Last weekend I drove the 30 minutes from my house up to Tacoma and Titlow Park. I’d never been there and didn’t know what I’d find. It’s a fun challenge for me to go to a new place like this and look for good compositions. The particular spot in the photo above is signed “Hidden Beach”.
This shot of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge looked better in black and white, with tasteful contrast and “structure” adjustments in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 to bring out the textures and tones, rather than the colors. It’s hard to tell this was almost sunset, but the original color version doesn’t show off the massive concrete slabs, choppy water, and distant, towering bridge. The blue sky and water dominated everything, and caused these other elements to blend in. So a black and white conversion was a way to bring them out.
I’ve had my EOS 6D for half a year now, but I am still amazed how much detail can be pulled out of black shadows from its RAW files. I have had to change the way I expose my shots. I used to try to find the best balance between highlights and shadows. If the shadows were black and the highlights blown, I’d have to give up on the shot. Now I adjust my exposure to make sure I don’t have any major highlight blowouts, and worry about the shadows in post processing, because I can usually get quite a bit of detail out of very dark shadows. These shots taken just before sunset are a perfect illustration of this.
I should admit I took some artistic license and enhanced some of these shots beyond what is completely natural. Our eyes see scenes like this much better than a camera does, so another challenge is to bring the image back to the level of detail and tones that our eyes can see, or as close as possible. I used four different adjustment filters in NIK Color Efex Pro 4 to get this result. The original image had heavy, black shadows and muted colors without any editing.
Here’s a perfect example. The sand behind this stump was black as a silhouette, as was the stump itself. But amazingly there was detail there, and I used a combination of Lightroom’s “Shadows” adjustment and NIK Color Efex Pro 4’s “Pro Contrast” to get it back.
All of these shots were taken with the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L lens on the EOS 6D. I’ve had the lens for 10 years, but it’s like having a new lens when I switched to a full-frame body. I can get much wider angles and perspectives. It brings a whole new meaning to “foreground interest”!