Last week, while walking our dog Molly, I noticed that clusters of small brown mushrooms were appearing, usually next to or near old tree stumps, in primarily shady areas of our community parks. At the time, I made a mental note to come out with my macro lens and shoot some of the patterns of the overlapping button tops, but for one reason or another I let several days pass without shooting the picture I had promised myself. The past Monday, though, I noticed that one of these clusters near a playgroup had been pulled up by the kids, revealing a beautiful complexity of roots, stems and the undersides of the buttons. I immediately saw this as a black and white photograph.
The initial color capture was in nice soft, shaded light, which helped to sculpt the plants, but the overall scene was flat – light-to-medium brown subject on a dark brown stump – all of which would show up about the same shade of gray on the initial capture and straight conversion to B&W. My goal was to have the details of the mushrooms stand out, and to push the background way into the background, visually. During capture sharpening, I used Nik Sharpener Pro, and because I was working in Photoshop I was able to select the Brush option so that I applied the capture sharpening only to the mushrooms. I then went into Viveza, where I applied a little contrast and a small amount of darkening to the background. I usually don’t do too much adjustment before I go into Silver Efex Pro because I do not want to overpower the changes in contrast and grayscale rendition within the tool.
Once in Silver Efex, I selected the High Structure (Smooth) preset, which gives a good first set of basic adjustments, and then I went to the film emulation tab and selected Kodak Panatomic X (ISO 32). I like to use the film emulations because I can relate to most of the films Silver Efex Pro emulates, and I like the addition of a little grain to an otherwise smooth digital rendering. I then used a number of small control point to make fine adjustments to contrast, structure and brightness of the mushroom cluster, and another set of small control points to darken the background, but without having it disappear entirely. To finish off, I then added a very subtle selenium tone to the darker areas of the image, to help boost the brilliance of the mushrooms against the background. I am pleased to say, this image prints very well.
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