Dec 162014
 
Taking Center Stage

Day 5: “Taking Center Stage.” Row of trees in the pastoral Kohala Mountains region on the Big Island of Hawai’i. (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

Having sat behind a computer for 10 years prior to pursuing photography full-time, I dislike sitting in front of a computer now and post-processing my images for hours at a time.  I would much prefer to spend that time playing outside and perfecting the image in the field rather than “photoshopping” it later.  My post-processing time is generally limited to cleaning up the dust spots, making a few Curves adjustments, sharpening, and more recently, tapping into Tony Kuyper’s awesome luminosity masks.

Not so for my Day 5 Black and White Challenge entry!  I ain’t gonna lie, I worked the heck out of this image in Photoshop!  And boy, did it need it!

I made the original color version a number of years ago while driving the backroads through the Kohala Mountains on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  At the higher elevations, beams of mid-day light poked out from behind the fast-moving clouds, spotlighting various elements of the pastoral landscape.  We had pulled over to explore this scene, one that had grabbed my attention immediately as we approached it at 45 mph.  I liked the way the small tree stood at the foot of a stand of larger trees.  Using my telephoto lens, I tried a number of different compositions to convey this relationship.  In reviewing my frames, though, they all felt too tight to express what I was truly seeing.

I switched to my 24-105mm lens to back off and include more of the moody sky.  I enjoyed how this broader perspective offered a fresh view of scale between the small tree, the stand of trees, and the ever-changing sky.  After a few frames, a soft light illuminated the area surrounding the small tree.  As the light danced, I kept shooting various compositions.  Pleased with my results, we jumped in the car and continued our leisurely drive in the beautiful countryside.  (Post continues after the photo.)

While browsing my images back in Arizona, the image did not stand out among the thousands of frames I created during our week-long trip.  Simply put, I didn’t find it remarkable.  So, the image has been collecting dust on my hard drive ever since. Well, that is, until the Black and White Challenge crossed my desk recently.

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The original color version of “Taking Center Stage”

As I prepared other images for this challenge, I reconnected with the notion of using traditional black and white processing (specifically, burning and dodging). With this in mind, I pulled this image out, dusted it off, and just started playing with Curves adjustments and masks.  A little darker in the sky to frame the primary subject and to make the clouds stand out.  A little lighter in the foreground to grab attention.  A little darker around the beam of light so as to define it better than in the color frame.  A little darker around the edges of the frame to hold the viewer’s eye inside the picture longer.  A little darker in the trees.  A little lighter on the small tree in front.  With each adjustment, what I liked about the original scene started to emerge in the photograph on the screen!

Just for fun, I tried making similar adjustments to the color image, but without much success.  No matter the change, the color only served to distract.  The tones of the small tree blended with the tones in the foreground.  The blue sky felt too calm and cold for how I interpreted the scene (which was like the small tree was trying to take the center stage).  In short, my vision simply needed to be expressed in black and white.

What do you think? Do you prefer the color or monochromatic version?  Why?  I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts in the Comments section below.

What I loved most about this exercise is that it pushed me in a different direction than I’ve been heading for almost 11 years.  The challenge reconnected me with my photography roots, which allowed me to see my photography in a new light (pun intended).  I am grateful to Floris van Breugel for nominating me and giving me this creative jolt.

So, I’m challenging everyone reading this to the Black and White Challenge.  If you have not tried it yet, consider yourself nominated!  If you have already done it, why not try it again with five new images?

You do not have to be on Facebook to participate (and don’t use that as an excuse to not participate)!  Experiment, play!  Pick out several images you think a black and white treatment would improve the image.  If needed, learn how to do selective adjustments in post-processing (e.g. Levels and Curves with masks) so that you get the feel of how selectively burning and dodging enlargements from film helped deliver a final vision in the traditional darkroom.  Evaluate your results.  What do you like about what you see?  What don’t you like?  Change what you don’t like, keep what you do.

Not every photograph will be a successful one in black and white, but just by trying, you’ll be learning new things about your photography, about your craft, and most importantly, about yourself as a photographer.

Keep shooting!

~Colleen

Jan 022013
 

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy 2013 Everyone!  A new year means a blank canvas on which to create new friendships, opportunities, and achievements!  I hope you each have big dreams in mind, and perhaps even more importantly, I hope you follow them relentlessly and passionately so they all come true for you in the new year.  After all, “you can sleep when you’re dead,” right?

Whew, what a year 2012 was for CMS Photography!  Last year will go down as our busiest, most successful, and by far the most exciting year to date, with many countless “thank you’s” owed to you, as I could not do what I do without your continued support!  I feel truly fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspiring, creative, and enthusiastic people.

Some major highlights for us from last year include (in no particular order):

And just when you think you can’t have any more wild fun, 2013 shows up!

Going into our sixth year as a full-time freelance photographer and writer, I couldn’t be any more pumped for the year to come, not just because of all the travel planned and the new projects we’ll announce throughout the year, but all the great times and awesome learning opportunities we’ll share together, whether that be during our upcoming Workshops and Presentations or simply out in the field sharing some light and good laughs.

But, before we start running down the 2013 street like a bat outta hell, though, I’d like to share my favorite 13 (a lucky number for the new year!) photos in celebration of a joyful 2012.  For more inspiration, be sure to also head over to Jim Goldstein’s Blog, hes posted his traditional and ever-growing list of other photographers’ own favorites and best from 2012 for his “Blog Project: Your Best Photos from 2012.

Here goes:

1.  Winter’s Serenade, Death Valley National Park, California (January 2012)

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Cottonball Marsh area along Salt Creek in Death Valley National Park, California, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)


2.  Walk the Line, Death Valley National Park, California (February 2012)

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Cracked mud and stones in the Panamint Dry Lake in Death Valley National Park, California, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

3. Sunrise at Boulder Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine (June 2012)

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er Beach and the Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

4.  Bunchberry Dogwood, Acadia National Park, Maine (June 2012)

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Bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis) at Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

5.  The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona (June 2012)

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The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei rock formations in Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

6.  The Colorado River Flexing its Muscle, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (June 2012)

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The sandstone cliffs of Marble Canyon reflect into waves in the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

7.  The RCMP Musical Ride, 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (July 2012)

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Abstract view of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Musical Ride during Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

8.  Reach for the Sky, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (August 2012)

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Abstract sky pool pattern in Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

9.  Autumn on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (September 2012)

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Gambel oak line the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

10.  Autumn Regeneration, Kaibab National Forest, Arizona (September 2012)

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Abstract view of a regenerating burned forest during autumn in the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

11.  Mother Nature’s Ice Cream, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona (October 2012)

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Striated bentonite clay beds in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order)

12.  Spell of the Sea, The Big Island, Hawai’i (November 2012)

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Waves and volcanic rock along the Puna Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

13.  Winter Solstice Eve, Canyonlands National Park, Utah (December 2012)

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Viewed from the Green River Overlook, the sun sets over Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

Thank you for stopping by the “You Can Sleep When You’re Dead” blog!  Let’s all make 2013 a year to remember!

~Colleen

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