Olli Thomson
Photography

Manila American Cemetery

I took a walk around the Manila American Cemetery recently. The weather was perfect, with the rain holding off but a beautifully textured and tonally diverse grey sky. Blue skies and direct sunlight are the worst possible conditions for shooting in the cemetery since the strong edges of the architecture generate harsh shadows. Add to that the very light coloured stone used and the end result is extreme dynamic range from the near black shadows to the highly reflective bright stonework. Grey skies eliminate the harsh shadows and allow the texture and structure of the stonework to be displayed. In fact these are ideal conditions for photographing in black and white so, even though I rarely shoot in monochrome, on this occasion I did so.

I had the viewfinder set to black and white to give me a sense of how things were looking in monochrome. My camera is one of Fujifilm’s older models and doesn’t have the much lauded Acros film simulation so I’m working off the raw files and converting later. These shots were all converted using Lightroom’s auto black and white conversion with a few tweaks, mostly in the green and yellow channels. I was surprised with how pleasing they looked converted this way since I normally use Nik Sliver Efex when making black and white pictures. I was also pleased with the number of decent shots I managed.

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