Abstract in B&W

A rose by any other name color is still a rose?

Abstract rose image with just two tones –

Pure Black & Pure White

Or – is it an abstract in W&B

The negative (as in film) of the above image

Image as captured in the camera (macro, not cropped)

Red Rose

You’ve heard the old joke What’s B&W & Read all over?

The usual answer is A Newspaper, but not in this case


I asked my wife which of the top two she preferred –

 Answer – The black and white one

Then my sternest critic offered her highest compliment

I wouldn’t mind having the top one hanging on the wall


Technical – Nikon D70, Nikon 105mm 1:1 macro, 15 sec,  f/32, EV=+1.33, ISO200, WB=Cloudy, multi-segment metering, aperture priority, RAW capture, tripod, natural light

Low late afternoon natural light from windows & skylights
f/32 for maximum depth of field (= 15 sec. exposure time in the low light)


Rose center off centered
Visual design elements are mostly just lines & tones

The simplicity of elements leads to the success of this “bi-tonal” B&W abstract

Eye motion from lower left to upper right

Most pleasing movement direction for most viewers


Step 1 – Convert RAW to jpeg in Capture NX2
Step 2 – Tonal & Color contrast adjustments in Color Efex Pro
Step 3 – B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro 2 (tutorial here)

Lots of interesting B&W effects can be created using nothing but Curves. Nearly 100% of this simulated woodblock print was accomplished with the Curves adjustment shown above (marked with the yellow circle in the right column – click the image to enlarge). The location of the vertical section may have to be moved left or right depending on the tonality of the image (just drag the points at the top & bottom of the vertical line). Beyond that minor tweaking using the Global Adjustment sliders for Dynamic Brightness, Soft Contrast and Fine Structure brings it home.
Using SEP2’s ability to save custom presets, I saved this as a Preset called Woodblock. In the future, an image like this is one click and a less than 5 seconds away. Magical!
The SEP2 woodblock print technique that I created and discussed in an earlier post (and illustrated in the screen shot above) works for many different image types (but not all). Two previous posts illustrated it with structures and people.
Today I tried it with flowers – a subject that was less suited most times because they tend to be too “busy” detail-wise. I often preach “simplify” when it comes to composition. A good test of whether a composition has been simplified enough is whether it results in a good bi-tonal B&W image (or at least that’s my opinion after several days of playing with this technique).
Here are a couple of floral examples. Judge the success – or lack – for yourself.

Give this a try. Lots of fun. You can do it in any program that offers Curves, but you may not be completely happy if it doesn’t provide good contrast & tonal adjustment features to allow fine-tuning your result – this is where SEP2 Global Adjustments excels.

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