Assignment 3 – Monochrome

I feel much better organised for this assignment than previously and I think that is down to planning my time better and setting myself a deadline for finishing the different projects in the unit.  I have done more research this time too and this was easier because I had something specific to focus on, black and white and then having decided on the theme for the assignment, trees.  I carried a small compact camera, one of the settings on which was black and white, round with me for  few weeks to help me decide what was a suitable topic because although I had almost decided on trees, I wasn’t sure if this would provide the range of tones and contrast that I needed.  Having made the decision to focus on trees, I brainstormed the types of image I could get; single trees, interesting groups,  with or without leaves, dead tree stumps covered with fungus, ivy catching the sunlight, sunlight streaming through the trees, interesting textured bark, etc., etc. I reckoned that if I could find all of the images I wanted I should be able to achieve  between 8 and 10 good results.  I had been advised by my tutor that I would need to revisit the location of my photographs several times so decided to stay fairly local; Forest of Dean, May Hill, the copse at the bottom of our lane, and that worked really well because having got what I though was a good image, I would find when I processed it that the light was too flat or too harsh, so I was able to go and take another in different lighting.

The title of the assignment is ‘Monochrome’, which according to the dictionary come from ‘monos’,  single and ‘chorma’, colour, so ‘monochrome’ is in one colour or shades or tones of one colour.

Dawn effect created using 'Quad  Tone Redscale'

Dawn effect created using ‘Quad
Tone Redscale’

I understand that, so why does Topaz Black and White Effects software include presents with include two colours?? In Lightroom, which I have used to produce all but two of my images, having converted to black and white or used the black and white sliders to de-saturate your image, you can then select different hues for the highlights and shadows to create a split tone effect.

Split toned image produced in Lightroom 4

Split toned image produced in Lightroom 4

Although the outcome is not so obviously two colours as in the Topaz software, I’m not sure it will be acceptable for this assignment so I have used it with care and at the time of writing I am still not sure if I will use that image.


Lighting too harsh

Following the criteria set out in the text for good black and white photographs; contrast, shape (2 dimensional), form (3 dimensional), texture, volume, which I now understand to mean space, fullness, quantity, depth, I worked through my list of possible images and in fact found most of what I was looking for.   When I processed them in black and white though, they didn’t all work  as well as I had hoped.  In some cases I felt that the light was too harsh or in others too flat or just plain boring.

Hollow tree trunk - flat lighting

Hollow tree trunk – flat lighting


Hollow tree trunk – distracting shadows

In one particular case, I had taken a photograph of a tree with a hollow trunk and nicely textured bark but when I processed it I felt that the whole thing was very flat so went and took another shot in the evening when the light was lower thinking that this would be better.  What I found though was that the shadows cast by the branches of other trees was very distracting so abandoned that one too.  Having experimented with a trial versions of Topaz Black and White Effects and Silver Efex Pro in the exercises leading up to the assignment, I was able to work out how some of the effects had been achieved.  If at all possible, I wanted to produce my images using Lightroom 4 as I had seen Andy Beel produce some stunning black and white pictures in this way.  It was also a good opportunity to learn to use my preferred processing software to a fuller extent and so far I have managed to produce all but two using the Lightroom software.  The other thing that I really like about Lightroom is that I can undertake the treatment in a ‘virtual copy’ so that the original remains unaffected in case I change my mind or want to try something different.

Having got about twelve possible pictures and six, I was reasonably happy with, I re-read the guidance and realised  that all of my pictures were of a fairly standard style and that I had not been creative enough.  Whilst black and white is new to me, I enjoyed experimenting and didn’t find it too daunting.  Creativity in my pictures is more of a challenge though because I like a more traditional style where images actually look like the original subject.   The most difficult thing was deciding what it was I was trying to achieve with the different tones and creative styles and if I’m honest, apart from three images, this was all very much trial and error to see what I thought worked.

Antique effect although Silver Efex Pro calls this Sepia

Antique effect although Silver Efex Pro calls this Sepia

I had learned from the Adobe TV tutorial that in order to create a sepia toned effect, I should add the tone to the shadows and for an antique look I the highlights need to be toned because the antique effect comes from the paper being yell0wed with age.

Sepia toned using split tones in Lightroom 4

Sepia toned using split tones in Lightroom 4

I had also seem some pictures in a magazine which were quite abstract and had a pen and ink drawing effect and I felt that one of my images, taking inside the hollow truck of an old yew tree might suit that effect.

Abstract pen and ink drawing effect created in Silver Efex Pro

Abstract pen and ink drawing effect created in Silver Efex Pro

This image was produced in Silver Efex Pro with a few further tweaks to adjust the highlights but I felt that this was better than the one I produced in Lightroom.   In two cases, my experiments produced images that I felt worked as long as I didn’t try to confuse them with reality.

Sunlight through the trees at dawn??

Sunlight through the trees at dawn??

I took some shots in amongst some pine trees at the top of May Hill, one looking through the trees towards the sun and the other lying on my back with a 10- 20 wide angle lens on my camera set at 10mm.

Looking up into the dusk

Looking up into the dusk

In both cases I got the effect I was looking for and thought that I would tone one to represent early morning light and the other late evening light.  The colours are fine, but with the sun in the frame, as I wanted it to be, the pictures could not possibly be taken as dawn or dusk!  For the purpose of the assignment they are probably also too similar so either one will have to go or be revisited with a different effect.    One of the things that I did find when adding tone to an image was that the tone often either enhanced the texture or lifted the highlights and I have surprised myself by finding this part of the assignment really enjoyable.




About Anne Bryson

I live in Gloucestershire with my husband Iain and West Highland Terrier, Isla. I enjoy golf, photography and my grandchildren, not necessarily in that order! Having completed a 10 week digital photography course with the Open University in 2010 and wanting to take photography further, I enrolled on the Open College of the Arts BA (Hons) starting with 'The Art of Photography' which I thoroughly enjoyed. Next came Digital Photographic Practice followed by People and Place. In April 2016 I progressed to level two with Documentary and in June 2018 enrolled on my latest OCA course, Landscape.
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