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Monochrome, Lower Antelope Canyon

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 1 December 2009 in Landscape & Rural.


Spring Big Sur Photo Workshop - March 29 - April 1, 2010 (1 spot remaining)
Northern Arizona: Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona Photo Workshop - May 3-7, 2010 (7 spots available)
Redwoods and Mendocino Coast Photo Workshop - June 15-18, 2010 (space available)
Kauai, Hawaii Photo Workshop - July 12-16, 2010 (8 spots available)
Big Sur Photo Workshop Summer August, 2010 (Exciting details TBA soon)!
Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop November 2010 (Details to be released soon)
New Article on my Website: Creating a "Twi-Night" Image

Books Available for Purchase on my Website:
Photographer's Guide to the Big Sur Coast (e-book version - 102 pages)
On the Edge (printed version - softcover and hardcover - 120 pages)

I love studying works by the past masters of nature photography. Within the past couple of years, I have been purchasing books by Eliot Porter, Ernst Hass, David Muench, William Hyde, etc., the ones who blazed the trail for all of us modern-day color landscape aficionados. Most recently I got my hands on the only book ever published of Ansel Adams color work entitled, Ansel Adams :: In Color. It should be noted that this book was published after Ansel's passing by the Ansel Adams trust, so I'm not sure if he would have approved, though he had intended to write a book on color photography as part of his instructional series, but never realized this dream.

Ansel's main concern regarding color photography at the time was the lack of control in the printing process. His writings indicated that he loved the translucent look of a Kodachrome 8x10, but could not translate these luminescent tones adequately to a print. I'm certain with today's digital capabilities, that his standards would have been met, but that is another subject for another day. What I found interesting, was that Ansel had over 3,500 color transparencies in his archive at the time of his death. He was undoubtedly the preeminent master at black-and-white photography, but he nonetheless experimented with the future of color photography.

It has been such a busy fall season for me (workshops, stock trips, covering my beloved San Jose Sharks, and writing a new book), that I have had very little time to experiment (as Ansel did). We all need time to grow and develop as artists, and without experimentation (be it in the field or at our computers) we can easily get stuck in a creative rut.

We grow as artists when we push the boundaries of what we are used to doing, and in the process, get out of our comfort zone. There are so many talented photographers out there who seem content upon seeing the world the same way, their work never seems to evolve, and in the process, their images become rather stagnant in thought and content (I hope I never become one of them). I applaud contemporary artists such as Tony Sweet and William Neill. I sometimes do not like the direction their work leads them, but they refuse to rest on their laurels. Art evolves and technology evolves, so why should we sit still?

Having said all that, it is funny how technology can lead us full circle in our creative endeavors. Case in point is today's image from Lower Antelope Canyon. My friend Gary Hart and I had this canyon to ourselves on a recent morning this past month, and I was really able to slow down and not feel rushed while absorbing the beauty of this northern-Arizona icon. But on the other hand, I felt as if I was simply re-creating images that had been etched into my brain from many of my colleagues who have published work prior to my arrival.

Yet, I tried to not let that deter me. I knew I needed to trust my own vision, find my own images; thus, I tried to turn my conscious brain off and just go strictly on feel. I simply moved around and viewed these sensuous walls lit by this incredible light, then put the camera to my eye and played with compositions until something grabbed me emotionally. Once I felt the connection, I went to work refining the composition and trusted my instincts. It was a somewhat new way of working for me, but I was pleased with the results.

To take this concept of "feeling the image" a step forward, I decided to take one of my processed frames and convert it to a black-and-white using Nik's Silver Effects Pro software (see discount information below). I had spent years as a black-and-white photographer, so my earlier attempts at converting RGB digital captures to monochrome using Photoshop's various offerings, often let me feeling unsatisfied - until I finally gave Silver Efex Pro a try. As with all of Nik's products, this software was simple and intuitive to use. There are many preset film types available, so I tried two old favorites of mine (T-MAX 100 and Tri-X 400) and settled on the former. It was then a simple matter of tweaking the contrast to my liking and the image was complete!

I will be re-visiting this software with other images soon. I may have awakened the old black-and-white shooter who I thought was permanently asleep. This technology stuff is fun - we just need to keep an opened mind!

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 13 second F/16.0 ISO 200 48 mm

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