2011 – 01 – 01 – Shoot Me!

Shoot Me! - Scott Loftesness - New Year's Day 2011 - San Francisco

Welcome to the new decade! Seems like Y2K was just yesterday, doesn’t it?!

Like last year, I ventured up to San Francisco on New Year’s Day to try to capture some shots with clouds in the sky. But, it wasn’t the best of days – a sloppy winter storm hung over San Francisco – with windy and sloppy rain making it a tough photography day. It was as cold and windy as I’ve ever felt it along the bay by the bridge. I guess it is January, after all!

That said, I had some good fun – capturing one of those serendipity shots. I loved the shot above – taken near the Warming Hut on Crissy Field. I titled it “Shoot Me!“. A couple of friends just having fun out in the wind and rain on the pier.

The rest of today’s set is here on Flickr – a couple of color vs. black and white comparisons of the Golden Gate Bridge and another black and white of the Palace of the Legion of Honor. All shot with my trusty Canon PowerShot S95. I also had my Canon 5D Mark II with me in the car – but it just wasn’t a 5D day!

The Power of Black and White – Canon S95 HDR

Maybe it’s the visit to the Ansel Adams show with Chris on Saturday that has sent me over the edge, but I’m continually intrigued by how one can take a color photo and turn it into a much more powerful black and white image.

See the photo below – it’s #3 from my initial Canon S95 HDR post earlier this morning.

Rodin's Gates of Hell @ Stanford

Frankly, I didn’t spend much time on this photo – the point was to provide it (a traditional HDR post-processed shot) as a point of comparison with the new in-camera HDR feature built-in to the S95.

As I was looking at it, I wondered how a conversion to black and white might look – now that I’ve become acquainted and familiar with Lightroom 3’s excellent Black and White Mix controls.

So, I gave it a shot – here’s the result – after about 10 minutes of tweaking in Lightroom:

Rodin's Gates of Hell - Canon PowerShot S95 - HDR

Obviously, it’s the same subject as the original photo – Rodin’s Gates of Hell – but it’s been transformed into a more powerful photograph through the conversion to black and white.

I also experimented for the first time using the new Lens Correction features in Lightroom 3 – to remove the distortion in terms of angle, etc. that I had in the original image. It now looks very close to a direct, head-on shot at the scuplture.

Finally, I tweaked it in Flickr – using Picnik to add a museum frame around it – dressing it up a bit.

I like the result. What do you think?

You may also want to view my Flickr set of Canon S95 HDRs taken this morning at Stanford.

Take 3: The Barn at Pierce Point Ranch

In a followup comment, Don Neff pointed out that the strip at the bottom of the photo could use some detail added back in as well.

Here’s take 3:

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I darkened the sky just a skotch more – this version seems nicely in balance to me – although my good friend and pro photography Chris Gulker votes with Ansel Adams for the first version (with the almost black sky)! Seems like dark skies are an “acquired taste”!

Take 2: The Barn at Pierce Point Ranch

In a comment to my earlier post, Doug Kaye said he wanted to like the black and white version – but was having trouble because of the lack of detail in the sky – which went almost completely black as I cranked down the blue grey saturation.

So, here’s take 2 – with the blue bought back from -100 to just -18. I think I agree with Doug – the first version was too dark in the sky. Take 2 has more eye appeal – particularly the low glow in the sky on the right side.

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The Barn at Pierce Point Ranch – Point Reyes

Take a look at these two images – derived from the same photo taken at the Point Reyes Workshop last weekend:

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Which one do you prefer?

After taking in the Ansel Adams exhibit with Chris yesterday, we got to talking about the use of color filters in black and white photography – something I had never really experimented with. So, when I got home, I fired up Lightroom 3 and took the color version of the barn photo and transformed it into the black and white version – using Black and White Mix panel in Lightroom’s Develop module.

I first converted the image to Black and White, then adjusted the levels for Green, Orange and Yellow grays to -100. I dropped Blue to -92 and Red to -22. Finally, I tweaked up the contrast a tad to +9 and the clarity up to +70. A final bit of sharpening and I was done.

Back in Ansel’s day, all of this was done using color filters at the time of picture creation!

[Update: 9/5/2010 – Be sure to check out two other versions of this black and white photo: take 2 and take 3.]