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.

Tuesday Mornings Don’t Like Me


I haven’t been able to do my weekly trip to the botanical gardens this winter because the weather has been bad on Tuesday mornings. This is the morning that the garden opens an hour earlier so I can walk around when the temp is cooler and the harsh Florida sun a little lower in the sky.

Yesterday it was raining in the morning so I spent some time going through old photo files and deleting the ones I will never use. I decided to post an image from the first visit (of two) this season – to brighten the day of family and friends who are living in the north. This is the closest I can come to sending you some of our sunshine.

I find it interesting how, given time, many of my photos don’t seem as wonderful as they did when I took them. Some photos that I thought would make a good story never got published because the story fell flat. And the most encouraging reason why I can delete most of my old photos is because I have taken better ones of the same subject. That means that I am continually learning and improving. I am also willing to delete many that don’t make the grade because I can return to the place where I took the picture and capture a better image of a similar object.

I have more trouble slimming down my files of travel photos. I won’t be going back, getting another chance to do a better composition with better focus and light. These photos will never make National Geographic, they aren’t even good enough to print. But they elicit a memory, a mood, a laugh. I want to keep them because they help me remember a special time and place. I am culling these down but not as ruthlessly.

This clean-up is with some anxiety because I use Lightroom and it is a very different software beast. I am doing another read of my favorite Lightroom book in an attempt to better understand how to manage files on my hard drive and the processing data in Lightroom that applies to the originals on the hard drive. I have been known to cry when it appears that I’ve messed this process up royally. I wonder if there are personal Lightroom trainers to help me strengthen my file managing muscles.