Whilst the majority of landscape images you see are in full colour, black and white landscape photography can bring real impact and drama to your images. If you’re shooting in great weather there’s many good reasons to stick with colour images; you get the natural tones of land and sea, and the wonderful colour palette that is available at sunrise/sunset.
We’re going to look at a few situations where black and white images can be highly effective in producing a shot with real drama.
Even if you’ve got good weather a black and white image can prove a good alternative to colour. With an effective black and white conversion you can get fantastic contrast between cloud and sky, which can give your image more depth than a regular colour version.
I took the shot below in the Lake District, England, it was pretty decent weather, but it’s a good example of the feeling of depth than can be created with a monochrome image.
For this type of effect the staggered cloud that I had for this shot was perfect. However, you might not always be that lucky.
Bad light, bad weather — stay at home?
If there’s total cloud cover and no interesting light you may as well leave your camera in the bag and stay at home, right? Wrong.
You can take some excellent shots in bad light, just don’t be disheartened whilst shooting, as your in-camera colour image previews might look awful, just keep in mind you’ll be converting to a moody black and white image later.
I took the shot above on a day with awful light, it was flat as a pancake, but I’ve still got a relatively interesting end result. In the processing for this one I’ve had to work a little harder to add some drama.
As well as the main black and white conversion, I’ve added a mild vignette and then burnt a couple of the edges, all processing done in Silver Efex Pro.
Below is another example of a shot I captured on a miserable winter day, similar processing style used to add interest and draw the viewer into the image.
Knowing you can still create good images in bad light is a real boost, as you know you can still go out and shoot with purpose whatever the time of year, and whatever the weather may bring.
If you’re shooting landscapes, then there’s no reason to sit at home waiting for the sun to shine. On the contrary, dark moody weather can result in some fantastic photo opportunities.
This really applies to all black and white photography, not just landscapes. If you have an image featuring points of interest with some historical heritage, then a monochrome image can really help set the scene.
You can achieve a timeless look in fitting with your subject. In landscape photography these points of interest could be old buildings, boats, abandoned cars etc.
I took the shot above on a snowy winter’s day on the coast in Southern England. The main subject is a (very) old Roman/Saxon fort, and as such benefits from the feel of a black and white conversion.
Hopefully these black and white landscape photography tips help illustrate what is possible, no matter what the weather conditions.
I normally do all my conversions in Silver Efex Pro, but if you’ve not got that you could manually Dodge and Burn in Photoshop, use the Channel Mixer, or convert in Lightroom and add vignettes if needed. Whilst in Lightroom you could also use the Radial Filter to draw more focus to particular points of interest in your image.
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