Black & White

An older photo of Bonsai Rock, in Lake Tahoe, taken in February during a stormy winter sunset, revisited in black and white.

Recently, I’ve been taking some much needed downtime, with less weekends on the road for photographic outings. This is a good thing! We all need time to decompress and recharge our batteries. For me, this has also been a good time to revisit processing some photos in the “later, when I have time” pile to look at images with a fresh set of eyes. And also, intuitively this has led me to some experimentation with black and white.

I’ve heard it said that photographers think and see in either color or black and white. For me, most definitely the former is true. Especially when I get back from a location, I’m eager to immediately post-process, upload and share photos when the memories are still fresh, and the colors, sounds and smells are still foremost in my mind.

The trail at the base of Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park leading up to a 700 high foot tall cone of loose lava, sandy in texture like a giant sand dune.

This scene of Cinder Cone, above, in Lassen Volcanic National Park, had such interesting texture from the sand, brightly lit pine trees in the mid-day sun, and a curve of the trail leading to the summit of the cone, all of which served as unique focal points in this barren landscape. This location has such interesting colors: the greens of the trees juxtaposed against the rust red of the volcanic sand. However, the black and white version accentuated the texture, shadows, and simple composition.

Driving to Butte Lake from Manzanita Lake along Highway 89/44, is well marked Hat Creek Panoramic Vista Point, located 5 miles south of Old Station, with incredible views of Lassen Peak.

The use of black and white in the photo above of Lassen Peak, accentuates the layering of dappled light from the partly cloudy day, and of the clouds themselves. I was especially intrigued by the sunlight in the foreground, and the effect of tiny trees before the towering mountain.

The Yolo Causeway is a 3.2-mile long elevated highway viaduct on Interstate 80 that crosses the Yolo Bypass floodplain and connects the cities of West Sacramento, and Davis, California.

Some photos just lend themselves to black and white very naturally. The photo above of the Yolo Causeway was taken on an overcast afternoon and the colors were very muted; trying to bring that color out in post only made it look unnatural. I liked the simplicity of the forms and reflection in the water, and using a high contrast black and white enhanced the linear leading lines.

The photo below of the California Corn Lily plants, was also taken on an overcast day when the light was not amenable to the sweeping mountain vistas of the Carson Pass as I had hoped. Fortunately, these plants found along a pond were a welcome diversion. The texture, repetition and simple composition also lent itself to processing in black and white, enhancing the curvy striations of the leaves.

The California Corn Lily plant is a poisonous yet beautiful plant native to mountain meadows at 3500 to 11,000 ft in elevation. It prefers moist soil, and can cover large areas in dense stands near streams or in wet meadows. A derivative of this plant is being used for anti-cancer experimental drugs, currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of various types of cancer.

I’ve been fortunate to have the tremendous opportunities to head to places like Lake Tahoe, the Carson Pass, Mount Shasta, and Lassen Volcanic National Park this summer. In the whirlwind of traveling and shooting, the respite of processing photos has been very relaxing and invigorating, and the simple use of black and white provides a calming simplicity, where forms, texture and light exhibit both restraint and interest.

My name is Beth Young, and I'm a licensed architect specializing in healthcare facilities, with a strong passion for capturing the beauty of the natural world through photography. Please feel free to browse or comment. If you wish, prints are available using long lasting and high quality photographic paper or museum quality canvas using archival inks at my website:

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