Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #198 – Light and Shadow

Inner Passage, Alaska

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge is brought to us by Patti. She writes, “This week, we’re exploring the interplay of light and shadow–at different times of the day, in different seasons, under natural light, in artificial light. Choose whatever conditions you like. It’s totally up to you. You may also want to process your images in black and white to highlight the light and shadows.” You can read her entire challenge post here.

For my response, I will take Patti’s advice and share images I’ve reprocessed into black and white. One of my favorite tools for black-and-white work is Silver Efex, now at version 3. All of the images shared here were finished in Silver Efex. My opening photo features a dramatic sky with an opening in the clouds allowing sunlight to light a small section of the ocean.

Image Symbol-1
A photograph becomes a symbol

This sculpture of a firefighter carrying a small child away from the site of the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City makes for a powerful image in black-and-white.

Kealia Beach

Like the opening image, clouds in the sky when processed in black-and-white create a lot of drama. The skies and ocean lose their bright blues and the bases of the clouds look darker and foreboding.

Kealia Beach Walk-1
Kealia Beach in color

For comparison, you can see in the original color image, that the sky has some drama due to the relatively thicker layers of clouds creating dark shadows in the sky, and darkening the blues of the ocean. Converting it to black-and-white changes the mood of the image.

Coronado Sunset
View from the beach at Coronado Island

The bright sky over the Pacific Ocean lights the clouds, but the thick layers create heavy shadows darkening the ocean and with the camera set to expose to the bright sky, the boats and island lighthouse are in silhouette. This image was captured from the beach near the iconic resort, Hotel del Coronado, off the coast of San Diego, California.

Busker B-W-1
A Mexican Serenade

At San Jose del Cabo in Mexico, a busker sat on a bench in front of an abandoned souvenir shop. I reprocessed this image for the challenge this week, first loading it into Luminar Neo to add some bokeh to the background. I then exported it to Silver Efex 3 for final conversion to sepia-toned black-and-white. I decided to add a frame at the last minute.

Solitary Horseman

It was nearing sunset and I was walking the beach near the Hotel Playa in Mazatlan, Mexico. I watched a lone horseman riding near the water’s edge. I knew that if I waited to take the photo until the horse and rider passed in front of the strong backlight from the setting sun, I would create a silhouette of the rider. Though there was very little color in the original image (except for the tone of the golden hour reflecting in the ocean,) I decided to convert the image to black-and-white with a slight sepia tone.

I am a big fan of black-and-white, and Patti’s challenge allowed me to share a few of my favorite conversions thanks to Silver Efex. Next week, Ann-Christine throws us a curve with a most interesting challenge. If you’d like to participate in the challenge each week, you’ll find out how to join us here.

John Steiner


  1. I have always loved B&W photos – a regular photo can be made stunning from just that one aspect. These are lovely. The top/opening photo is my favorite.

    • Thanks, Karen. I have always been partial to color, but my enthusiasm has mellowed in recent years. I now evaluate images to see if I would like to do a b-w conversion.

  2. Wow, amazing black and whites John! Thanks for showing the Kealia Beach image in both black and white and color. Each gives the viewer different feelings and story. The black and white feels like a storm may be coming and the color feels like a nice cloudy day.

  3. Terrific response as always John. I too love Silver Efex and always use it for my B&W conversions. The creation of bokeh using Neo looks really great for your portrait image, which is my favorite of this set.

    • Thanks, Tina!
      While Neo’s portrait bokeh function has helped me improve my portrait images, I really should invest in a portrait lens. It would be a lot simpler. >grin<

  4. I’m a big fan of Silver Efex too and you’ve used it really effectively on these images. I love the first one and the Mexican guitarist in particular. And converting the Kealia Beach shot to black & white definitely improves it, giving it more contrast and drama!

    • Thanks, Sarah! I appreciate the compliment. I am afraid I neglect the other Nik applications and lean on Silver Efex.
      For B-W work, it’s so much better than the other tools in my photo workshop for black and white.

  5. Wow, John. A fabulous collection. I love your b & w images. The header image is stunning as well as Coronado. I love the portraits, too. I use Silver Efex….and love it. Great post!

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