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Assignments: August 2013

Top Selections From The Black & White Special Issue Assignment From
This Article Features Photo Zoom

1) Photographer: Edward Mendes
Location: Zion National Park, Utah
Equipment: Mamiya M645, Fujichrome Velvia film
McWay Falls has become one of my favorite places along the Big Sur coast to photograph since I originally visited it eight or nine years ago. I continue coming back in the hopes of finding that perfect moment when all the conditions fall into place and the image I’ve visualized in my mind finally appears. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet. On this particular evening in 2010, the light came and went, but I continued shooting the scene until it was almost completely dark, as I liked the beautiful blue hues the soft-light twilight was providing. I actually worked on the image off and on for almost two years, processing and reprocessing the file, as I knew there was a great photograph there if I could just find it. The problem was, I was trying to force it to work as a color image. Eventually, I came to the realization that the image was meant to be a black-and-white. I reprocessed the file yet again, but this time the image I knew I had finally showed itself.

In May, I ran an Assignment on the OP website asking readers to send in their favorite black-and-white photos for this special issue of the magazine. The response was overwhelming—more than 700 photographs came in. From that group, I selected the images you see on these pages. With such a large group of top-level black-and-white photos, I expanded the Best Of Assignments, which usually runs three pages, to five pages. Go to to see the current Assignment, and submit your photos for a chance to get published in OP.
—Christopher Robinson, Editor

2) Photographer: Michael Ryan
Location: Helen Putnam Regional Park, Petaluma, California
Equipment: Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm ƒ/4, Hoya UV filter
I live close to the Helen Putnam Regional Park, which boasts great hiking with amazing oak trees at every turn. One afternoon, while hiking the trail, I spotted this oak tree and immediately stopped. Most likely, I had passed by this same tree numerous times before, but it wasn’t until that moment that I recognized the photographic gold right in my backyard. I snapped a picture with my phone to remember the location so I could come back with optimal conditions. I previsualized the image as black-and-white on a foggy, overcast morning. About two months later, at the end of March 2013, those conditions presented themselves and I knew exactly where to go. I only shot a few frames, but the image came out even better than I could have imagined.

3) Photographer: Nunzio Guerrera
Location: Godafoss, Iceland
Equipment: Nikon D90, AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED, tripod, ND filter
The photo was taken during my vacation on a bus tour of Iceland in June 2012. We made many 20-minute stops during the tour at all the iconic Iceland waterfalls. Each stop gave us just enough time to take a photo. At the Godafoss waterfall, we were given more time than usual, about one hour, but with hundreds of tourists all over the place, it was still a difficult task to get a shot. I finally got a chance to step to the edge of the falls. I took a five-second exposure, and this was the result. I experimented with the black-and-white conversion, and liked the dark and gloomy mood it gave in comparison to the color version.

4) Photographer: Bob Larson
Location: Watson Lake, Arizona
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4 L USM, Manfrotto tripod and ballhead
After a mild winter and spring, it was July 2012 and the water levels at Watson Lake had receded so far that many of the rock ledges that had previously been submerged were now visible above the surface. While I prefer more water, I was thrilled to crawl out on the ledges to get a photo I hadn’t taken before. The original color version of this shot was one of my personal favorites because it captured the unique contrasts of the orange and reds of the rock with the blues of the water. The sunlight at that time of day made the colors pop. The thought of doing a black-and-white conversion didn’t occur to me until winter set in and I was stuck inside. Once I converted the photo to black-and-white, I saw that the sunlight and contrasting tones translated well. I used Nik Silver Efex and Color Efex Pro for the final result.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

5) Photographer: Roger Hostin
Location: Vermilion Lakes, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4 L, polarizing filter, Singh-Ray 2-stop soft graduated neutral-density filter, Bogen 3221 tripod, Arca-Swiss B1 ballhead
I’m fortunate to live in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Every autumn, I like to return to my favorite vantage point along the edge of the Vermilion Lakes with Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain in the distance. Fortunately, this October evening in 2010 there was little wind, so I could get a lovely reflection. The wispy clouds cooperated and the moon made an appearance. I set up my camera on the tripod and watched as the sunlight from the setting sun slowly receded and crept up the distant peaks. I selected the small aperture of ƒ/11 so I would have a sufficient depth of field to keep the foreground grasses and the distant peaks in sharp focus. Then, I waited to release the shutter until just the right moment when the moon was positioned between the two banks of clouds. Although the image was nice in color, I think the black-and-white conversion really brought emphasis to the various elements of the composition.

6) Photographer: Judy Cummings
Location: Valley of the Gods, Utah
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Sigma 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC HSM, Tiffen Wide Angle Circular Polarizer, SLIK Pro 713 CF II tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead
A group of seven fellow photographers, including myself, had rendezvoused the evening of October 30, 2011, to begin our three-week exploration of southern Utah. Our group leader, Don McGowan (, had chosen Valley of the Gods as our first stop. Arriving before sunrise, I could barely make out the rock formations surrounding me. Shortly after sunrise, an incredible cloud formation developed to the west. The clouds were moving slowly, which allowed me ample time to try multiple captures. Once I set my tripod fairly low to the ground and tilted my camera up to place more emphasis on the sky, I was happy with the results. I returned home with more than 1,000 images, but this one, made on the first day of our trip, is one of my favorites. I captured the image in RAW, did minimal processing in Camera Raw of Photoshop and converted it to black-and-white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

7) Photographer: E. Howe-Byrne
Location: Yosemite National Park, California
Equipment: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron AF 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3, circular polarizer, tripod, intervalometer
After spending almost seven years working in Yosemite National Park, I decided to take a winter off, but Horsetail Fall called to me, so I headed back to California at the end of February. From previous years’ experience, I knew that it would be a madhouse, this year particularly because of the coverage by NPR and other various news outlets, but I have a couple favorite places to get away from the crowds. I set up my tripod, composed the image and set my intervalometer for 20-second intervals. It was just a matter of sitting in a folding chair and letting the gear do the work from that point on. Horsetail Fall has some of the most beautiful mist blooms I’ve ever seen in Yosemite Valley. By converting the image to black-and-white, it’s my desire to bring attention to the fact that Horsetail is mesmerizing well outside its red-and-orange glow.

8) Photographer: Jeanne Frasse
Location: Windsor Lake, Colorado
Equipment: Canon EOS 30D, Canon EF 10-22mm, SLIK tripod, Giottos ballhead
In July 2010, a summertime family hike took me to this beautiful little mountain lake in the Mount Massive Wilderness. It was the first time I had taken that hike, although now it’s on my list to repeat. Living in Colorado, we have numerous areas to explore and I’m one to try new places for adventure. This particular spot on the lake gave me some cool water and the gnarly log as relief from the steep two-mile ascent through the forest, as well as the perfect scene for this striking photo. Generally, I don’t do a lot of black-and-white rendering, but in this case, I felt the texture of the log with its interesting patterns and the white clouds against the deep blue sky would be enhanced by the conversion. I used Nik Silver Efex Pro to create the black-and-white, which in this case I prefer over the color version.