El Capitan Cloud Cap, Yosemite National Park, California

El Capitan Cloud Cap, Yosemite National Park, California

Of the several times I've had the fortune to stop at the Wowona Tunnel view of Yosemite Valley, this particular spring afternoon was one of the most pleasant I've encountered. I've posted a wider color photo from the same occasion here. This valley view can be very dramatic as weather changes, but there was something very pleasing about seeing it on a sunny blue-sky afternoon as well.

I seem to be developing more and more interest in digital black and white work as I see it being one of the areas where digital affords some new opportunities never available for working with film. For this conversion I tried a conversion approach that I've never used before, but had in the back of my mind for some time. For a one-line summary of how filters work for B&W photography... if you were to place a red filter of the lens deep blue areas like the sky will appear near black because they contain no red light, whereas the near-white face of granite like El Capitan will appear white because there's lots of red light reflecting back. With digital conversion you can actually apply different kinds of filtration to the color image rather than one filter throughout.

So for this image I applied two different conversion in one image. Most of the top half of the image in this case was almost a straight color desaturation to black and white - essentially with no color filtration applied. The sky was already very dark and I did not want it to appear any darker than the trees atop El Capitan. I was looking for the best balance of contrast between the clouds and the horizon throughout the sky. In the lower half of the image, particularly back towards Half Dome, the distances (miles) end up introducing lots of scattered blue light, which translates into detail-robbing haze. A red or orange filter is an effective way of filtering out that blue light and preserving detail and that is what I applied to the lower half of the image.

Having babbled about all of that, I'll just throw another idea out there for anyone continuing to read. While I'm pretty intrigued by all the possibilities in doing black and white conversion digitally, it then comes back to the issue of how to produce prints from them, as it's pretty difficult to improve upon traditional silver gelatin prints produced in a darkroom. I'm typically a bit disappointed with the look of B&W on color paper, though some images look quite nice on Kodak's metallic-finish paper. MPIX uses Ilford silver-gelatin paper designed for digital printers which generally speaking I have liked, but I don't have a lot of experience with just yet. Most intriguing to me is an inkjet technique employed by the Ansel Adams gallery to produce Archival Reproductions (you can learn more about them here, which utilize a specialized ink set of multiple grays levels and even a faint bit of pigment to recreate the look of selenium toning. I had to fortune to get a very close look at one of these and I thought it was beautifully done. The problem is that it's not an option available to the public, at least as far as I know. If anyone has any opinions or tips on digital black and white prints I'd love to hear it.

And finally, as always I must say... Go to Yosemite! If you're close, just go. If you're not, plan a trip. It's spectacular.

Nikon D40 | Nikon 18-200VR@32mm | f/9 | 1/160s | ISO200 | Handheld

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