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B&W to the Rescue

Red Mangroves, Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic

Not every landscape picture can (or should) be taken at sunset or sunrise, or in dreamy perfect light.  Sometimes you may find yourself in a remarkable place at a less-than-ideal time of day, or with weather conditions that simply aren’t going to give you stunning light.

This was the case with my visit to Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic earlier this month. We set out at 4 am to be on the water by sunrise, with plans to shoot the karst limestone islands (for which this place is famous) at first light.  But the morning haze defeated our plans and it was a LONG time until sunset – so what’s a photographer to do?  Put away the camera and go back to the hotel all day?

Since I was already in this remarkable place, I preferred to spend my day looking for other things of interest: cave paintings, old-growth trees, and the dense mangrove forest –  the largest in the Caribbean.  When I came on this scene, with the wonderful tangle of mangrove stilt roots, I knew I would want to get some pictures. However, by this time, the light was anything but dreamy. What’s more, to get this composition I had to shoot into the sun, leaving me with a colorless, rather unappealing color image.

Would this have looked better with a beam of orange sunset light pouring through the forest? Of course. Was I going to pass up taking a picture because the light was imperfect? Not on your life. I immediately realized that I was not going to get a color shot out of this, and decided to transform it into black and white.

The final image had to wait until I could get to my laptop and transform the picture into Black and White mode, but I worked the exposure (and the histogram – see Jerry Monkman’s tip below) to get the ideal capture and took the shot.

What attracted me to the picture in the first place was the composition, and the wonderful interplay of lines and curves, so what better way to capture that than in black and white?  Thanks to digital technology the transformation from color takes only a few keystrokes, but it can create a picture that saves the day.

Nikon D3 with 17-35mm Nikkor lens

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