How to capture moody monochrome landscapes

Why not rather utilise the full ability of the modern sensor and shoot in wonderful colour? I find there is an undefinable quality about black and white images that I just do not get from an image that was shot at sunrise or sundown and packed with super-juiced post production main colours.

Prior to entering the information, take a look at the guide to some of the finest software application for black and white modifying. There is a brand-new version of the Nik Collection from DxO, for example, which includes some terrific enhancements to the local adjustment tools. As I will talk about later, among the best tools for black & white modifying is Silver Efex.
15th century tower house in late autumn, Dumfries and Galloway
15th century tower home in late fall, Dumfries and Galloway. Leica M10-R, 1/30sec at f/8, ISO 100, Silver Efex Pro

Black & white imagery is of course not for everyone, and I recently heard a customer on a workshop say candidly, ‘I do not do black & white’, which is fair enough, however I feel they are losing out on an extremely creative part of the photographic procedure. The days of starting your photographic profession by mixing chemicals in the bathroom, sticking bin bags across the window to achieve blackout, an enlarger precariously perched on a stool and prints being washed in the bath probably simply do not take place any more, but processing your own black & white negatives and then printing them truly concentrated the innovative mind.

You looked at the world in black & white, your whole photographic output was in mono and so you looked at the world in regards to shadows, tones, contrast and texture. Colour, unlike today, rarely entered the formula.

What is the best time and place for moody monochrome landscapes?

Shooting moody monochrome landscapes needs a great deal more effort than simply getting up for a daybreak or sunset and after that striking the saturation slider in post production. Having found an area that will work well in mono is something; existing at the right time in the best conditions is another.
Cuillin Hills in winter, Isle of Skye.
Cuillin Hills in winter, Isle of Skye. Nikon D810, 1/640sec at f/8, ISO 64. 3 images sewn together in Photoshop. Transformed to B+W in Silver Efex

Weather report revealing the percentage of cloud and rain, wind speed and instructions end up being critical. A projection revealing a 50% possibility of rain with the wind at 15 to 20 miles an hour can be encouraging. Generally, try to find sunny intervals with frequent showers.

Clearing (or approaching) storm clouds on a background of deep blue sky with dark irregular shadows scudding throughout the landscape are heaven for those photographers who want loads of mood and drama, although there is a cost to pay for such remarkable conditions. By the very nature of desiring storm clouds, the chances are you are going to get wet, cold, struck by hailstones or perhaps snowed on, however believe me on this one, it will deserve it.

Hunching down on a hillside, even well prepared and in the ideal outdoor set, can appear a little undesirable sometimes but when the storm clears you exist, in place and ready to shoot. There is no leaving the automobile, getting togged up and needing to stroll to the best spot; if you do this the chances are you will have missed the shot, that transient moment when all the elements have come together for simply a flash.
Marlborough Downs in late summer, Wiltshire.
Marlborough Downs in late summertime, Wiltshire. Leica M10, 1/250sec at f/8, ISO 100, Silver Efex Pro

Yes, you might have to suffer a cold waterdrop dribbling down your neck or a hard hailstone hitting home, however to be in the ideal place at the correct time, ready and waiting and after that getting the image, there is no much better sensation, even after hours of discomfort. Believing and shooting in mono also opens up the possibility of a bigger, longer working window.

Sunrises and sundowns with their pretty pink skies reoccur after about an hour however when you are shooting in mono there is typically a chance to be shooting much longer into the day. Yes, the conditions and area will play a big part in the length of time you can aim for but even several hours after sunrise or prior to sundown you can often still utilize the light to your advantage.

Late autumn, winter season and even early spring are good times to be thinking in terms of shooting mono as there is valuable little colour in the landscape anyway and the sun is never ever going to climb up too high in the sky.

How do I edit for moody monochrome landscapes?

When you are shooting moody monochrome landscapes, you ought to understand how you are going to process them and what sort of feel and look you are going to provide your images. The doyen of many landscape photographers, Ansel Adams, constantly stated imagine the last print on the wall before you take the electronic camera out of the bag, and this still is true today.
Avebury stone circle in late winter, Wiltshire. moody monochrome landscapes
Avebury stone circle in late winter season, Wiltshire. Leica M10, 1/125sec at f/5.6, ISO 100, Silver Efex

When you are on place you must understand what look your image will have and when you are sat in front of your computer system you should know how to achieve the preferred outcome. Creating moody monochrome landscapes is not simply a case of pressing the saturation slider to the left in Photoshop, desaturating the image and expecting the best. Contrast, clearness and colour channels can all come into play in developing the look you want.

Possibly the best-known software application for creating black & white images is the superb Nik Silver Efex. It is a really creative and effective program with many presets but it too has its restrictions. It can be an extremely aggressive piece of software so you require to inspect your images thoroughly for any shortages and imperfections that it might produce.

In using software that has numerous presets you likewise risk having your images look like everybody else’s therefore you must be extremely mindful and selective in what you utilize. Look to produce your own design, use a pic ‘n’ mix type of method to your selections so that ideally no one else will have rather the same look to their images.
Beech Trees, Marlborough Downs, Wiltshire. Moody monochrome landscapes
Beech Trees, Marlborough Downs, Wiltshire. Leica M10, 1/250th at f/8, ISO 100, Silver Efex Pro

You have imagined and shot your landscape as a black & white, but naturally the camera chip is seeing colour (unless you have the sensational Leica M11 Monochrom) and the resultant raw file will contain all the colour information that remained in front of you at the time of shooting. In transforming the raw file to a black & white image the software is using the colour info and you can turn this to your benefit.

For instance, if you want dark black skies, make your blues as dark as possible, utilizing a polariser or grad. Even when you are shooting for a black & white image you still need to know colour and how its conversion will affect the resultant image.

Simply do it

Even if black & white photography is not for you, I advise you this winter to give it a go. Not just enjoyable images with a large tonal range and a well-balanced pie chart, but images with strong blacks, and mood and drama by the bucket-load. Set your video camera display to mono and imagine and check out a drama-filled world without colour.

Why this image works

landscape in colour before editing
Prior to

The ruins of Kilchurn Castle on the coasts of Loch Awe are frequently photographed at daybreak with calm waters, reflections, snow on the hills and maybe a thin layer of mist wafting by. I wanted to see what the castle was like late on a breezy, damp winter season’s afternoon.

Storm clouds hung over the hills, the wind ruffled the water, and the sun was well hidden, not an appealing start. Just for a couple of minutes a beam of light pierced the gloom and brightened the plain trees in the foreground, the castle being almost an afterthought in the remote background.

moody monochrome landscapes, after editing to black and white
I knew then with a little work in Photoshop and a black & white conversion in Silver Efex would have the moody and remarkable image that I had in my mind’s eye. Evaluating the scene when you shoot it and understanding your software are key to this kind of image. At the time of shooting, you need to have a concept of what your final image will appear like, and how you are going to accomplish it.


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