Category Archives: Black & White
This women was sitting at St Pancras International train station when a few of us went in there to grab some photos.
I imagine she was waiting for a train, and found this nice comfortable spot to listen to some music, check emails and perhaps play a little Candy Crush on Facebook.
Quite liking the scene, I of course took a picture – though wish I had gone ahead and switched from my 14mm to something with a bit more zoom. I cropped a lot out of the image to get what you see here, and I think a different lens with different compression may have made the subject stand out a little better. I ended up moving the couch off center as well so that I could get both plant pots in.
In fact, in the future I think I may not only change the lens, but attempt to get in there and change the location of different items in the scene as well. I guess that would lose some of the spontaneity of it though.
Meanwhile, I’m off to Berlin today for what looks to be a rather wet weekend. Hopefully I’ll get some breaks in the weather; though photography will be taking a slight backseat on this trip it would be nice to capture some of the iconic stuff out there. Have a good weekend all.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels, Belgium.
I was recently given a reviewers copy of B&W Effects 2 by Topaz Labs, but having been busy for the past 6 weekends, and mostly travelling, I haven’t been able to actually put my thoughts on this software down on paper – until now. I’ve also recorded a video of myself working on the above image, so feel free to check that our also; it’s 18 minutes long.
I’ve tried a couple of black and white plugins previously…but have never really got on with any of them. However, I find that I’m consistently returning to B&W Effects 2 when processing my daily images, and it’s now become a part of my workflow. I had only really used Topaz Denoise previously (on 90% of my images, to be honest), so this is a welcome addition to the collection.
First up, the interface is nice and simple and easy to use – it was pretty intuitive to just dive right in there and start using it. It was natural to start at the top left of the screen where I could select a ‘collection’ to work from; follow that down by selecting a preset which is part of the collection, and then when I’ve settled on one of those simply head over to the right hand navigation panel to tweak the image how I require. Simple.
However; there were a few too many options for me when it came to the final tweaking. I’m used to doing many things in Lightroom and CS6, so features such as dodging and burning or curve adjustments just didn’t seem necessary in a plugin as far as I was concerned.
I’m rather short sighted, however, as I have no idea what other image hosts may have as features, and it may be that you require these additional features from directly within the plugin.
My biggest issues with the software are that it needs to generate previews of the image each time you select a collection, and sometimes it can appear to be a little unresponsive – mostly because it’s catching up on a previous action before moving on to the next. If that’s all I have to complain about though, then that’s not a bad thing. The former can be overcome over time simply by adding your most used presets to your ‘favourites’ collection as these will all load at once and so it’s likely you’ll only need to load the presets once.
I didn’t use the original B&W Effects so can’t say how this one differs from the previous version, but I’m happy enough with the features this one does have, and the control it allows you over the final adjustments.
Convert your image to black and white in under 30 seconds
Large selection of presets available
Ability to finely adjust selected presets
Apply finishing effects from within the plugin
Reasonable price point ($60)
Preview load times are noticeable when they should be instantaneous
Cannot be used as a standalone application
A versatile package with a vast array of presets which will suit many images. Topaz B&W Effects 2 has become a part of daily workflow, allowing me to create a new look to my images within seconds.
In China there is a wall, and it is long. I spent some of my time in China walking it.
All of it.
Okay, when I say ‘all’ I mean ‘all I would care to do’. I spent about 3 hours up there, with a bit of sun, and a large backpack. It was pretty tiring to be honest.
Now, I know it must have taken a long time, and it is a stunning piece of work when you think about just how long it is. However I have to wonder why there isn’t consistency in the way it’s built. Part of it features ramp, part of it feature small steps, part of it features really big steps. I don’t know why they just couldn’t use small steps the whole way.
Still, I’m really pleased that I decided to make the trip out there to see it, and would certainly advise that if you’re opting to go for the easy to get to touristy spots, then you go on a weekday and do so very early in the morning.
Before my rececnt trip, the last time I was in Brussels was a few years ago and it is at the location you see in today’s image that I spent all of my time. I remember it was during a football event, so think it was probably in June of 2010. I think I was stood on an exhibit stand for most of the day, and that it was only a day trip.
It sure wasn’t enough to get a feel for the city, which is what my latest trip was great for. I was pleased to return to this spot though, so I could at least put this building in context with the surrounding area and establish how it fits into the landscape.
I sure was pleased not to have to go in there again though.
While in Beijing, ‘pamhule‘ was kind enough to take a few hours out of his day to meet up with me for a photowalk. It was great to meet someone with local knowledge, and so we checked out some of the hutongs in the Dongcheng District. I had seen the entrance to a hutong near the Forbidden City a few days previous without realising that’s what it was, and though the scene was interesting and almost begging me to go into it, I opted not to due to a lack of knowledge on what it was and if it was private property. I’m all for stepping over a line in the UK, but not so in China (at this part of the trip anyway; I did check out an empty building later on in my trip).
Hutongs, as well as being a fun word to say, are little neighbourhoods that center round a courtyard and feature a few residencies and several twisting alleyways. Opening a door onto one of these and stepping inside provides you a fleeting glance into the lives of those who live there, and all seemed to offer something very photogenic. I think all hutongs must contain clothes hanging up randomly, some sort of vegetable either growing or simply sitting there, and of course a bicycle covered in dust.
It was while working our way from one hutong to another that I found this bike sitting in front of this simple wall. I processed it using B&W Effects 2 by Topaz Labs, and bushed in elements of the Low Key filter from Nik Software.
Thanks again to Jens for taking the time out to meet up and show me a few sights, be sure to check out his awesome work over at blog.pamhule.com.
We’re back to the Elephant & Castle in South London for this image, which is where we’re both starting and ending this week’s posts.
The Strata Tower is visible from many places within London, and is most easily recognised by the three large fans that can be found on the top of the building, built to harness the wind and provide energy savings for the building itself.
It was a stupidly windy day when I was here, but my 3 Legged Thing tripod seemed to stand up to that admirably, even while doing a long exposure with a B&W filter.
No matter how strong the wind blew, however, those fans on the top did not move at all which leads me to question the overall usefulness of them.
Processing was a straightforward affair; I sharpened a little in CS6 and then ran it through one of the filters in B&W Effects 2 by Topaz Labs – simple.
I hope everyone has had a good week.
This is an automated post, as I am currently in Beijing; therefore my responses will be slow – if at all.
Thank you to everyone who showed their support of me after my April Fool joke yesterday. I was touched by the comments and emails received showing concern for my giving up the photography game, and felt a little guilty about having fooled a few people in the end. All is well though; I’m 2 years in to weekdaily posts and hoping to go strong for another 2 years from here. Though some of my post was true, I’m not in this to get the traffic and views and favourites, but because I enjoy doing it. Comments and shares are very nice, and much appreciated, but not a big part of the plan. Not that I have a plan, really.
So, back to normal service as expected. St Paul’s Cathedral is my favourite building in London, and I love shooting it from various angles and indeed various rooftops. I dislike two things about it though.
1. I do not like the new spotlights that they have in place, which are far too bright at night time and do not compliment the magnificent dome at all.
2. I have posted so many images of this subject that thinking of new titles for photoblog posts is becoming difficult.
In other, yet related, news the nice folks over at Topaz Labs have been in touch with a few photobloggers asking them to review their B&W Effects 2 software, of which I’m pleased to say that I am participating. I’ve used it on a few images now, and this is one such example. I’m still getting used to the software; there are things I really like with it, and a few things that I feel can be improved. You can expect a proper review of it once I get to grips with it more, and also once I return from Beijing.
Oh, by the way, I’m going to Beijing.
Even with the cold and wet weather I managed to make it out of the cottage this weekend and take a walk over the beautiful ‘Seven Sisters’ on the South East Coast. I’ve been here a few times now with various people, and I always find it fascinating to see how people respond to walking close to an unprotected cliff edge…and also how differently the perception of ‘close’ can be for everyone.
I must admit that it always seem to be the photographers who get the closest to the edge, or scramble down the sections that aren’t really meant to be scrambled down, and who stand on the precarious spots that look like they have a crack but it’s likely the crack has been there for some time and ‘it’ll be fine’.
It’s not that we have a different view on mortality than everyone else, we just want to go that one step further to make the shot a little bit better.
I’m not sure, is it safer to be stood on the edge of this naturally eroding cliff that could technically give way at any time, or to be stood on the edge of 30 storey building that is being constructed in the heart of London? I guess both have their own inherent risks.
Oddly I feel safer on the cliff edge, but more comfortable on the building.
After my meetings were done, and before meeting up with Scott Wood for a few drinks, the Space Needle was the first location in Seattle that was on my to visit list, and luckily it was nice and close to the hotel.
I managed to get up to three different vantage points during my short trip, and though this one wasn’t my favourite in the end it was certainly the only one which I knew I wanted to do…the other two, Colombia Tower and Smith’s Tower, just kinda happened.
I couldn’t see Mount Rainier from any of them.
I was having a good processing night the other evening, which was a good job as I had a few images to get through in order to maintain my one post per week day. As such, this image was processed in quick succession from yesterdays, which is why they are both from the same location.
Two very different images though.
I don’t remember exactly where within City Hall this image was taken, but I feel it was one of the locations at the top of the building. I did very simple processing on this one, a little sharpening and then I ran it through a filter using Perfect B&W by OnOneSoftware.
Speaking of processing, do check out the new Google+ community called ‘The Photo Post Processing & Stylization Center‘ which has been set up by Brian Matiash and Christopher Germano. It’s going to be interesting to see how communities develop within Google+ and I’m hoping they are a to be a location to share and learn, and not a breeding ground for pure self promotion.
I don’t take too many photos of people, but when I do I quite enjoy catching someone going about their business and in the natural state of not knowing that they are being photographed.
Sometimes people simply ‘feel’ that they are being watched though, and look around just as you’ve set up to take the shot – and that’s exactly what happened in this particular shot.
Jim Nix and I were a few hours into our day of shooting around London and we had dropped into the Maritime Museum in Greenwich. I had never been there before and on this occasion just wanted to try and use it as a shortcut through to the side of the park that I wanted to be on. I took the opportunity, however, to have a brief look around – hoping to find a nice bit of architecture that may have remained unknown by the masses. Alas, nothing of that there, but while I was standing on an upper level I saw this woman sitting alone on the seats below and thought that her quiet contemplation would be a nice thing to grab a shot of.
I composed the image, and just as my two seconds countdown had done she looked straight up at me.
When in Washington DC I stopped by the White House a few times. I say ‘stopped by’, but it’s not as if I was invited in for tea or anything. The closest I got to Obama was when a look-alike gave a presentation at one of the events I was at. No, I ‘stopped by’ meaning I stood outside the fence and peered at the building from afar like all of the other tourists. I took a few shots, but they are for another day.
Very near to where I stood looking through the fence I found this hydrant.
Fun fact – it’s pretty difficult to write an interesting blog post about a hydrant.
As soon as I started to process this shot I knew that it would only really work in black and white, so I used a few filters in ColorEfex and PerfectEffects to boost up the contrast and such so that it would pop a bit when turned to black and white. I also had to do a lot of correction of the lines as the street was pretty slanted and looked funny.
Have I mentioned before how poor the light was in Austria due to the extreme heat, cloudless skies and nothing but the harsh sun bearing down on us? Yes…I thought I had. Just once or twice.
Well, when that happens you can take to the shadow areas, shoot at night or process in black and white. For this shot I did two of those things.
John and I were in Halstatt and were trying to find a place to have lunch; there are plenty of little alleys and little streets, and this one lead up to an Italian place that we didn’t bother going to. I was taking a few shots of this tunnelled archway when John started walking into view; I told him to walk towards me a few times, snapping away as he did so, and found a usable shot back home.
As with my Transition shot from Central Park I blew out the light areas in post; I also added John’s shadow to the scene.
I’m on the fence with this one, but it has grown on me since doing it – hope you like it, and if not, come back and view it again in case it does grow on you too.
This was the final shot I took on the day trip out on Sunday.
I had managed to find myself travelling without a shutter release cable so I was stood on the beach as the sun was going down and using black glass, for which I had to manually hold the shutter down for several minutes. By the time I got around to this shot the sun had pretty much gone and I was able to remove the filter and simply use the usual AV for 30 seconds which had the desired affect.
I guess you don’t need fancy filters sometimes, you just need the right light as they say.
I’ve never really taken one of these minimalist shots before, but follow a few people on Flickr who specialise in them. I have a lot to learn about the process. I also feel that the composition on this could have worked out much better, which I guess was my fault entirely.
I’m off to Austria tomorrow for a long weekend so will schedule a few posts for Friday and Monday while I’m absent.
Last week the whole of London was treated to a spectacular laser show from the Shard.
Well…that’s what we were meant to be treated to. Instead we had a very mediocre show, which went on for a very long time. It was quite repetitive and pretty darn boring.
Saying that, perhaps it was just the spot I was on. I think if I wasn’t stood directly opposite the building, and instead opted to go somewhere high, or a place like Primrose Hill, then the view on offer would have been that little bit more spectacular as I would have seen the lasers hitting several of the iconic London buildings.
I didn’t take very many shots that evening, and towards the end I tilted the camera to get a few with the Shard in various colours at this angle. In the end, and after seeing Inauguration by Giles McGarry* I ended up processing this in black and white anyway, so the colours were unnecessary.
I can’t help think but a few fireworks set off in line with the 60th or so floor of the shard would have made for better images, and more of a celebration. Still…they have New Year to get that right I suppose.
*After taking the Inauguration shot, Giles decided to go for a ‘last shot’ from the Thames bed as the tide was out. Wet steps meant a slip was made, a lot of gear was busted up and a few ribs were also victims of a fall with a bit of cracking. Best wishes to Giles for a speedy recovery, and shiny new gear.
When visiting the Statue of Liberty, how could I refuse to take a photo of one of these lovely contraptions. I see fellow photographers taking these all the time, but have never had a decent opportunity to do so previously.
Perfect Effects 3 seems to open up with a default B&W filter preview in place and when I saw it in a colourless version I really liked it, that’s really my only deciding factor in the way I processed this shot.
Did I mention that New York was hot when I was there? Well it was. I spent the Saturday morning walking through Central Park, with a hangover, trying to scurry from one patch of shade to another in order to avoid getting sunburn. Thankfully I wasn’t rushing anywhere during my trip so I could just relax to get to wherever I wished to go.
After my first burrito in the Flatiron district I felt a little sleepy myself to be honest, but I had places to go and things to see so no time for snoozing. Not like the fella. I bet he had a burrito too, and then the satisfied belly plus sun overhead meant he could do nothing but try and catch 40 winks as the tourists and cars passed by.
I took the opportunity to grab a few photos, hoping that the clicking of the camera would not stir him from his slumber. For him to wake up and catch me aiming a camera at him while he slept….awkward!
Have a good weekend all.
Phew, this shot took a while to work on and get something I was happy with!
It was taken at an underpass area in Central Park. On such a bright and sunny day I liked how the people walking towards steps on the far side were slightly silhouetted and thought that would make a nice shot. Once looking at the images I had taken in Lightroom the only thought I had was that I wanted it to be in black and white…and then the fun began.
I tried tonemapping three brackets a few times, starting several weeks ago and with a final attempt last night. Each attempt meant spending a lot of time on deghosting the images, but there was so much movement and so much variant in the light that this was never 100% successful; though the image looked fine in Photomatix it was never quite right when opening it up in Photoshop and looking at it in detail.
In the end I decided to use just one of the brackets with a few virtual copies set at different exposures, thus eliminating the need for deghosting.
I sharpened the image up a little and added a low key filter using Nik Color Efex Pro, then I opened it up in Perfect Effects by OnOne Software and applied the ‘Secret Formula’ black and white filter followed by ‘Kryptonite’ at around 85%.
Back in CS6 I found the process so far had blown out quite a lot of detail, especially in the patterns on the walls in the foreground. Quite a bit of burning here, and dodging there, I managed to get the levels back to something decent. I selected the two main characters in the images, saving the selection for ease of use, and blew out the steps in the background using a lens flare. Loading up the selection again I reintroduced the two characters into the image by masking through to the layer they were on, along with pulling back the two central columns that the flare had blown out. There was also a woman in the image that I didn’t like so I got rid of her, leaving in the three figures on the left and one girl on the right.
Finally I added a second low level filter from Nik Color Efex, brushing this in to really bring out the shadows, and followed this up with brushing in a dark vignette.
The original bracket I had is below, and feels like quite a difference. The essentials are converting to black and white, removing the figure on the left, and the removal of all of the people on the steps, and indeed the steps themselves, by completely blowing that area out.
As I say, I had some sort of silhouette scene in my mind when taking the shot – and feel I managed to achieve that. On such a busy day I had no real chance of getting the scene without people everywhere, and so waited until the couple came into the central view before taking it – the post processing did the rest. I am pretty happy with the result.
This wonderful block in the heart of London is currently offices, but plans are afoot to make it residential.
On a residential note, today is moving day and I have a lot to do before I’m ready, so I can’t stay and chat – have a good day all.
I’m enjoying taking shots around the passageways on the London Underground just now; there are many places which provide excellent symmetry and some interesting features. When it comes to the tube tunnels themselves I always thought if you had seen one of them you had seem them all, however I bet they are just as unique when you start looking around them, especially as many tunnels have been built at different times.
This particular shot was done from a platform looking in to a tunnel on one side; I haven’t got the know-how or the inclination to actually wander around the system itself.
If you have been following my blog at all this year you’ll likely know that this shot was taken on the South Coast on an overcast day, at the same place all of my other black and white shots recently published have been from
I was walking along a country path doing a little handheld work and quite liked this tree, so managed to grab it without the surrounding noise and opted to leave quite a lot of negative space at the top as it was the only thing I could think to do to, oddly, add to the scene.
I’ll sometimes give a shout out here to a blog that I follow which I feel should get a little more traffic than it currently does, and admit this may often just be friends who are starting out with blogs. There isn’t much advice I would give to someone who is starting a photo blog, and I know that there are several of my contacts who are starting to do so or are contemplating it, but here is one thing that I think is important.
Try to be consistent.
You don’t need to post daily, but if you only post 2 images a week try to do so on regular advertised days so your readers know when to expect new content. There’s nothing worse that sitting at a PC thinking ‘oh, I’ll just check out that blog where I saw that great image last week and see what’s new’ to find that there is nothing new there and no expectation on when you’ll see something new.
On that note, Dylan has been posting to his new blog for a month now and deserves a little love. There are several great images in that short space of time and I for one am looking forward to seeing what else is produced throughout the year, and for attempting to come up with different shots during our photowalks. Check out his website at dfacer.co.uk.
On a recent trip down to East Dean I popped over to Hope Gap to take a few shots of the beach and cliffs in that area. On my walk back from there to the Golden Galleon in Seaford where I was due to have a spot of lunch I stopped to take a photo of these cottages.
The other shots I had taken of these cliffs from this area pretty much had no focal interest to the right of them due to the fact it was nothing but sea, so it was nice here to be able to get a glimpse of them and use the cottages as the main area of interest, and to squeeze in the bench for that little something else.
Although there is still quite a bit that is not really doing anything, the sky and the grass, I still feel that there are three very separate areas of interest at different depths with the bench, cottages and then cliffs.
Again the overcast day was doing nothing for the colour in this image so turning it to black and white seemed to do the trick for me.
This weekend I trundled off to the coasts to try the new camera in an nice rural environment. I must admit to being a little bit lazy, as usual, though as I didn’t get up for a sunrise, nor venture out to see a sunset. Instead I just moseyed around during the day, in weather which wasn’t the best when it comes to photography…but in many ways could have been worse.
Due to the lack of colour in the sky I opted to shoot a few images knowing that they would eventually be processed in black and white, which was the case with this one.
The title comes from the small area I was in, if indeed my memory serves me well and that is the name of the location. It was a nice little beach area with easy access down steps from the cliff side, and offered some nice formations when down there. I think a sunrise from here looking towards the Seven Sisters would be lovely.
A couple of weeks ago I went to ‘Winter Wonderland’ in Hyde Park with John, James and Dylan. It was a very cold night as we stood around taking a few photos, and though I didn’t take a lot that I liked it was good to be able to play with the new 24-70 2.8 as this was the first time I had really been out with it. It was also nice to finally meet up with YorkshireStacked and mattomatto who kindly popped down to say hello; hopefully we’ll get to go on the long overdue photowalk soon (even if you do shoot Nikon).
Outside one of the rides was the pirate you see above. I have no idea what the ride was, but I liked the way he stood out and allowed the background lights to fade away. However once I was processing the lights were actually a little distracting from the subject so I opted to process as a black and white instead.
This is a shot of the Royal Exchange in London, taken at night at a lovely long exposure to really get the flare of the lights and movement of traffic in the shot. The colour version did nothing for me so I turned it into monotone, and this did nothing for me for a long time, however looking back at it today I think I’m pretty happy with how it did turn out in the end – it’s always funny how a fresh look at something often leaves you liking it when you didn’t shortly after processing.
I haven’t been able to get out with the camera much lately, nor process any of the images in my archive really – the mojo is lost at the moment so I’m relying on those images which I’ve already spent time on. Hopefully I’ll be back into the swing of it sometime soon.
I guess I should start thinking about buying Christmas presents also…