Monochrome photography

At the local Camera Club there’s been quite a lot of interest in monochrome images lately, and I thought I’d try my hand. Since I’ve been scanning a lot of my old photos this week, I thought I’d see if it worked on this 1999 shot of Yosemite Valley in California. The thing is, before converting it from the colour original, you should attempt to get the original as good as you can make it. This one is taken from pretty close to the viewpoint where Ansel Adams took his famous Yosemite photo. I had to tweak the curves and lower the contrast so I could get the whole tonal range in, and I’m not sure I made it. Right at the back of the shot there is this blindingly white granite mountain which I haven’t manage to darken sufficiently. Anyway, it shows El Capitan near left, Half-Dome centre rear, and the Bridal Veil falls near right. The scale of the scenery is just breathtaking, and I can imagine John Muir’s feelings on seeing it for the first time.

And this is the original colour version.

PS: New poem

Yosemite Valley

Where’s the knife
that made such perfect cuts
in these hard mountains?

Melted, run off
the smooth polished
surfaces, jetting out
and down
in white thunder.

In the soaked meadow
deer twitch ears
to catch the heavy footfalls,
the click of claw on pebble,
above the roar of water.

Colin Will


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
This entry was posted in Ansel Adams, photos, Yosemite. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Monochrome photography

  1. deemikay says:

    It’s a good pic – I’d love to see the view myself. Shame about the lack of interesting-sky though… being the US and being a national park, they should have cloud production machines!Can we see the colour version as well, maybe?

  2. apprentice says:

    Stunning scenery and a lovely poem. as I said I’ll give you a wee dodge and burn lesson sometime when it suits us both.I think there’s a wee bit of lens flare in the middle of the shot, so a selection there might bring it back.It can all be done with PS Version 7.Meanwhile an easy test is to look at levels in the pallette drop down menus. If the histogram is centred check and see if you can squeeze in the dark and light toggles each side of it to boost the contrast. (I’ll show you how to do this and check you’re not blowing any highlights) Or use curves to create a small s bend – again to boost contrast, lift flatness.

  3. BarbaraS says:

    I knew A would have something to say that would be helpful. I, on the other hand, can only be impressed at the view and that poem is so crisp!

  4. Maureen Hurley says:

    Tenaya’s white head in the distance, yes the glacial polish enhances it. I knew those mountains well in my youth. You did a good job o monochroming it. Very F 64. Also, you can male a layer in Photoshop and enhance Tenaya, erasing the rest of the image. Be sure to use multiply though! I remember Ansel Adams, he had a photography studio in the valley…Afternoons, he’d step out of the darkroom for a breath, lean against the doorjam, shove his glasses up, twin suns reflected on that Half Dome of his pate, he lit his cigarette, then gazed into the distance, towards Tenaya, his depth of field unfocused and lens open wide, then he finished his smoke and stepped back into the shuttered darkness.

  5. Tommaso Gervasutti says:

    Dear Colin, I have enjoyed this, in particular “deer twitch ears”, I feel it very close to the world I often sense when a poem is brewing.Happy Easter.Davide

  6. Colin Will says:

    deemikay: Many thanks. The sky was unbroken blue, unlike at Death Valley, where we had some cloud, and later in Bryce Canyon, where it rained.apprentice: that’s very helpful. I used the burn tool with a narrow brush to scribe an outline and shadows on the distant mountain. I’m much happier with it now. The original shot was with a compact film camera (Olympus), and the print hangs in my study.barbara: the poem just sprang out of remembering the trip and the scenery, nudged by working on the photo.maureen: that’s fascinating. I love AA’s work, how he could add so much to a landscape view by exploring the tonal range of monochrome photos. And the landscape is inspirational.davide: it’s amazing to see how sculpted these mountains look, and the wildlife is wonderful.

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