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Brought to You in Beautiful Black and White Part 2 – Scenery and Sepia

When it comes to scenery, black and white is much easier to muddle than color.  If you want to see how beautiful black and white scenery can be in the hands of a master, then check out Ansel Adams:  http://www.anseladams.com/ [1].  I know that I am not Ansel Adams though, and I daresay that very few of us are.  So extra care is required when photographing in black and white.

Snow scenes work well in black and white, as do most rock formations – most times, because of the lack of color contrast – though, foliage does not.  Take for instance this photo of beautiful autumn foliage on a foggy afternoon here in the Arkansas River valley.

Foreground, midground and background all stew together into a black and white soup.  I mean, you can still see what the image IS, but it is deprived of most of its visual power in black and white.

This photo, on the other hand, with the strong tree branch foreground against a clear sky and the Arkansas River and River valley at the bottom of the shot works much better in black and white.  Because of the composition, it not only doesn’t lose any visual power in black and white, it actually gains some in my opinion.


As long as digital photography has existed, a debate has raged about which is better… to do your black and white photography by using the black and white setting on your camera, or to use a program such as Photoshop or Corel to process a photo from color into black and white.  Honestly, my eye has never seen much of a difference, but I’ll let you decide.  Here is a photograph of my grandnephew’s “bike” photographed using the black and white setting on my camera in the first image and processed into black and white using Corel in the second:


Sort of the flip side of black and white is sepia tone.  If you’ve ever seen a photograph from the late 19th or early 20th century that you thought of as “black and white”, it was probably sepia tone.  Sepia gives a reddish cast to everything in the picture.  If you ever want to make a picture look old, sepia is the best way to go.  It tends to wash out more detail than black and white because there aren’t as many shades of sepia as there are gray (black and white).  Here, for instance, is a photo that I did of my mom and dad and their trike, then processed in sepia and put an oval cut-out around it to really give it an old-time look.

Hope that this helps in your endeavors into black and white photography!

~Randal Schaffer