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08/12/22 08:28 PM

I took this image in 2002. It is probably one of my first 'decent' images taken with a digital SLR, and as a result, it has been an 'intimate acquaintance' that I have made several attempts to post process over the course of the last 20 years. I have probably attempted to process this image 4 or 5 times, giving it up each time until relatively recently. The first time I published this image for public consumption was in my images directory in 2020, and then for my article about National Bison Day, last November. There are some nice images in that story, so please feel free to check it out. I did not really complete this image though until I made our article, Does It Black and White?. If you read that story, you get to see a bunch of nice color to black and white conversions - and the reasons why I am making the conversion. You also get to see these two images AGAIN. Woohoo!!

This image is essentially a glorified grab shot taken from a relatively close distance. According to the EXIF data, this photograph was taken with my Canon 70-200 F2.8 lens with a 1.4 converter on it. The EXIF data also says that the image was taken fully extended - at 280mm. My recollection was that I was photographing the Ear Spring geyser on the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. I was not able to do anything with Ear Spring beyond a documentary shot, so I was packing all of my gear when I looked up and was shocked to see this giant behemoth of a bison standing close to me on the boardwalk. Before anyone sends me hate mail about being too close and about park rules and the safety of the animal - all things I fully agree with, there are two things I would like to say in my defense. The first is that I was photographing the other direction - and there were not any critters near me when I started my work on the geyser basin. It came to me and I was unaware of its presence until it was practically on top of me. I will admit that I used the opportunity to take the photograph before backing off. The second is that this image is taken at 280mm, so it was not THAT close. However, it was definitely closer than the 100 foot rule and much closer than I felt comfortable being.

[Linked Image]


So, if this was one of my first 'decent' images, why did it take me nearly 20 years to start showing it off? Honestly, I was not sure it was a good image. While it is a composition that I always liked, I have never been able to correct the exposure to my satisfaction. To show you the emperor's clothes, I am going to do something that I never do. I am going to share with you what the original RAW file converted to (resized down). Please do not judge me by this image - it was taken 20 years ago, and I like to think that maybe I have gotten a little bit better over the years. However, there is a real value to seeing what the original image looked like and what can be done with it.

So what is wrong with this image? Well - a lot. First, the exposure is off. The sky should not be white, and the boardwalk at the bottom of the image is also blown out. These are problems that are difficult to fix. The second thing is that the image is slightly soft - you see that if you look closely at the bull's eye.

One Image - The Bison, The RAW Naked Image
[Linked Image]

What did I do to fix this photo? The first thing I did was attempt to fix the sky. Skies are not ever supposed to be white. Given that this was a relatively clear day, I took a little blue pen in Affinity Photo and colored in the sky. Yes. I admit it. That's the art in what we do as opposed to just documenting what we see. The second thing I did was clone down over the boardwalk. In it's place, I added everything that was missing - like it's foot and the trees. Essentially, I salvaged that which I could salvage, and I eliminated the things I could not. Third, I sharpened the image. Initially, I did this by creating several layers and sharpening them at different levels and blending them in. In my last iteration, I put it through Topaz Lab's Sharpen AI. While it does not cause miracles, it is surprisingly good - better than what I can do on my own. The last thing I did was use Affinity Photo's Tone Mapping, adding contrast and saturation as recommended by Richard Strange. Whenever I do work like this, I do it in multiple layers that I can unlock if necessary so that I don't lose the whole file in the event that I wish to make changes later. I then blend the layers until I get an effect that I am looking for.

[Linked Image]

Well, here we are. The Bison. One of my favorite early pieces of work that I essentially fixed during COVID isolation. I love the sense of depth in this image, and the sense of massiveness you get when you look at the bison. It is one of two images that I have taken of a bison that I feel is fundamentally 'different' than anything else I have seen from other photographers. I feel a real sense of accomplishment having been able to post process this image into something that is usable.

I hope that you found this article useful. It is a new concept that I hope to try out over the next couple of months - picking one image that I took that I really like and showing how I produced the final piece of ART.

I want to make one last pitch for our Facebook Photography Group (Join Here). It is private, so you need to request membership - but it is one of the most supportive and fun places on Facebook. Seriously. There is a wide range of talent, from beginners to people who have sold it all. We have a few basic posting rules - and we keep the conversation like Thanksgiving Dinner. No Politics, No Religion and No Negativity. Just fun. Also, if you have never visited this website before, feel free to look around. We have some great articles, professional interviews and gear reviews.

-James

Please note that all images in this article are copyright (c) James Morrissey.



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NWP Articles
08/12/22 03:59 PM
James Morrissey shares his thoughts about one image, what it took to process, and why it is special.

[Linked Image]
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NWP Articles
08/07/22 07:33 PM
Does it Black and White??

Every Wednesday, in our Facebook photography group (Click here if you are interested in joining) we celebrate Black and White Photography. As I don't have the bank roll to go new places every few weeks, it is a really fun way to re-examine some of my older images and share something that is new again. While any strong composition should be good in both Black and White and Color, I feel that there are times when particular images will benefit from a conversion to Black and White.

While there are no hard and fast rules, I definitely have a thought process that I go through when I determine which images I make in to Black and Whites. Like anything else, your mileage may vary, so buyer beware. In the examples I am about to share, there will be both the Black and White and the Color version so that you can compare and contrast them. For me, there are several different factors in what makes a good candidate for B&W image:

(1) The composition is strong, but color is not a dominant factor in the image. An example that comes to mind is when patterns and textures are more important compositionally. As humans, our eyes are naturally drawn to two elements – color and brightness. These elements can sometimes overwhelm other important elements of a composition (shape, form, line, texture and space). By converting the image to Black and White, the rest of the image is allowed to shine.

[Linked Image]

This is one of the perennial Yosemite set-ups. It is a wonderful view of Half Dome - but unfortunately there was no drama to this sky. No color was coming this day - and while it is a lovely image that was competently taken, there is nothing really exciting about it. This is one of those images that is so iconic, that I felt like I left there not being able to show it in a unique way. That's a really sad commentary for me because I think it is a genuinely nice image in an of itself. What is also sad is that I feel like I am echoing Erez Marom's comments that I railed about a couple of months ago in my article, "Is it Art?" I feel that converting it to Black and White enhanced it's presentation for a couple of reasons. The first is that the B&W version shows much better textures and does a better job leading the eye from the water to the face of Half Dome. The second is that so many of the iconic images of Yosemite were taken by Ansel Adams, who did most of his work in Black and White. While the Black and White version is not necessarily unique either, I feel that it provides a lovely homage that is worth sharing.

In the event you are wondering, the B&W is a conversion of the final Color product. That IS the image. It is interesting to me that the foreground trees of the Half Dome shot looks mushy me but the Black and White version really comes alive. While you may be able to sharpen the trees in the foreground of the color version, the point I am making is that this effect in this case was solely from the B&W conversion that I did in Affinity Photo.

[Linked Image]

(2) The photograph was taken at Noon O'Clock, and the light was harsh. Like most landscape photographers, I tend to shoot in that "magic hour" of light around the rising and setting of the sun. That is not the only time I shoot - if I have a set-up that I like, I take it. I don't really care what time of day it is. I think it is a bit of BS that the only landscape images that are lovely are the ones that are taken during Magic Hour. However, I will say that most of the images I share are those that were taken during those magic hour(s). The upshot is that sometimes I wind up with a composition that I really like - but that I was not able to tame the strong light values in the final product. These images may make wonderful black and whites.

[Linked Image]

These two images are from Moose Falls. I learned about Moose Falls from Richard Strange some time ago - but in all of my years at Yellowstone, I had never been to them. What a shame - they are really lovely falls. These images were taken late in the morning after we were done in Jackson and were driving up to Mammoth. As it was my day at Disney Land, I attacked these falls with a gusto. I didn't care that the light was harsh. I did my best to make this Color Image work, using my Dodge and Burn tools to work on some of the brighter areas of the image. I really like how it comes out though in Black and White.

[Linked Image]

(3) To help make a portrait ‘pop.’ I find that many of my portrait images – even my critter portraits – really look more powerful when I convert them to Black and White. In this event, I am deemphasizing the colors so that that there is one less thing to distract from the subject of the image.

[Linked Image]

This poor bull. I have been in love with this particular image for 20 years. It is one of my first 'decent' wildlife portraits, taken in 2002. It has been revised and re-touched so many times, and I only recently feel like I 'got it' to where I wanted it. I wish that this was taken with a current camera as it is too low resolution for any sort of real publication purposes anymore (I think this is 6 MP image, but I resized in in Gigapixel AI). While I don't think the color version is bad at all, I believe that the Black and White really makes this behemoth stand out. He was such an impressive guy - I wonder if it is still alive. Probably not. frown

[Linked Image]

(4) To portray time or an emotion. Black and White images are often used as a motif for something that happened in the past. It gives a feel of “old time” even if it was taken in the present.

[Linked Image]

This image was taken at the Bodie Ghost Town. It is the only decent image I got while I was there. I wish I had a chance to live there like Hank...but I digress. One thing about this image that always annoys me is that the car is dustless - obviously taken care of by those pesky volunteers. I don't mind the B&W having no dust on the car because it catapults you back in time to when this was a bustling community - and it would have been appropriate for the car to have no dust on it.

[Linked Image]


(5) To add depth and perhaps a bit of drama. We see the world in color – black and white is inherently less realistic. This gives you as an artist a ton of leeway to work with your blacks and whites for artistic effect.

[Linked Image]

This image of Canary Terrace from Yellowstone National Park (Thanks to Lori Jacobs for the idea to shoot there), is one of my favorites from my last trip. I like both images a lot. The color version provides a really lovely sunrise - particularly with the elk eating on the hill below. The entire image works. So why convert it to Black and White? I see an entirely different background and sky. The Black and White completely changes the image - deemphasizing some of the things I really liked in the color version. The Black and White really pops. Both images work.

[Linked Image]


(6) To see what you actually have in an image. Digital cameras pick up so much detail today - that sometimes we miss things that are right in front of our faces. I make the suggestion that when you start processing your images that you just make a B&W conversion as a matter of course. You might find that you see new things about the image that you did not notice in the color version. That does not make it better or worse, just different, and you might want to share those equally interesting elements of your image.

[Linked Image]

I took this image at Signal Mountain of the Tetons last year with my family. It is one of my favorite images from the trip - the clouds and rainstorm made for a real light show. Converting it to Black and White shows me a slightly different image - I still get the drama of the mountain and clouds, but by losing the color, I am now I am seeing all of the detail in those foreground trees. I think both images are worth sharing.

[Linked Image]

I hope that you found this article to be helpful. As I end, I think it is important to put up an important disclaimer. I am not the Art Police. As I mentioned when I started, these categories above are hardly rules. They are just guidelines for me that help me determine when I want to covert an image to Black and White. Everyone's mileage may vary, as they say. If you like something one way or another, that is up to you. It is your art - enjoy it. If you don't think what we do is art? Well. Go to a gear head site. Sorry. Still bitter. If you have no idea what I am talking about, feel free to read my essay, "Is It Art?"

Last, I want to make one last pitch for our Facebook Photography Group (Join Here). It is private, so you need to request membership - but it is one of the most supportive and fun places on Facebook. Seriously. There is a wide range of talent, from beginners to people who have sold it all. We have a few basic posting rules - and we keep the conversation like Thanksgiving Dinner. No Politics, No Religion and No Negativity. Just fun. Also, if you have never visited this website before, feel free to look around. We have some great articles, professional interviews and gear reviews.

All of the images included in this article are (c) James Morrissey and the Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum. Please like and share the article. Just please don't steal my stuff. Even if you think it is art.

Thanks to Richard Strange, who edited the article and also gave me some advice on how to enhance the images.


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NWP Articles
08/07/22 03:16 PM
James asks the question, "Does this Black and White?" An examination of why and when I display an image in Black and White. It's not ALWAYS just because I want to...

[Linked Image]


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