This image was taken on the island of Ponta Delgada, in the Azores. The location is a dirt road that runs around the rim of a dormant volcano. The interesting thing is that, on the right was a beautiful slope down to a picturesque village on the sea. On the left was a fifteen hundred foot drop down to the volcano’s crater floor, filled with great lakes and farmland. Beautiful postcards, and that’s where everyone immediately went. Sure, I shot a few postcards, too. With a postcard, you look at everything and nothing at the same time. It’s beautiful, but not really very interesting. I even got a few good images of the crater. If you want, you can see them here. Then I noticed that the real graphically interesting element was the hill in the medium distance and the road we were standing on. I saw that the leading lines formed by the road and the clouds brought the eye right into the frame and the crunchy texture of the plants and the smoothness of the clouds made for a great contrast.
This image was done in the middle of the day, supposedly the worst time to shoot. Black and white concentrates on the shapes, textures and forms and can be manipulated tonally through a wide range of lighting. That’s one reason I love it.
So here’s moral #1. If your camera can do it, always shoot RAW. I think the key to this image is the darkening and increased contrast in the sky. If this was made as a JPEG, there wouldn’t be enough dynamic range to bring out the clouds. This is a tricky balance and you want all the wiggle room that you can get.
Moral #2. Try every tool at your disposal. In the process of darkening the sky, I tried Aperture and Photoshop in various combinations and I always wound up with a mottled sky that was very tedious or impossible to remove. It was driving me crazy. Then I tried Nik Silver Efex Pro. With very similar settings it produced a clean sky with very little additional touch up. On another image it could be entirely different. All software uses it’s own algorithm that works in some situations and not so much in others. You can usually find one that fits, so you can go from what’s in your head to a great print.
Nikon D-300 with Nikkor 16-85mm at 25mm-f13 – 1/640 – ISO 500 – spot metering. Post processed with Aperture 3 and Nik plugins.
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I would really appreciate your comments on this blog. I’d like to hear your opinion of this photograph and what kind of images you’d like to see. Would you like more technical information or more thoughts and philosophy? I’m anxious to hear from you and to try to make the best newsletter possible. Thanks for your time!