Photographing Black & White Landscapes

Solitude

Final Image Processed in Lightroom

Landscapes often rely on colour for impact but they don’t have to and in many cases the absence of colour can improve the image. In this post we focus on Black & White landscapes,when they work and how to capture and process them.

Personally, I find black and white landscapes work best when there is texture, shape or tone to work with, colour can distract from the image in these cases but black and white removes the distractions and focuses the eye on the key elements of the image.

Let’s look at the original RAW file

RAW file Straight out of Camera

RAW file Straight out of Camera

I took this in early afternoon in mid summer, this has resulted in harsh light and washed out colours, so why did I take it?
I was attracted to the line that run across the scene and felt it would make a good candidate for black & white.
Once the image was captured, the next stage is processing and conversion of the RAW file. I use the following method:

  • Import image into Lightroom or an image editor of your choice which allows handling of RAW files.
  • Decide on crop – I cropped out roughly a 3rd from the bottom of the image to make a panoramic style image and place the horizon on the lower 3rd
  • I have a selection of Lightroom presets. I chose the one which was closest to the final image I had visualized.
  • Add a graduated filter to gradually darken the sky from the top of the image to the horizon.
  • Add a similar graduated filter from the bottom of the image to darken the foreground and enhance highlights.
  • The combination of these filters leaves a lighter area along the horizon helping to draw the eye to this area.
  • Using the brush tool, selectively darken areas of the image to deepen shadow and give depth.
  • Using the brush tool, selectively lighten areas; the path, cloud and grasses in foreground.
  • Using clone tool remove small cloud to the left of the image

In total the processing took less than 10 minutes and has transformed a bland, featureless image into a strong image highlighting the repeating lines of the path, horizon and grass and contrasting  light and shadow.

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