Ever get bored and go archive diving, only to find an image that totally blows your mind? I usually don’t find much when I’m digging around in the dumpster but tonight, oh tonight, I stumbled across an intimate scene from Redwoods National Park that made me giddy. The color version didn’t appeal to me as it was essentially just various shades of green. As I studied the image I noticed that the clovers were darker than the non-clover (no idea what kind of plant it is) and my brain kicked into monochrome mode. I thought, “What if I converted this to black and white with a lot of contrast that would make the dark clovers darker and the light plant lighter?” So, that’s exactly what I did using Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2.
I don’t often start my monochrome conversions with one of the presets that are included with Silver Efex Pro 2 but this time the “Push Process N+1.5″. I made a few minor tweaks to the image at this point, the most significant of which was eliminating the grain automatically added by the preset. I don’t mind grain in some black and white photos but in this one I didn’t want to add grain at the expense of fine detail. I also added a little more structure to the highlights and mid-tones.
At this point the image was oh-so-close to what I’d visualized but I still wanted more contrast between the clovers and lighter plant. I pulled the photo into Nik Software Viveza 2 and used carefully placed control points on the lighter leaves to brighten them up a bit more with consideration given to not going too far and losing highlight detail. Then, I dropped a few more control points on the clovers and darkened them while also increasing the contrast a wee little bit.
This image is loaded with texture and I really wanted to accentuate it in the black and white version. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to use the Tonal Contrast filter in Nik Software Color Efex Pro 4. As I’ve said in previous tutorials the native preset is way too much unless you’re a fan of overcooked HDR looking photography. The Tonal Contrast filter allows you to independently control the contrast of highlights, mid-tones and shadows with the simple flick of a slider. I increased the highlight contrast by 15 points, the mid-tone contrast by 10 points and the shadow contrast by 15 points. There’s the texture I wanted!
I spent more time working on this image than I do on most but I think it was time well spent. I’m slowly assembling a portfolio of monochrome images I’m exceptionally proud of and this one will be a nice addition to the collection.
CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE PLANT THAT ISN’T A CLOVER? IF SO, PLEASE DO SO IN THE COMMENTS. FIRST PERSON TO CORRECTLY IDENTIFY IT WINS A 5″ X 7″ PRINT IN A MUSEUM WHITE 8″ X 10″ MAT. (SORRY, SHIPPING ONLY WITHIN THE U.S. AS THE INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING COST IS PROHIBITIVE)