Black (and White) Friday

I am not rushing the Christmas shopping season with a Black (and White) Friday blog entry! Gracious, I’m all for waiting until Santa rides down Fifth Avenue in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade before I start the Christmas season.

No, I’m talking about Black and White conversions in Photoshop and Lightroom.

I chose two images from my recent trip to the mountains of North Carolina to play with. I used two methods of converting from color to black and white. The first method was done in Lightroom, with some tweaking and fine tuning in Photoshop, and the second was done in Photoshop. I’ll start with my process in Lightroom.

Mountain trip 2016 (10 of 17)

This is the original color image. I like this look. One reason I wanted to play with black and white treatments for this image is because it is already monochrome (with the exception of the green moss and the sprinkling of leaves).

First,  I began by setting the black and white points with the appropriate sliders in the Development menu. I have found that making these two adjustments does more to improve my images than anything else I do. Then I made the adjustments with the Shadows and Highlights sliders. This last bit is simply done “to taste.” Sometimes, I do not mess with these sliders at all. And usually, though, the adjustments are very slight, no more than 7 or –7 in most cases.

Next, I used the Clarity slider and pushed it pretty high. On this image, I think I went up to 70. I left the Vibrance slider alone. Then I went for the conversion. I moved the Saturation slider all the way to zero. My last Lightroom adjustment was to the Curves, and I applied the Strong Contrast preset. Then I imported it into Photoshop for a few minor tweaks to levels and curves and contrast. This is the result.


The next image I used was also the Linville Falls. I am fascinated with the narrowness of this section of the falls and the texture of the rock formations.

Mountain trip 2016 (11 of 17)

Again, I like the color version. Like the previous image, it is also basically monochrome in nature, with a little pop of color from the fallen leaves. I decided to give this one the Photoshop treatment. But first—yes, I made my basic edits in Lightroom—adjusting the black and white points, the shadows and highlights, and the curves. I used the Medium Contrast preset on this one. Then I sent it to Photoshop for the rest of the edits.

I used a Levels adjustment layer to tweak the whites and the blacks by dragging the sliders to the left for whites and to the right for the blacks. Because of the adjustments in Lightroom, I had very little to do with this layer. Then I added an Brightness/Contrast layer and boosted the contrast to about 20 and tweaked the curve in a Curves layer by drawing down the highlights and raising the darker areas. Finally, I added a Hue/Saturation layer and completely desaturated the image. Here is the final result:


The black and white works for both images because the images have a monochromatic feel to begin with. I’m still working on perfecting my black and white conversions.


Insight into Editing Process

I’m still working with a batch of images I made over the weekend. (Actually, I’m procrastinating. I have two sets of essays I need to grade, and I’m putting it off!)

I love two kinds of images: images with deep, rich color, slightly “underexposed” to make the colors deeper and richer, and I like images with softer, more romantic moods, more “transparent” colors and treatments. I have not worked with that latter treatment very much, but I am learning to create the images with the richer colors. At first, I simply changed the exposure in Lightroom or Photoshop to underexpose by 1/3. It worked. It was simple. But I knew I could do more.

Here’s my experiment today. I started with this image. (If you know the name of this flower, please tell me. Mr. Chappells at the nursery told me, but by the time I got home, I had forgotten. I know it is a C, an O, and PH, and maybe an E. Vanna White, are you there?)

Here is my original, as shot.

Original without edits

It has been converted to JPEG by Lightroom for use on the web, but this is the RAW image. Most RAW images need some enhancements to bring out the best. The advantage of using RAW images, though, is that the camera records more detail, so there’s more data to work with later in Lightroom.

Before sending the image to Photoshop, I’ll make a few adjustments: setting the black points and the white points, adjusting highlights and shadows, adjusting clarity and perhaps vibrance and/or saturation. A while back, I read a book by David du Chemin about editing in Lightroom, and he recommended using a medium contract curve on images and readjusting as necessary. Edited original

It already looks better, and I could be satisfied with this. But I’m going to do more in Photoshop. If you use Lightroom for basic edits, there is a quick way to send an image into Photoshop: Ctrl-E sends it straight into Photoshop.

I have been learning about luminosity masks. There is a lot I don’t know, but I’m beginning to learn more.

Once in Photoshop, I create a duplicate layer from the background with the short Ctrl-J. (oh, if you use a Mac, substitute Command for Ctrl.)

Open the Channels adjustment panel, and look at the four channels: RBG, Red, Blue, Green. The latter three will be monotone. Choose the channel with the greatest contrast between the highlights and the darks.


I thought the Green channel had the greatest degree of contrast. Select the highlights by holding the Ctrl key while left-clicking on the Green channel thumbnail. The “marching ants” will outline the highlights.

Then create a Curves adjustment layer. Adjust the curves to make the highlights a little darker by dragging the square on the right side of the curve down. You can also adjust the other areas of the curve as well until you’re satisfied with the look of the image.


Compare the two images: the original with the final. What do you think?

Original without edits

flower highlight edit

Photo Journal

The Beauty around Us

Every so often, once a week or so, sometimes, only twice a month, I take my trusty “big girl camera” out for a walk around the ponds on the property where I’ve lived for the last thirty-two years. You’d think I’d know the landscape and the scenery well by now, and I do. I know where to find the acorns, the grape vines, the persimmons, the ragweed, and the goldenrod. I can anticipate where I’ll have a smattering of red leaves on the dam between Gramps’s and Herbert’s ponds. I can even anticipate seeing a heron fishing in the shallow waters of one of those ponds. I know them well.






Yet, when I walk with the camera, I am open to receive whatever there is to see—something new, something old, something rather ordinary. This is what contemplative photography practices allow us to do—to open ourselves up to the experience at that moment but with no preconceived ideas about what we may allow our cameras to receive.

That is the first step in my process—to go for a walk without expectations.

Now, I do admit that I do think about the technical aspects of craft usually before I walk. I admit, openly and unashamedly, that 90% of the time, I set my camera for aperture priority (AV on the Canon). I want to control the depth of field because I love that creamy out-of-focus background, and the easiest way for me to achieve that effect is to set the aperture “wide-open” and keep it there. Today, however, I used an aperture of f16—the “sunny sixteen” setting. I was still able to get an out-of-focus background on most of the images I took, especially on the closeup shots, but I was also able to keep more of my main subject in focus.

The editing process today was pretty simple in Lightroom. Now, I do have a bunch of presets (I just bought some more today. . . .). I may go back and fine tune my editing later with the presets, but today I manually edited. I read an article on editing that recommended cropping the image first. So, each selected image was cropped. I found that today, I preferred the 1:1 crop (square).



Next, I adjusted the sliders for black and white, finding that “absolute” black point first. I turned on the the little triangles to show the clipping, and I pulled the black slider all the way to the left to get a big blob of blue; then I eased the slider back to the right until I had just little sprinkles of blue in the darkest part of the image. For the white point, I moved the slider as far to the right as I could, and then pulled back to the left until there were just sprinkles of red in the white sections. I then adjusted the shadows and highlight sliders until I liked what I saw.

Folks, that was it. That’s all the editing that I did today. Nothing hard and tedious. I think I spent about an hour culling my images to nineteen that I liked out of seventy-two. There are some others I want to play with later.


Long Weeks, Shorter Days

It’s Saturday, and I am noticing a change in the air. The days are getting shorter, but the weeks seem longer. Perhaps it’s because I’m back at work for the September mod at Remington College.

It is September. In just two or three days, the autumnal equinox will occur. Now, I confess I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew about equinoxes and solstices except the summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. I’m not sure what the equinox means anymore (except they fall between the solstices. I guess someone had to have a name for those “in-between” times).

Here’s what I’ve been doing since my last post.

1. Teaching. I’m still teaching composition courses for Remington College. I do so much enjoy teaching the adult learners. This mod, I have a whole slew of students! Twenty-two, in fact. Now, coming from a public school background, twenty-two may not sound that bad; I had up to thirty-six students in some of my high school classes. But for this small career college, a class of twenty-two is large. In fact, we had to change classrooms because I ran out of chairs and computers.

2. Photography classes. I am retaking Galia Alena’s Camera Craft series, which began in June. I will finish up the final lessons next week. This course series is “technical,” but not so technical that it ignores the more artistic side of photography. In the first four weeks, the emphasis was on the basics—composition, exposure, post-processing, and similar topics. The last four weeks focus on light, and not just the theory and technical aspects. I think I could take this course every year and still learn something new. I enjoy the more artistic aspects of the course, focusing on the aesthetics rather than the correctness.

3. Reading. Okay, I admit that I get in a rut when it comes to reading. I love Regency romances, those novels set at the beginning of the nineteenth century involving the aristocrats and nobility of England. These novels are pure fluff, brain candy, entertainment. I love a story with a happily-ever-after ending. But I have read a couple of things with more substance, although the entertainment value is still there: a couple of Steve Berry novels, including The Lincoln Myth, and the last Dan Brown novel, Inferno.

4. Learning some new Photoshop and Lightroom techniques, such as converting color images to black and white and using luminosity masks. I know converting to black and white is not really new. I’ve tended to use actions developed by others for Photoshop or presets for Lightroom or the black-and-white adjustment layer in Photoshop. But at the encouragement of Galia (see #2 above), I am trying other ways. And luminosity masks are rocking my world right now!


I took this image of the sun shining through the corn leaf at the beginning of the month. I used a luminosity mask in the blue channel, and lo! and behold! I found some detail in the sky! Oh, my goodness! The sky was pretty blown out when I started the editing process. And then I used the saturation slider to remove the color in Lightroom, the black and white sliders to set the points for pure black and pure white, and the highlights and shadows sliders to adjust for details. I really like the results. Just for fun, here is the original.

egret (2 of 5)

See what I mean? You can’t see the clouds in the sky.

The second image I played with is of some pink crape myrtle blooms. I used the same basic process of conversion to black and white in Lightroom that I described above, but then I took the image into Photoshop for additional manipulation. I used the “Render” filter to add a lens flare. Adding the lens flare added small bits of color back into the image.

crape myrtle for web egret (1 of 5)

I love both the black and white and the color image. It’s hard to choose a favorite.

And the last thing I’ve done in the last few weeks is get my computer tweaked again. Our friendly, neighborhood computer technician Cale H put in a new solid state hard drive and increased the RAM in my five-year-old Toshiba laptop, and she’s running like a young deer now. I’m  happy! I’m glad I didn’t have to replace my computer.

Days are getting shorter, but in reality, the weeks are not getting longer. My goal is to keep learning something new each day. Maybe that’s why the weeks are longer. I’m filling up each day with so much goodness.

contemplative photography Photo Journal ReFrame

A Day of “Arting”

Yesterday, I saw a shrub of some sort waving its white branches at me. I had to fill the bird feeders anyway, so I grabbed the camera and went out for a quick photo shoot. After asking on Facebook for an identification, I found out that it is privet hedge. It is beautiful and smells heavenly. I started with this image:


I applied a texture layer and used Topaz Simplify 4 to apply the “impressionist” effect, and ended with this:


I like this image. But I wasn’t done playing with the images I received yesterday. A lone male cardinal visited the feeders after I filled them. I really did not have the best lens on my camera to get this shot, but I had to try. Cardinals do not like to pose for photographs, and I was hasty. My original image was underexposed, but with a little Lightroom magic, I was able to recover enough details to work with the image. In addition, the background is busy and distracting, and I really had to work with the background to get something I was pleased with.


I cropped the image to a square. Then I used some techniques from Susan Tuttle’s book Digital Expressions to desaturate the background while keeping the color of the subject (the cardinal) and creating a vignette with a color fill layer. This is the result:


I wasn’t quite satisfied, so I played a little more. I added a texture overlay in vivid light mode and the spot light effect from the filter|Render menu in CS6. After playing a bit with opacity, I ended with this:


There is a Native American legend that says that cardinals are visitors from heaven. I suppose this little bird is such a visitor.