ON1 Inspiration — Episode 16: Emulating Ansel Adams

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I have always been a fan of Ansel Adams. As a matter of fact, in High School we were given and artist emulation assignment where we were to photograph something like a great photographer of the past. Whether it was irony or fate, I have yet to determine; my teacher assigned me to Ansel Adams. At first, I thought he just had a funny name, but then I analyzed his work and realized he was a true master of the craft. Needless to say, emulating his style was not an easy task for a High School student.

Fast forward about 18 years and I find myself conducting a Workshop in Yosemite National Park. The scenery is awe inspiring, but having my feet planted in the same places Ansel had his, gave me chills to the core. I found myself trying to imagine what Ansel would do with the scenes in front of me. I previsualized the rich contrast black and white images that could be created from the veins of granite running through the monoliths all around me. I imagined the skies turning a rich black to bring out the white puffy afternoon clouds. To say this is a photographer’s playground is an understatement, it is our Disney World!

In this ON1 Inspiration episode, I am going to focus on the things that I previsualized while I was on the scene with a concentration on high contrast Black and White photographs. There are many ways to convert an image to Black and White, but not all of them are created equal. To make the best Black and White images we have to take the best approach and we cannot forget about the stars of the show, “Black” and “White.”

This process is not for the ON1 Effects feint of heart. It requires a build up of several effects, it is slow and methodical and leaves the preset panel in the dust. We will target three key areas to make the most compelling Black and White images, Tone, Color and Artistic Effects. Let’s dive in!

25 comments on “ON1 Inspiration — Episode 16: Emulating Ansel Adams”

  1. On September 1, 2016 at 5:08 pm TwoRails wrote:

    Another great tutorial, Blake. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us :)

    1. On September 6, 2016 at 8:38 am Blake Rudis replied:

      Thank you, kindly! You are welcome, it was really my pleasure.

  2. On September 1, 2016 at 8:10 pm Kevin King wrote:

    Nice tute. In the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, I spent so much time in the darkroom with my hands in Dektol developer and fixer (after dodging and burning in the enlarger) that my skin started peeling off around my fingernails; I left the darkroom permanently. Back in the digital darkroom now, and I am VERY excited by your tute because your end result is reminiscent of what I tried to achieve by pushing Tri-X (with D-76) and exposing/developing my prints back then… and today I can still have my skin.

    1. On September 6, 2016 at 8:39 am Blake Rudis replied:

      That is so cool to hear. I had a very short stint in the darkroom as my interest in photography was piquing as the digital world was evolving. I had a good year of time in the darkroom. I really wish I had more because I learned so much in that short time. Thank you for your background, it is great to hear.

  3. On September 1, 2016 at 10:52 pm David Price wrote:

    Hi Blake
    Having seen your video, once I’ve completed work and have some free time, I’m going to rework a black and white photo which I recently submitted to the On1 critiques.
    Thanks for such a well thought out video.
    Best wishes, David Price.

    1. On September 6, 2016 at 8:40 am Blake Rudis replied:

      Woohoo! Thank you for taking the time to watch it :) I do appreciate it.

  4. On September 2, 2016 at 6:00 am Richard Tétreault wrote:

    Hello Blake,

    This is the best black and white conversion video I’ve seen. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertize. This will definitely help me to take my b&w pictures to the next level.

    Take care
    Richard Tétreault

    1. On September 6, 2016 at 8:40 am Blake Rudis replied:

      Thank you! I am honored by your feedback :) It means a lot to me, it really does.

  5. On September 4, 2016 at 5:41 am Peter Ward wrote:

    Thanks Blake,
    Loved this work. Like Kevin above I was playing around with Tri-X at the same time, pushing Tri-X to 1600 and printing out on Grade 5 paper (endeavouring to emulate a form of AA exposure without dodging and burning). Which may be somewhat harsh (reducing the grey scale) but nonetheless produced some dramatic B&W results. I note this tutorial was done using a Jpeg and wrote to ON1 yes, to have a ‘preset’ for the new RAW version taking advantage of the AA technique….but this was before seeing the tutorial and appreciating the preliminary work/adjustments needed to achieve the end result. My interest after viewing this would be whether your RAW approach would be the same, modified or different (especially in establishing the ‘base’ image)?

    1. On September 6, 2016 at 8:43 am Blake Rudis replied:

      Thanks, Peter, you are an observant one!

      As for the Raw work, I would have done the same I believe. I didn’t do much, if anything to the image in the Raw. I worked on it as a JPEG, not because I don’t like RAW , but because smaller images tend to work faster in tutorials. There is nothing worse than watching my cursor lag because I am working on a 42 megapixel image in Photoshop and ON1.

      My workflow is always the same, Tone, Color, Artistic Effects. I do them in that order every time. It makes my results reproducible.

  6. On September 7, 2016 at 8:33 am Peter Pfeiffer wrote:

    Thank You Blake, You’ve opened a new and exciting chapter for me to explore. I’ve watched this tut two times thus far and have had some success following along. In your example it makes perfect sense to separate the image refinements to fore, middle, and background.

    I’ve changed my application of this – when using an image captured at Great Falls National Park I focused on water, sky, and rocks separately. I’m supposing that your suggestion [fore, middle, and background] can and should be modified to suite the image.

    I noticed that you didn’t apply detail or clarity during the 3 B & W mods – was this just to focus on the color aspects and impact on B & W?

    Thanks for opening my eyes!

    1. On September 8, 2016 at 6:51 am Blake Rudis replied:

      You are spot on! Some images need the detail and clarity, but I found when I was practicing on this photo that it made it too crisp and hurt the integrity of the image. I decided to forgo the detail and clarity.

      Thanks for taking the time to watch it and give such great feedback. I certainly appreciate it.

  7. On September 7, 2016 at 11:25 am Alan Smallbone wrote:

    Thank you wonderful tutorial and gave me a lot to think about, will probably watch it again to get it all to sink in, really enjoyed it.

  8. On September 7, 2016 at 2:46 pm Timothy Lambert wrote:

    Thanks for the tutorial, it gave me a lot of insight to a better black and white photo.

    1. On September 8, 2016 at 6:53 am Blake Rudis replied:

      You are welcome! Black and White away! Take the same concepts and use them all over. Seeing in Tone is the first step to better Color images.

  9. On September 8, 2016 at 11:06 am Timothy Kavulla wrote:

    I thought the tutorial was great. is there a print out of instructions which would be helpful?


  10. On September 12, 2016 at 6:16 pm Peter Pfeiffer wrote:

    Here are the notes I took the third time I watched this tut.
    * First thing adjust the overall tone using the Tone Enhancer:
    * Color enhancer
    boost warmth a bit
    overall saturation to zero
    adjust individual color luminance to increase contrast and dynamics
    * Apply 3 different B + W filters for different areas of the image using masks
    Background / sky darken
    Middle ground
    Maybe this will help you @Timothy Kavulla

  11. On September 25, 2016 at 3:12 am Freddy Hoevers wrote:

    I can not wait for bad weather so that I have more peace in me to sit at the computer and edit the photos that I have planned.
    Greetings from Almelo, Netherlands

  12. On September 25, 2016 at 11:15 am Zoltan Puskas wrote:

    Blake, very well done tutorial. I love B&W and learned the Zone Systems years ago doing my parametric curves with various films and cameras & lens combinations. Not sure digital is much easier, but it’s the way to go now. Thanks Peter Pfeiffer for the notes. I, too, found the tutorial moving a little too fast for my old brain: but I’ll work through it.
    Again, thanks for making this tutorial.

  13. On October 16, 2016 at 2:30 am marc labro wrote:

    the trick to put saturation at min to fine tune the color range is amazing. the three bw filters is also amazing and useful

    i have a basic question : is it normal you left saturation at min before launching the first bw filter ? the image is already bw without any color so how does BW filter finds colors ?

    best regards

  14. On March 20, 2017 at 8:01 am Fran Balderrama wrote:

    enjoyed the tut…..Soooo much to learn! Don’t know where to begin. Guess I’ll just have to experiment with the settings.

  15. On April 24, 2017 at 4:59 am Peter Haklo wrote:

    Waw , This is the one of the best tutorial for conversion to B&W I ever seen ..
    Your explanation ability is outstanding.
    Thanks a lot !

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