Landscape in Monochrome


Well, who doesn’t like to look at perfectly exposed, vibrant coloured and jaw dropping landscape shoot during the golden or blue hour. I personally enjoy shooting such picture too. However, it does get a little boring now and then when you are seeing the same thing over and over again.

When we talk about landscape photos, I think most of us will think of vibrant and colourful sunset or sunrise scene. These are the common landscape shots that you and me are flooded with. Personally I do a lot of such shots too. So how about landscape in monochrome?

To be honest, usually I will only convert a landscape picture into monochrome when:

  1. Something wrong with the colour, be it white balance or colour cast
  2. When the sky is just cloudy or boring
  3. When the golden or blue hour simply cannot make it to be attractive enough
  4. When I’m doing some artistic long exposure shot where a lot of noise or vignette was introduced to the picture

However, as time goes by, I started to think why must we limit ourselves to shoot only vibrant golden or blue hour landscape shots? Thereafter, I started to develop a habit in editing landscape, whereby I will do the usual routine to edit the picture in colour, and when everything is done, I’ll create a virtual copy in Lightroom and convert it into monochrome.

When you look at a picture in monochrome, stripping away the wow factor from the vibrant colours, what’s left behind are just pure substances that construct your picture, such as light and shadow, lines and patterns, details and contrast. It is an interesting way to review your picture, as you will then know your picture rely much on which factor that makes it a good shot.

I must say through this new found habit and exercise, I found that more often than ever I will convert a landscape shot into monochrome just to exaggerate the composition, the contrast or the subject by stripping away the colours. You may or may not like a landscape picture in monochrome, but I do think that there is no reason why one shouldn’t give it a try. Till then.

Shooting Landscape

There was once I have a conversation with my friend with regard to wide angle lens. He voiced out his love for wide angle lenses and how he believe in shooting with one makes you a better landscape photographer. Well, to me in order to become a better landscape photographer, there’re so much more than just slapping an ultra wide angle lens in front of your camera.

Trying out different framing and perception

I think many of us have the misconception to equate landscape photography to wide angle lens, the wider the better. Well, I can’t deny the impact of using a wide angle lens in landscape photography, the broad vista it present, the dynamic presentation of foreground and background and so on. But the truth is, landscape photography can be done with any lenses, be it wide angle or telephoto lens. It’s all about what you want to show, to frame and to present to viewers.

Shot at 345mm equivalent

There are far more than just using a wide angle lens to improve on landscape photography. Effective composition can easily transform a rather ordinary scene to extraordinary. Always take note on the corners of your frame. Exclude unnecessary objects that doesn’t contribute to your picture. Be aware of the horizon. Observe your foreground and background in order to get the picture with maximum impact. This is where the wide angle lens will make or break your photograph. Since it’s so wide, you can end up having a whole lot of unwanted objects in your frame, or ended up including to many points of interest in your picture, making it too busy and less effective. Due to the pushing effect of wide angle lens, your foreground may end up too empty and lack of interest. Distortion may also be too much until a point it becomes distracting.

Long exposure & monochrome

Another common misconception is that people tends to equate landscape photography to sunrise and sunset, a.k.a. shooting at the golden/blue hour. Well, there’s nothing wrong shooting landscape during the golden hour or the blue hour. But why limiting yourself just to shoot during these timing? Landscape photograph can be captured in almost anytime of the day. At the end of the day, is all about how you want to manipulate and capture the light hitting your frame. Do not hesitate to make use of accessories such as graduated ND, full ND filters or polarizer to play around with the light. Don’t be afraid to test out various settings and see what effect they provide.

HDR merge of 3 bracketed shots in Lightroom 6

On the more technical side, study on methods such as exposure bracketing, focus stacking, expose to the right (ETTR) and some post processing method such as High Dynamic Range and Exposure Blending, which will enhance your picture further to create the look that you want. Don’t be afraid to convert your landscape picture into monochrome and set your imagination free.

Minimalist composition

Last but not least, practice more. Try not to mimic what others have shot. Even though you are standing on the same spot, try to scout for different perspective and composition. Find a way to be different from others. Think, experiment, don’t get lazy, and you will be able to improve on your skills in landscape photography.