be simple. Get some Tri-X film, put it in your camera, and make exposures. Take the film to the drug store and wait to get your prints back.
OK, it’s never been all that simple. If you’re really hardcore, you get out your chemicals, develop the film yourself and print your best ones. And if you were really, really hardcore – you could dodge and burn while printing to decrease and increase exposure in specific parts of the print.
You can still do all that. But many people today use digital cameras for B&W photography. And things are still as complicated as you want to make them. You set your camera to color mode (yes color, unless you have a Leica M Monochrom camera) and RAW format and make exposures. You load the resulting files into your favorite processing software and adjust / convert the color images to B&W. Then you print carefully to maintain and display all the tonality present in your carefully crafted image.
Along the way, you’ve got to make many decisions on what software to use and how to use it. It’s very easy to get lost and see only trees, no forest. And if you want the best results, you need to know what tools are available and how to use them.
Composing – A recent photo I made and converted to B&W
I purchased and read Monochromatic HDR Photography by Harold Davis. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and I admire his photographic expertise and creativity. It’s a real treat to read this book and follow along as he makes some absolutely lovely B&W images. He covers info that will help beginners as well as experienced photographers and it’s not just post-processing technique. He also talks about the reasons behind choices and creative aspects.
I won’t give away the whole book. It’s a good one and covers the subject well, with a tremendous amount of information that everyone could use. If you’re interested in B&W, you should buy and read it. Basically, Harold’s work flow consists of:
Capturing the image as a set of bracketed exposures to make sure you preserve all the tonality that’s present in the scene
Converting the bracketed sequence into the best quality, color, high dynamic range image possible
Making multiple passes of B&W conversion on the color HDR file and saving them. With each pass you can vary tonality, contrast, detail, etc. to enhance parts of the image.
Using layers to blend the different B&W versions into a single “magical” result
I’ve been trying out his ideas and the photo in this post is a recent example. Below are some intermediate steps so you can get an idea of how this works.
Step 1: I like the general look, but thought the trees should be darker
Step 2: I like the tree in this version, but the fern, photographer, and parts of the canopy are too dark
Step 3: Fixing the exposure / contrast of the photographer
Final: All layers blended together to create the version I posted on Flickr. I like the sky and canopy glow, the dark tree, the bright ferns and the photographer’s appearance compared to the background.
Although I have a long way to go to even get close to Harold’s level, I really like his approach. There are a great many advantages and the only disadvantage I can think of is that it takes time. But if you have a scene that you want to render into the best B&W image possible, this is a great way to do it. And Monochromatic HDR Photography by Harold Davis is a wonderful guide to “Shooting and processing Black & White High Dynamic Range Photos”.
Central Florida Photo Ops Book Review Rating: 5 star, must read!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!