Learning To See In Black And White – Part 2


What I am learning is that learning to see in black and white is an ongoing process – at least until it becomes a natural and intuitive part of my photographic thought processes.

There are so many fine examples of black-and-white photography scattered across the Internet and in reference books, so it’s hard not to compare your own work with what you see elsewhere.

But it is important to be happy with your own work – to like the images you see in your personal portfolios, on your blog, or on your Instagram and Facebook feeds.

I feel I am at that stage now, so in this story, I am sharing my latest round of black-and-white photos as I continue my quest to learn to see in black and white and to visualise the alternative reality of black and white photography before I click the shutter.

In my last story I referred to some of the key factors that contribute to good black-and-white images – tonal contrast; textures; composition; shapes; simplicity and shadows.

In this next step of my learning curve in learning to see in black and white, I have taken a series of photos using my camera in “live-view” mode, set to shoot RAW plus monochrome jpeg. In this way, the rear LCD showed the monochrome image to assist in my interpretation of the key factors I mentioned above.

In the black and white examples here, all photos have been converted from the (colour) RAW file using this process:\

  • initial post processing (colour) in DxO Photolab;
  • export as TIFF to Nik Silver Efex Pro for black and white conversion;
  • back to Photolab for image naming and resizing;
  • upload to web.

Learning to see in black and white

Angel on a heasdstone
Guardian angel

Guardian angel” watches over an old grave in the Lawrence Cemetery.

My initial idea when I saw her was to have her silhouetted against the grey sky which I saw as rather fitting for a cemetery situation. However, I ended up processing the RAW file to a TIFF and exporting it to Nik SIlver Efex Pro where I used a modified Cool Tones 2 preset to achieve the final result.


Looking towards the Mt St Bathans range from the DOC campsite at St Bathans
Looking towards the Mt St Bathans range


I guess ‘Looking towards the Mt St Bathans range’ is my first attempt at a black-and-white landscape photo. It certainly won’t knock Ansel Adams off his perch, but I arrived at, and like, the low-contrast, 50 shades-of-grey result as it is a fairly realistic representation of the day itself.


a tree that looks like a tuning fork
Tuning fork tree


Does this qualify as a landscape? Or does it fall into the photographing trees category? The fact that this old tree looks like a furry tuning fork is what caught my attention, and the way it stood out was in stark contrast to the grey sky.


St Bathans, where nearly all of these photographs were taken, is a former gold mining town in Central Otago, New Zealand.

Once boasting a population of 2,000 or more miners and over 40 stores and hotels in its main street, St Bathans is now very much a ghost town – best known for its Vulcan Hotel which apparently really does have its own resident ghost.

The Vulcan is just one of a handful of buildings left in St Bathans (permanent population about 5!), the others being the old Post Office, the gold buying office, a couple of churches, old school ruins, and a smattering of miners’ cottages and other buildings.

The final photographs here are of Waipiata, a half-hour drive from St Bathans.

Like St Bathans, today little remains of old town Waipiata, now a stop on the Otago Central Rail Trail, a 150km cycle trail between Clyde and Middlemarch.

Waipiata is worth a visit to sample the magnificent pies – and hospitality – at the Waipiata Country Hotel.

ramshackle barn at waipiata
Ramshackle barn, Waipiata



So there you have it…my progress on learning to see in black and white.

It is an interesting ride and I still have a lot to learn, but in my next story, there will be a change of topic. In an earlier story about Sky Replacement I alluded to the rising costs (here in my world last least) of photography as a hobby, so next time I’ll talk more about that and also about setting up your own personal/hobby photo blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

share this story:

X / Twitter

Subscribe To Receive The Latest Stories By Email

Here at AperturePriorityNZ I use cookies on my website – but only to track who drops in to visit. I don’t store any personal data.

Read my Cookie Policy here.