Mountain landscapes in black and white

As I mentioned we went to The Mountain last week. (“The Mountain” is Mount Rainier.) Inspired in part by the old black and white photos on the walls of Paradise Inn and in part by the Lens Artists Photo Challenge for this week, I’ve spent some time experimenting with photos from our trip in black and white (a gallery with the color photos is at the end of the post for comparison).

The Mountain is classic, which makes it a great subject for black and white. Every year is both the same and different, depending on the weather and when we can get reservations. This year was on the early side, although the hot weather we had last month sped up snow melt some.

View of The Mountain from Kautz Creek, just inside the Nisqually Entrance.
Myrtle Falls at Paradise.
Tatoosh range from a trail at Paradise.
Clouds and mountains.
Reflection Lakes at Mount Rainier.
Stevens Creek

In this post I have focused on landscapes, on my other blog I posted some black and whites of wildflowers from last week using the same processing methods: Mount Rainier wildflowers in black and white.

How to get the look:

For these photos I used the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, a.k.a., the GIMP to create the black and white images. I used two different tools, both found in the Desaturate submenu of the Colors menu: Desaturate and Color to gray. I put the color to gray image over the desaturated one and experimented with different blend modes. In the cases above I chose the soft light mode. Then I adjusted the opacity of the color to gray layer to get the effect I liked.

The steps were:

  • Load the image.
  • Resize the image and sharpen it (resizing usually softens an image).
  • Fine tune the tone and contrast using either the levels or the tone curve (black and white often looks better if the contrast is greater and the whole range from black to white is used). In the photo of the falls I used layer masks to use different settings for the falls, which were in shadows.
  • Make two duplicates of the adjusted image.
  • For the top layer I used the Color to gray filter (Colors>Desaturate>Color to gray). Adjusting the parameters to suit the image.
  • On the lower layer I used the Desaturate tool (Colors>Desaturate>Desaturate). I tried all of the methods available and chose the one best suited to the photo.
  • For the Color to gray layer I changed the layer mode and adjusted it’s opacity.
  • I added a vignette to some of the photos.

If you are interested in trying out the GIMP (a free, open-source program) for black and white here is a post that explores some of the tools available: Black and white digital photo processing using the GIMP.

Color images used for this post:

6 thoughts on “Mountain landscapes in black and white”

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