Mastering Black and White Conversions

Muir Redwoods
Muir Beach Preserve near San Francisco

My favorite photographer of all time is Clyde Butcher. He is known for his incredible black and white images of Florida’s natural wetlands. My second favorite is the legendary  Ansel Adams.  And, yes, you read the order correctly!  I truly believe that Clyde Butcher’s Everglades landscapes are sharper in detail, richer in dynamic range and more dramatically composed than the much heralded, Ansel Adams. That’s the fun of black and white photography—its easy to have passionate feelings about something so wonderfully simple and graphic. 

Shooting in RAW format with today’s high pixel DSLR’s allows a photographer to come close to the results of these two masters.   Mr. Butcher and Adams worked with 8 X 10″ field cameras, which provides a giant negative perfect for making ten foot wide enlargements with stunning sharpness. I admire them for carrying this heavy equipment across rugged landscapes to give us a chance to see such stunning examples of nature!

Loxahatchee River
Loxahatchee River and Cypress Tree Canopy in Jupiter, Florida

I can’t imagine standing chest deep in the Loxahatchee River and loading glass plates into a camera balanced on a wooden tripod. But, I can tell you from experience, that wading into a running river while looking out for alligators and water mocassins is much easier with today’s digital cameras.

With a 40K plus pixel digital camera shooting in RAW, the results can be almost as stunning as images from an 8 X 10 Camera!

Gold Rush Ghost Town Bodie California
Bodie State Park, America’s Best Preserved Gold Rush “Ghost Town”

The secret is of course, is starting with a well exposed and pin sharp image containing a range of tones from bright white to pure black. 

American Alligator South Florida
American Alligator, South Florida

Post processing your Raw files in Adobe Lightroom opens up hundreds of possibilities.  You can start with the black and white pre-sets just to quickly determine your tastes.  But, creating your own conversion manually will reward you with an original piece of fine art that you can call your own. 

Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Forest, California

Each Photo Masters Workshop includes a module on shooting and post processing in black and white. Here are some examples. 

Yachting Palm Beach Inlet Florida
Palm Beach Inlet, Florida
Rainbow Springs, Florida
Mono Lake
Mono Lake, California
Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park
Blowing Rocks Preserve
Blowing Rocks Preserve, Jupiter Island, Florida