Exploring Yosemite In Black And White
Yosemite Valley

Exploring Yosemite In Black And White

Yosemite Valley Mid-Day Spring

Ansel Adams was on to something when he shot so many of his Yosemite images in black and white. It seems the landscape in the High Sierras was created for black and white photography.

Being a photography student in the mid-seventies, black and white film was my go-to for making street, portrait, and landscape images. Black and white were the tones we first studied as students. It was less expensive than color and less complicated to process and print. Easier to learn about light, shadow, and composition in black and white.

Since going digital about fifteen years ago, color photography has been my jam. Especially when shooting stock travel or lifestyle imagery. But I have to say, that my color images of Yosemite have been entirely frustrating for me. My travels there have usually gotten me there at mid-day, the light is all wrong, too contrasty, washing out the highlights and making the shadows too dark. When shooting in Yosemite, most of my composition work is done in camera, and most of my technical and balancing work is done in photoshop.

Recently I started experimenting in post with some of my more frustrating images that were taken in color. Processing the color images in black and white, I found a whole new portfolio of work. A lot of those mid-day and super contrasty images have been perfect for re-working into black and white.

Yosemite Valley El Capitan Late Afternoon Fall

I’m still experimenting with light and dark – even in the overall image, not just in highlights and shadows. Working in post, in Photoshop, is much different than working and printing an image in the darkroom. Working in Photoshop, the resources are unlimited – so the number of copies, the differently edited versions are infinite. Working digitally, especially in black and white, allows the photographer to make subjective decisions that would not have been available with paper and chemicals. Well, that’s subjective too because it all came down to a photographer’s resources – could they afford to continually experiment on one photograph? I couldn’t. Deciding which images works all comes down to that first reaction when the image appears and the first thought is, holy shit, that image is so much better in black and white!

You can see more of the Yosemite black and white images in the galleries: California > Yosemite > Yosemite BW 6D

Kimberly Kradel

Artist, Writer, Photographer. Publisher of ARTIST-AT-LARGE.

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