Black and White: A Learning Opportunity

I don’t convert many of my photo to black & white because I love color, but this one seems a natural for this week’s Lens-Artist Photography Challenge. What fun I had experimenting with different settings to make it just as I saw it, or thought it was, or what it should be. This week’s host, Anne, asked that we share our workflow so others may learn a tip or two. What fun.

This house was along an endless highway in South Dakota (photo taken in 2013) with nothing around it for miles. When I was cropping I was torn between wanting the house fairly large and close up and wanting to show the vastness of the landscape. This was the sweet spot between the two extremes. I shoot in color and converted the image to black & white in Adobe Lightroom (Version 4.0). I just read that shooting in color gives us a lot more data that increases tonal qualities when converted to B&W in Lightroom, as opposed to shooting in B&W.

The first thing I did was reduce the clarity just a little to give the house and ground a softer look – maybe a warn patina. Then I experimented with filters but they created too much contrast resulting in very dark house and ground, but I liked what the blue filter did to the clouds. I decided to not use a filter and try modifying the the blue/grey level in the color adjustments and found that worked really well. Decreasing blue/grey made the clouds warmer in contrast to the house and ground. I also used the graduated filter to decrease highlights in the clouds making them more pronounced. The corner in the center of the house was very dark, eliminating detail so I used the brush stroke on the plane facing right to lighten shadow tones while still leaving some shading.

I learn by playing with different sliders but didn’t keep any adjustments made after those I shared here. What fun to try lots of adjustments and then be able to go to history in the left column and go back to where I was most satisfied.

That is the technical aspects of this image, but what I keep thinking about is the history of this structure. It is a big house, was it a big family? Was it built in stages, with add-ons as the need for more space increased and the farm prospered? Why was it abandoned? I know there is a story hidden within these walls. The dark cloud overhead tells us that there were dark times within.

18 thoughts on “Black and White: A Learning Opportunity

  1. Pingback: A trip to the aquarium – Eat, Play, Live

  2. That is a wonderful building and a great composition Pat, it looks very remote. I too wonder who lived there. You have created a feeling of sadness in this I think.


  3. This is the perfect look for this photo. We’ve been through S.D. many times and in other similar states and there are so many places that make me feel this way. You left the house with a feel but included a feel of the vastness of the prairie as well. Well done!



      • For years we drove from Cleveland to Wyoming, then Chicago to Wyoming. Now we live in Arizona, so we have a completely different route in every way until the last half hour or so. 🙂 New places to explore at some point but there are some spots I’ll greatly miss. However, that vastness is everywhere and I really like it, even though it can make homes seems so lonely.

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  4. Great black and white image. And thanks for sharing your workflow. I’m glad you had fun with the process and were satisfied with the resulting image. It is great when you pick an image that works. Sometimes I start the conversion process only to find I don’t like the results and the color image stands. Well done!


    • Good thought, but I don’t know where in South Dakota. Maybe someday I’ll send the photo to somewhere in SD to see if I can get something.


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