New Adventures in Grayscale

Sedona view

Sedona view

Click image to enlarge

 

I have mentioned before that so much of my aesthetic in landscape photography comes from images of the Apollo manned spacecraft era, particularly those shot on the lunar surface.

 

The Apollo panoramas, pieced together in mosaic form from individual prints, gave me my first taste of broad terrains and the magic of large geological forms.

 

Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak

But the color scheme, or lack thereof, was as interesting to me as the terrain. The multiple shades of gray of the lunar surface. The stark black of the sky. These were things one doesn’t commonly see in our world.

 

While taking a course in digital photography we played around with using Photoshop to create and alter gray scale images.

 

I discovered at the time that while working in camera raw, one could easily manipulate both the saturation and luminosity of individual color areas within the image. This allows one to alter the contrast within an image, or remove a color altogether.

 

Tubac cemetary

Tubac cemetary

In photos with large parches of blue sky, turning the saturation of blue to zero turned the sky jet black when in gray scale mode. It also creates a kind of moonlit illusion when clouds are present.

 

But that predominantly black sky reminded me of the Apollo lunar surface images, even where both the geology and the life forms within the frame are decidedly terrestrial. And this in turn gives otherwise ordinary gray scale images an extraterrestrial quality.

 

Tucson pre-dawn

Tucson pre-dawn

Over the past few weeks I have found myself returning to old images and new with a fresh eye toward what might make either a better image in gray scale rather than color, or what might at least lend a completely different mood to a given image.

 

When I go out to shoot I’m also salting away some frames specifically to experiment with in gray scale mode. Just as creating panoramas made me look at the world around me with fresh eyes, so this technique is leading to a different examination of that same world.

 

Tree-night_DSC5244-GS-sw-dbaI am fiddling with sliders and curves a great deal more now than I did during our brief introduction to gray scale in the class. And I’m liking the results more as well.

 

My world is decidedly colorful, and that’s one of the advantages of living in the southwestern U.S. But filtering that color out by wavelength, and using those filtered composites to generate new gray scale images is taking me both back in time to a black and white era, and out of place to a more moonlike southwest.

 

As always, one never knows where this experimentation might lead, or if it becomes a dead end.

 

Saguaro National Park West

Saguaro National Park West

But the journey is always what it’s about.

~ by Daniel Buckley on May 12, 2015.

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