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.