Colorado in Black and White

Alta Lakes Reflection

On our last trip to Southwestern Colorado (Ouray, Telluride, Ridgway, and Silverton), we shot mostly between 9 AM and 1 PM.  We missed sunrise because it was more of a family vacation and we generally slept in. We missed sunset because of afternoon thunder storms and happy hour.  If you are going to be a middle of the day photographer, you have to think in “black and white.”  Mary shot mostly with her infrared camera and converted her “digital negatives” into black and white by processing them in Lightroom, Photoshop, and Nik’s Silver Effects Pro 2.  Here are some of her best ones.

Mount Sneffels Range

Whether shooting infrared or color converted to black and white you should be aware of the Zone System of Ansel Adams.  It is not as important now as before in film days when trying to figure out proper exposure.  Now a days, you just have to make sure you account for the darkest shadows and the lightest highlights.  You do not want too much black or too much white.  A nice contrasty subject with a lot of gradient between black and white makes for the best photos.  If you have a histogram on your camera’s LCD screen use it.

We had perfect cloudy skies for black and white.  Given the daily thunder storms, we had nice dark skies and angry white clouds.  A processing hint is to use a red filter which makes the sky black.  In these photos, it worked best because of the white clouds.  Other times you may want the sky white or gray.

Aspen trunks on the West Dallas Creek Trail

Don’t forget the details, too.  There were a number of chances to shoot the Aspen trunks and the many ghost towns we saw.

Animas Forks Ghost Town

So, when shooting in the middle of the day and especially in bright contrasty light, think black and white.  Days with direct bright light and nice puffy clouds are much better than flat light gray overcast days.  Even in black and white an overcast day will not look good because there is not enough contrast between the lights and the darks.  These days are best reserved for macro flower shooting when you want all that flat light (and hopefully no wind).  To see more of our black and white photos, go to


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