A landscape in b&w

This is an image from this past autumn that I’m actually not super crazy about - for one, I think that the jumble of driftwood in the foreground is too messy and not terribly interesting. The reason I chose to edit this image and to post it here is this: I’ve been looking at and studying a lot black and white landscape images from various photographers recently and I found them to be very inspiring. Very little of my own work is in black and white and I’d like to do it more and to get better at it.

Specific Feedback Requested

  1. What do you think of the composition? I think it’s just average, but I’d be curious to hear if you think otherwise?

  2. How do you feel about the black and white treatment? Does it look ok? Does anything feel off? I’m particularly unsure about the sky.

Technical Details


I actually thought this was two images until I read your comments. And I was all ready to compare the two because I was certain that that’s what you would ask for. Now that I’ve read your comment I want to state the obvious - that the composition is such that it looks like 2 images. That’s likely due to the straight line that bisects the image and looks different above from below.

But I wish to comment as though it is two images. I like the lower image much more than the upper. The upper image is cliche and predictable. The lower one however is about confusion and untidiness. I find that I can relate to it much more on a personal level. Yes, it’s uglier than the beautiful peaks but that doesn’t mean much any more.


Yo Tom!
This is nice. I like the simple comp a lot. No issues there for me. The dodging treatment on the forground logs is a tad much — what you’ve done works well and makes sense, but it just struck me as too obvious as being edited in that fashion… so wondering if you toned that down just a smidge if it would work better or not.

@Igor_Doncov thanks for the insightful and honest feedback! I think you perfectly put into words what didn’t feel right to me about the image and couldn’t see/articulate and that is that the bottom half of the image is in no way related to the upper half. They are, as you say, two separate images and there is nothing in either that connects it to the other.

@Matt_Payne , it’s funny you mentioned the brightness of the foreground logs. My first edit actually had these even brighter but then after letting the image sit for a while I came back to it and darkened them. It seems I didn’t go far enough because looking at it now I agree that they are still too bright.

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Sometimes it helps to just let the image marinate before releasing it but NPN is a great way to short-cut that process which can take A LONG TIME lol

Hi Tom,

I like the overall look of the B&W treatment, I think the tones are balanced enough to bring out definition and details.
I’m not very experienced in B&W as far as editing goes but I know what I like and I like this.
I especially like the way the line of dark trees mimic the shape of the mountain on the left.

Like I said, I’m no expert on B&W, the sky looks good to me but I’m comparing it to a lot of other B&W images I’ve looked at.
When an image of various shades and depths of blue in the sky (in a color image) are transformed to B&W, the darker blue areas just turn dark and it makes it seem like the inverse of what we usually see or want to see. In other words, it seems like the top of the sky should be lighter while the bottom of the sky where it meets the mountain should be darker (inverse or flipped vertically?).

Somehow it doesn’t seem right but it is the “Norm” I suppose.

Well, that’s my interpretation of it and it may not be the kind of feedback you were hoping for.
I need to study the art of B&W editing, it’s not next on my list but it is on my list :slight_smile:

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I had the exact same reaction as Igor. In fact, I was in the main gallery page right when your image got posted and I literally thought two images had just been posted. The way the thumbnails get organinzed on the main page, it was easy to mistake this for two images.

So I guess the logical conclusion is that this does come across as two separate images. It doesn’t help that the meadow is lower in contrast because it’s in shade, and the background has a might higher contrast cause it’s in the sun. Somehow, the dark treeline doesn’t sync up with the light/contrast of the far meadow.

I do really like the foreground “pile” of assorted twigs, logs, weeds, whatever. I was actually thinking this might be a collection from a beaver, building material for the nearby lodge.

I think the b&w processing looks good, no suggestions there.


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Hi again, Tom

After studying this image more and after studying the sky in many other B&W images, I have come to a preliminarily conclusion.

The sky in a color image is what we all see in our day to day lives and seeing an image in color, we immediately know what the rest of the sky might or should look like but in B&W, it’s different.
When I view the sky in a B&W image, it’s just a dark shade of gray and that’s not natural, it makes me feel that at some point the sky will turn to black if more of the sky were in the image.

I done some testing on this image to see if I could make that feeling dissipate or go away.
I selected the sky in a mask, then intersected it with a linear gradient so I could take the exposure up on the upper portion where it’s dark and to me, it seemed to help my mind make sense of it, it feels more natural to me.
I hope this makes sense.

It’s true that viewing this image in a large thumbnail size, it appears to be two images but that goes away as soon as I view it full screen.
First of all, this isn’t my image or my vision, it’s your image and your vision.
I see this as one image and the inclusion of the brush pile adds interest because to me there’s a story there.
The story in my mind is one of a farmer or rancher making this field what it is today.
Many farms and ranches have fields like this to grow hay to feed their horses and/or cattle and they often need to gather all the brush and put it onto a pile so they can burn it when conditions are appropriate.
So, the inclusion of the brush plie and shown so prominently is the main focal point, the mountain is just a great backdrop for this farm or ranch.

In other words, Tom, I like it as presented, very much, it may not be exactly what you were trying to convey but the above is what I see (with the exception of the sky but that is just my personal take on that one element).

I’d love to know what your thoughts are.

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Hi @Lon_Overacker , thanks for taking the time to comment, it’s most appreciated! I totally see what you and Igor are saying. The image does look like 2 images with one on top of the other. I didn’t see it at first – it’s actually kind of amazing and interesting what (obvious) things our brains choose to ignore. I think the main reason why it looks like 2 images is because of the horizontal light line running through the frame right below the dark trees.
Originally, I wasn’t too thrilled with the foreground jumble of branches and twigs. I thought it was messy and chaotic and to me it was a foreground that didn’t jive with the rest of the image and didn’t lead my eye in. I think that the fact that it doesn’t visually connect with the rest of the frame is another reason why this feels like two separate images.

@Merv , thank you so much for taking the time you took with this and for your in-depth feedback. I took your version with the edited sky and placed it as a layer over my original in Photoshop and switched back and forth between the two to really study the difference. I agree with you that somehow your version without the dark sky at the top just looks and feels ‘right’ and natural. I’m kind of torn now to be honest. I’ve looked at a number of Black and White images in the past few days and many have the sky darker near the top. When I converted my image, it also automatically went that way and yet when I see your version, it feels natural. I’m going to have to sit on this for a while…
Also, thanks for sharing the story you see in the image. I like it and I find it interesting and I can definitely see where you’re coming from. If you want to know the truth it’s this: what isn’t visible in the image is that there is a river just off to the right and this grassy area is actually a flood plain. The pilled up wood you see was brought here by the river, probably the last time it flooded (I’m assuming in the spring when all of the snow was melting).

Dang Tom,

You just blew my whole fantasy story about it being a farmer or rancher :open_mouth:
Now I have to digest reality.

Just Kidding, Tom.

I still find it to be about the field with a great backdrop.

The main thing for me is what we have learned from the study of this image and B&W in general.
I feel I’ve learned something valuable which is: “Never ask for the truth” :-D, just kidding again, we have to have fun as we learn, don’t we?
Seriously though, I’ve learned a lot about B&W editing and what additional steps may be required to make them come across as natural, that is a direct result of your image and I appreciate that.

I also appreciate hearing your thoughts!!

I still like this “as is” BTW :slight_smile:

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I’m glad that we’re both learning from this B&W experiment. I know I will definitely try processing more of my images in B&W but ultimately I want to shoot with the intention of creating B&W images from the get-go. At least some of the time… :slight_smile:

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I am feeling inspired to do some of my own intentional B&W images, if nothing else, just to learn more about it.

Thanks, Tom :slight_smile:

Hi Tom,
I also initially thought this was two separate images, and you’re correct that the bright horizontal line really emphasizes that. I used the healing brush on that line and faded it somewhat. Besides a lot of burning and dodging I took the liberty of cropping a bit of the sky and adding a touch more canvas at the bottom. I feel this helped to get somewhat closer to the rule of thirds. What do you think?

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Hi @Steve_Zimic , I’m really sorry for the late reply but I appreciate your feedback and your edit! I like the extra space you added to the bottom of the image because it gives the image a bit more breathing room. I also like what you did with the dodging and burning. It definitely makes the image look more polished.