We are enjoying a good snow storm after weeks of little in Jackson, WY. Late in the day, the contrast dropped to the point that it began reminding me of Antarctica. Just with fences, trees and the like. Other than the dormant trees and the rail fence managing the cow pasture some distance away, there was just this wonderfully blank sheet of nothingness.
At first that seems illogical – why would a photographer want a lot of nothingness to photograph?
Because there’s very little distraction. Should it have been a clear day, there would be mountains, houses, hay bails, vehicles and too much other junk to distract from the image. What I have been waiting some time to see finally happened. As the wind was blowing snow across the field of view, I knew the image was going to look grainy. That’s okay. The Nikon D800 at ISO 200 is virtually grain free, so I wasn’t worried about that. In my mind, I had a duo-toned image, where the whiteout retained its color neutrality while the darker areas of the images were sepia toned.
After some work in Lightroom 5, I achieved the look I wanted. It did take some work to get things just right, as adjusting one control made other adjustments fall out of line. That’s the nature of photography. I’ll write a more extensive article on how I made the conversion in the future.
The image at the left is what I started with. That is the 14-bit RAW image out of the camera. As the D800 has a 13-stop dynamic range, I adjusted the exposure so I had a lot to work with. As long as I expose to the right, I keep the digital noise out of the image. Then, if I want to darken things, I don’t suffer any signal to noise issues. Had I underexposed to get the trees darker, the overall image would have been very dark, as there was little contrast in the scene. That meant that once I brightened up the whiteout area, the image would have begun developing digital noise, something I wanted to avoid. The snow gave me a nice random grain – I didn’t want the over-adjusted digital look.
It was fun to work a black and white image. I learned on a 4×5 view camera, developing my own film. It’s good to have a simulation of that ability again.