black and white image of the badlands, south dakota photographed by luxagraf
Buffalo Gap National Grassland, South Dakota, United States

Black and White Badlands

Toning a photograph from South Dakota

Late in the summer of 2018 we spent two weeks camping in Buffalo National Grassland, on the edge of Badlands National Park. We only went into the park itself a couple of times, but this day rain was in the forecast and I already knew that without some clouds, the Badlands made for boring images (standing there looking at it was breathtaking, but sometimes that feeling doesn’t translate into the image, and for me, in this case, it did not). I figured the storm would add some drama to the sky and make for better pictures.

Most of the black and white images I’ve done so far for Range were composed knowing I would develop them to be black and white. This one is different. I had in mind color. But then the other day I was searching through my Darktable library for an image that would lend itself to making the sky black (in black and white). I know how to get a black sky using Darktable’s old channel mixer, but I haven’t done it in the new color calibration module (which replaces the channel mixer). Anyway, this image isn’t great for that, but when I saw it something said, you should make that black and white. So I did, and I like it much better than the color version.

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I think this image is a good example of how a mundane image can be made much more striking in black and white. It’s important to note this is not a great image even in black and white, but it serves my purpose here. Which is to illustrate that sometimes thinking in texture rather than color yields a more interesting image.