An Afternoon at Mt. Baker Ski Area: It’s Black & White


Went up on Friday to #OptOutside to the Mt. Baker Ski Area east of Bellingham. Fact is, I needed to feel the crisp cold air in my lungs, view the snow-capped peaks, and hear the crunching of ice and snow underfoot.

Plus, I wanted to get the alpenglow on Mt. Shuksan. It was a beautiful clear day so no clouds in the west could block the light from the setting Sun. A LOT of people were up in the area. I would say most of them weren’t there for the skiing.

Last Rays

Sunset from Picture Lake with a view of Mount Shuksan on Friday afternoon Nov. 27, 2015, at the Mount Baker Ski Area in western Whatcom County, Wash. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

The last rays of the Sun ignite Mount Shuksan on Friday afternoon Nov. 27, 2015, at the Mount Baker Ski Area in western Whatcom County, Wash. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

In fact, many people were just enjoying the view with some sledding on the slopes of Picture Lake. Just a fun post-Thanksgiving romp in the Pacific Northwest Winter Wonderland.

With the clear skies, I could tell the light would be nice on Shuksan. Not only that, but I also began visualizing a stark contrast black and white image of snow-capped Shuksan against the deep blue sky.

One of the advantages in starting my photography career is that I shot a lot of black and white film. I generally kept a yellow filter on my lenses to add a touch of contrast during exposure. Black and white films tend to be more sensitive to blue colors. One of the main reason blue skies were near white in prints.

Blue Bird Sky

Mount Shuksan during Friday afternoon Nov. 27, 2015, at the Mount Baker Ski Area in western Whatcom County, Wash. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

The stark contrast of the snow on Mount Shuksan against the deep blue skies during Friday afternoon Nov. 27, 2015, at the Mount Baker Ski Area in western Whatcom County, Wash. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

For those times with beautiful white clouds against blue skies, I sometimes added a red filter.

Red filters cut back most of the blue in a photograph rendering blue skies almost black. This makes white clouds pop against the darkened sky.

It does the same with snow and sky. Adds great contrast in turn changing the mood of the photo. And it can be dramatic.

White and Black

Sunset from Picture Lake with a view of Mount Shuksan on Friday afternoon Nov. 27, 2015, at the Mount Baker Ski Area in western Whatcom County, Wash. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Sunset from Picture Lake with a view of Mount Shuksan on Friday afternoon Nov. 27, 2015, at the Mount Baker Ski Area in western Whatcom County, Wash. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

It’s rather easy in today’s digital age. Rather than use the B&W setting in camera, I use Photoshop or Lightroom to convert it to monotone.  This way all the sensor data is there without the camera software deleting information in your image. Also, it gives you the option for either a color or monotone print.

***TIP: Shoot in full color rather than the camera’s black and white setting. This gives you all the sensor data. Then convert the image to monotone in Photoshop or Lightroom.

To convert my images to black and white, I use the “Black & White” adjustment layer found in the “Layers” panel. This creates a new layer that you can adjust time and again to refine the image. You can save as either a PSD or as a Tiff. It keeps the full resolution of the file. Also you can open the file a few weeks or months later and change the settings without losing the original image. This is a better way to go.

Although you can use “Image > Adjustments > Black and White,” it deletes image info by changing the actual pixels. Use the “Black & White” adjustment layer.

NEVER use the conversion in the menu “Image > Mode > Grayscale” because this deletes even more information as you lose the RGB channels. The biggest negative though is that you have no control over the final image.

Menu Items

BW Conversion Menu Fly-outs

The menus of the various ways to convert to black & white in Photoshop. I prefer creating an adjustment layer over any other method.

Using the adjustment layer to convert to monochrome is easy. There is a drop down menu to give you quick conversions, and from there you can adjust the toning by using sliders. The best way to learn is to just open a few photos and start playing.

***Think of adjustment layers as this: The bottom layer is the original photo, the adjustments layers are clear glass panes with the adjustment that changes the photo as you look through the layer. You can turn off individual layers to go back to the original. It’s a powerful tool.

While waiting for sunset, I decided to play a little with my remotes triggers and strobes. Made the time go by quicker plus it fun! And in today’s society, not taking a selfie is promoting the countercultural.

Flashing at Shuksan

Playing with my remotes and strobes while waiting for the light Mount Shuksan to become more red during Friday afternoon Nov. 27, 2015, at the Mount Baker Ski Area in western Whatcom County, Wash. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Playing with my Phottix Odin remotes and Nikon SB910 speedlights while waiting for the light Mount Shuksan to become more red during Friday afternoon Nov. 27, 2015, at the Mount Baker Ski Area in western Whatcom County, Wash. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Anytime I can, I play with my Phottix Odin remotes and Nikon SB910 speedlights. I like to keep in practice and try new things. Michael Jordan didn’t stop practicing when he played, neither should I nor you.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section. Don’t forget to sign up for updates so you don’t miss on other postings with tips and tricks to improve your photography.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on these various Social Networks:

  1. Instagram: @PaulConradPhotography
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Paul Conrad is an award-winning photographer living in Bellingham north of Seattle, WA, in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, AirBnB, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.

Although his specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings.

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