2014 Challenge, Week 28: LANDSCAPE – B&W

I’m filling in for Trevor this week. Keeping inline with his LANDSCAPE theme’s, I chose to propel us back to the time of Ansel Adams.  No one can argue that he is one of the great pioneers of B&W Landscape Photography. Unless you’re still shooting film, digital photography brings to us B&W in a totally different light.

Himalaya, Nepal (front page Explore)

For purists, film remains the best media for B&W Landscape Photography. Film grain adds to the character of an image, while noise is a digital photographer’s nightmare. Film photography also requires mastering colored filters. To boost contrasts and darken skies yellow, orange and red filters are used. If you don’t shoot B&W images in-camera, you may want to consider using these filters in your workflow during digital post processing.


When you set out to shoot in B&W you should get into the B&W mind-set. While color images rely on colors to create impact, B&W images are more about tones and texture. Look for scenes with higher contrasts and good separation of your subject and basic image elements.


Ansel Adams relied on the principles of the Zone System to get his exposure just right. The Spectrum of BLACK to WHITE was broken down into graduated blocks from 0 to 10 with 18% gray in the center. This is similar to today’s gray scale and can be applied to digital photography just like it was in the film days. It’s important to get your mid tones exposure just right not to burn details in your blacks and your whites. You can read a little more on the ZONE SYSTEM on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_System

The peakSome scenes may be difficult to control. Bright skies and snowy mountain tops can easily overexpose under some conditions. In the old days we used to dodge a scene with our hand or with an object in front of the lens. This permitted us to restrict the amount of light in a specific area of a scene. Today we have the graduated neutral density filters. I find them to be one of the most valuable landscape photography tools in my bag. Graduated Neutral Density Filters on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graduated_neutral_density_filter

Riviere-des-prairies / Montreal Back River - INFRARED

One of my personal favorites for B&W Landscape photography, Infrared filters. The most common filter is the 720NM filter such as the Hoya R72. Different digital cameras will block infrared light at different levels. You can experiment with different filters from 560NM and up. This is great for long exposures and gives a unique look to your images. Your in-camera result will be a reddish image. A basic conversion to B&W is all you’ll need. I took the above image with a 560nm filter on a non converted Nikon DSLR.


Composition, separation of elements and good exposure control become all the more important in B&W landscape photography. Many techniques we’ve already covered in previous challenges will come in handy. In addition you’ll need to decide if you’re going to take B&W images in-camera or post process your color images to B&W. For those who post process there are additional tools such as Nik’s Silver Effects and Topaz Lab’s B&W Effects. These tools can help you get the best out of your B&W conversions.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org. or #photochallenge2014.
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2014 Photo Challenge is fun and easy.


2013 Challenge, Week 10: Black And White

This week, we are going back to basics. Once upon a time, all photography was black and white. It was up to the photographer to work within the limits of black and white to make an interesting image. Now, it’s our turn!

“Hypnosis” by Thomas Hawk

Some things seem to lend themselves to black and white images: strong lines, high contrast between colors, or deep shadows are good choices.

“Shadow Play” by robert madeira

How about a portrait? Today many professional portrait photographers work exclusively in black and white. Try a few portraits in black and white, and experiment with lighting and exposure. You might be surprised with the results.

“835 Face” by Nebojsa Mladjenovic

Another option would be to do some black and white landscape photography. Ansel Adams spent many years documenting the American West in black and white images. Decades later, his images are still some of the most iconic of natural landmarks. If you have a nature scene with movement, such as breaking waves or running water, try a longer exposure and see what happens.

“Sacrifice” by Luke Peterson

You can make the image black and white by turning on the black and white mode of your camera (most cameras will do this), or by converting it to black and white using Photoshop, Lightroom, iPhoto, or GIMP. If you are shooting with an iPhone, you might like the Hueless app. You can even edit it online after it is uploaded to Fickr by choosing “Actions -> Edit photo in Aviary”.

As always, make sure you share your result with the rest of the PhotoChallenge Community! Google+, Facebook, and Flickr are the most common.