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In Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography, Ben Long outlines a full, shooting-to-output workflow geared specifically toward the needs of landscape photographers, with a special emphasis on composition, exposure enhancement, and retouching. This course also covers converting to black and white, using high-dynamic range (HDR) imaging techniques to capture an image that’s closer to what your eye sees, and preparing images for large-format printing. Learn to bring back the impact of the original scene with some simple post-processing in Photoshop. Exercise files are included with the course.
Black and white. Because all new photographers start learning with color cameras nowadays, they aren't forced to learn black and white shooting and processing. This often means that I they also don't get a chance to learn about black-and-white photography. In fact, many photographers today simply see black and white as something old-fashioned that they get to skip over because now we have color cameras. And of course, when you have a camera that can capture such exceptional color, why mess with black-and-white? There is a reason though that some of the most famous landscape images in the world are black-and-white.
We've discussed how, as a landscape shooter, you can't cram a vast landscape into a single image. You can't capture exact visuals of what it feels like to stand in a particular place. And that's okay, because standing in a particular place is about much more than just what you're seeing. It's about sounds and smells and feelings and context. People get caught up in thinking that photography is an exact duplicate of one's visual experience, but it's not. Like all art forms, it's an abstraction. It's not what things really look like.
It has less dynamic range in color. It's not three-dimensional. It doesn't fill your entire field of view. But this abstraction is what makes any representative form powerful, because the more you abstract, the more you ask the viewer to do work of their own. A more abstract image requires the viewer to fill in more details and involve themselves more in the image. This is why black-and-white is powerful. With a black-and-white image the viewer is often much more engaged than with a color image. Color is often too much information.
Color doesn't always add to an image; sometimes it just detracts from the power of the scene. Over 90% of your visual system is black-and-white vision. Your eyes are extremely sensitive to subtle changes in light and shadow, and so they drink up black-and-white images. Black-and-white images are all about luminance, light. So when you see an especially interesting play of light and dark on a landscape, of brightness versus shadow, then you want to start thinking of that scene as a potential black-and-white image.
You can't shoot it in black-and-white. But you can start trying to see a composition that favors light and dark forms, which you can then bring to the fore in Photoshop. In his chapter, will be looking at how to convert your color images to black-and-white. And I hope you'll learn why lack of color can often lead to a better image.
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