As I mentioned in last week’s post, some images tell you what they need and want. This shot was definitely one of them. As I compared this RAW to last week’s RAW, I immediately knew which version of these falls would be color and which screamed to be monochrome.
It’s interesting what a difference there is between the two images. To me, the color image has a soft, mystical feel. The colors and light after soft and soothing. The monochrome goes in the opposite direction, with darker tones.
When I first opened this image, I knew that I loved the composition, but was pretty sure there were deep shadows I wouldn’t be able to recover smoothly. I knew from past experience that forcing those edits would stand out like a sore thumb, and/or warp the color image in a direction that didn’t feel natural. That kind of made the mono decision for me.
Now to execute!
Rather than just a blanket desaturation, I pulled out each individual color channel. That gave me the ability to choose the light/dark level for each color. From there I tweaked each section of the image, working to get the best tones from the rocks, the water, etc using different exposure layers and masks.
In the end, the image worked well as a back and white because it had several of the ingredients that make a successful monochrome. In this case, the deep shadows are broken by a lighter diagonal lines of the falls, a composition win. There is also a copious amount of texture, and tonal range which are important component in the creation of a successful black and white image. (Yes, that was just an excuse to use the word copious.) As with any black and white image, the lack of color forces the viewer to focus on the technicalities of photography. It is, 100% of the time, considered good practice to keep your “photo tool bag” up to date. As you work through any shoot, make it a point to notice the areas within a scene that are important components of a black and white image (textures, patterns, strong compositions, good tonal range, etc). Then go a step further, to work through the skills that make ANY image…color or otherwise…a success.
As they say, practice makes progress! :-)