Cottonwood Road #2

This is Cottonwood Road, which runs between the Badlands NP and Cottonwood SD. My last trip there, it was foggy one morning and I headed to Cottonwood instead of the park.

I stopped a couple of places along Cottonwood Road to capture a photo. In this photo, I like how the road descends and then ascends into the fog.

Specific Feedback Requested

Feel free to comment on anything, but I really want your input on how to make this photo pop. I feel like it’s flat and it needs to have more…something.

My questions: Does anyone has experience with ‘Silver Efex Pro’ or another third party software for B&W? Do you think a software add-on will help with this photo?

Silver Efex Pro is a little pricey and I’m seeking input outside of the internet before spending the money.

Other related questions are: Does anyone have experience with TK and Luminosity? If you do, which do you prefer?

Thanks for your help,

Technical Details

Canon 5DS R | EF 17-40 @ 39mm | f8 | 1/200s | 100 | Handheld
Processed in ACR and Photoshop
In addition to ACR adjustments, I used the three basic luminosity mask (highlights, shadows and mid-tones)

1 Like

Pretty cool image. I too like the road going down and then back up.

Agree that the image feels a bit flat. Here’s a version to make it quite a bit more contrasty… maybe more than you’d want. I also didn’t think there needed to be as much foggy sky, so cropped.

Silver Efex: I used it years ago. Yes, some nice stuff, but the reality is if you know how to use PS, there’s nothing you can’t do in straight PS that you can do in Silver Efex. Maybe faster in Silver Efex as it has some looks and film types that are canned. I feel that way about most plugins. Think about it… they just running as a plugin in PS, so under the covers, they are doing the same things that we could do on our own in PS. But… they do sell and can be handy. Up to your pocket book if it is worth it.

I’ve used TK for a LOOOONNNGGG time… Love it and wouldn’t be without it to create various kinds of masks.

First, about Silver Efex. There is nothing in it that can’t be done in Photoshop. That being said, if you aren’t a pro at Photoshop, then SE would be easier. You can just click on different styles to get the different effects. This photo is flat, and half of it is white. IMO, trying to make it pop would be self defeating. The beauty of this photo is the mood, the greyness, and the empty sky. I think the best you can do is increase the contrast and perhaps paint in some grey in the sky to tone down the brightness a bit.

Regarding TK and Luminosity, they are both good, slightly different in their layout. Either one allows you to do all the amazing things you can to with luminosity masks. If you are not an advanced Photoshop user, don’t even think of trying to use them. The learning curve for both is very steep and impossible without being comfortable in Photoshop.

Hi David, Great image and scene. As @Keith_Bauer showed there’s a bit too much sky/white negative space. I like his crop. A lot of folks look at B&W as being equivalent to high contrast (strong white and strong black). But there’s nothing wrong with a lower contrast B&W if that conveys the mood you intend.

I like what Keith did, but personally, I think your image with a crop from the top would be just fine. I’m not sure, but I think I see a slight tilt to the right on the horizon…could be an optical illusion.

As far as plugins and additional tools for PS and ACR, I would recommend (as @Tony_Siciliano said) that you try to master the PS and ACR tools first. Here’s a pretty good tutorial on both ways to convert to B&W:
How To Make BLACK and WHITE Photos In Photoshop – Two Easy Conversion Techniques

It’s actually pretty easy to do.

I also wonder if I missed Cottonwood Road #1? I don’t seem to see it anywhere.

Looking forward to seeing more of your B&W work, David.


Thank you for all of your help. Below is my re-edit and I think that I’m getting close. I had shown this photo to a couple of professional photographers before posting to NPN. They weren’t able to provide the helpful critique that you did.

With the re-edit, I cropped to a 2.5:1 ratio which greatly reduced the foggy sky and I added a gradient to the sky to reduce the brightness and add a little, well, gradient. I tweaked my luminosity masks and did a little dodge and burn to the foreground road and grass. I also straightened the horizon a little. This moved the VP of the road a little LoC, which I would like to have centered. But, I’ll live with this until I learn how to fix it.

I decided to hold off on Silver Efex for now. In my journey learning this craft, I believe that my photography skills are ahead of my editing skills. So I have been working on my editing skills and I haven’t taken many photos this year. I hope to get out to a three day shoot later this month. I’m comfortable working in PS, but I have a lot to learn. Working full time, my biggest obstacle to learning is time. On-line courses have been helpful, but repetition is how I learn.

As for Cottonwood Road #1? I numbered them in the order I shot them. Photo #1 is a little more complicated than photo #2. But now that I have an idea on how to proceed, I’ll work on photo #1 next.