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South Cave Hills Church of rural Harding County.
South Cave Hills Church of rural Harding County.
Holy Rosary Catholic Church of Trail City on the Corson and Dewey County line.
Holy Rosary Catholic Church of Trail City on the Corson and Dewey County line.
Herrick Feed Mill just outside of Herrick in Gregory County.
Herrick Feed Mill just outside of Herrick in Gregory County.
An unused barn in Charles Mix County.
An unused barn in Charles Mix County.
The full “snow moon” above a stand of trees in rural Minnehaha County.
The full “snow moon” above a stand of trees in rural Minnehaha County.
An abandoned farmstead in rural McCook County.
An abandoned farmstead in rural McCook County.
Looking northeast above the barn in McCook County and showing the faint winter Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy (top left).
Looking northeast above the barn in McCook County and showing the faint winter Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy (top left).
Winter’s faint Milky Way above Palisades State Park south of Garretson.
Winter’s faint Milky Way above Palisades State Park south of Garretson.
A half hour exposure shows stars circling the North Star above the Balancing Rock formation at Palisades State Park.
A half hour exposure shows stars circling the North Star above the Balancing Rock formation at Palisades State Park.
The summer Milky Way with a lone prairie windmill in a corn field of rural Brule County.
The summer Milky Way with a lone prairie windmill in a corn field of rural Brule County.
A summer storm in rural McCook County.
A summer storm in rural McCook County.
Main Avenue in Sioux Falls.
Main Avenue in Sioux Falls.
The Old Courthouse Museum and clock tower in downtown Sioux Falls.
The Old Courthouse Museum and clock tower in downtown Sioux Falls.
Falls Park.
Falls Park.
The falls of the Big Sioux at Falls Park in Sioux Falls.
The falls of the Big Sioux at Falls Park in Sioux Falls.
The falls of the Big Sioux at Falls Park in Sioux Falls.
The falls of the Big Sioux at Falls Park in Sioux Falls.

Night in Black and White

Feb 22, 2017

I have an affinity for black and white photography. I learned how to develop and print black and white photos in my college days at the University of Sioux Falls. Monochrome is simple, yet evocative. It can convey a sense of timelessness and elegance. It can also be poetic. Ansel Adams, an American master at photography, has both inspired and taught countless photo enthusiasts like me. I’m especially a fan of his use of color filters in the field to get his photos to look a certain way when printed. For example, on a blue sky, sunny day, he would often use a red filter. The result turned the azure sky into nearly black when printing. This technique allows for clouds as well as flora and fauna, with their contrasting lighter tones, to stand out.

The digital age has dramatically changed photography since the days of Adams. One of the beautiful things about modern editing programs is that many of them allow an editor to dial into the individual color channels of a photo and manipulate the image by sliders and dials instead of filters and chemicals. Photoshop even has presets to mimic the red, orange and yellow filters that Adams so often used. I try to post a black and white country church photo every Wednesday on the Prairie Sanctuaries Facebook page. Many of them are shot on blue sky days with white clouds. I use the red filter technique as a starting point in editing to give the darker skies a more eye-catching contrast against the often-white churches.

Last summer, it dawned on me to actually shoot a church at night to get a naturally dark sky instead of using the red filter. I actually stumbled upon the idea. I was chasing some Northern lights in Butte and Harding County and by the time I got to South Cave Hills Church, northwest of Buffalo, clouds had begun to roll in from the north and the aurora was quickly fading. Since I was already there, I took a photo. Once I had it back in editing mode, I couldn’t get the green cast from nearby yard lights out of the image. On a whim, I converted it to black and white. It was a revelation. The stars and clouds above the church suddenly grabbed my attention in a whole new way.

On my way home to Isabel over Christmas, I drove through Trail City on Highway 20 and noticed that all the lights were on in the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. I stopped to shoot the image and, once again, the black and white version seemed to pop more than the color image. Because of these two instances, I made it my mission to try more black and white night photography this winter. I even re-edited a few of last summer’s photos of a lightnting storm and the Milky Way with a prairie windmill to see how they would look in monochrome.

So here are 16 black and white night images for your viewing pleasure. Most were made within the last month as I tried new scenes like the city lights of Sioux Falls and dark sky areas like Palasades State Park or abandoned farmsteads. I realize others may not be as enthusiastic about black and white, but I had a lot of fun. I always learn something when I try something new. And with our unusually mild February, what better way to spend those long winter nights than outside under the stars? 

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

Comments

02:44 pm - Wed, March 8 2017
Marilyn Sour Rundberg said:
These B&W pictures are gorgeous! I saw details that would be missed in color. I love South Dakota, and the pictures you shared just reinforced that love! I grew up in NE SD, but the sky is the same! You don't see it like that here in the Twin Cities where I have lived for almost 50 years. Fortunately, I can "touch my roots" at our cabin on Enemy Swim Lake!
03:16 pm - Thu, August 3 2017
Lottie Walker said:
I love photography- I love the black and white shown here. I esp like the rain clouds and rainbows. Your photos are awesome.
I am a S.DAKOTAN and I loved the thunder and lightning storms when I was young. One time the lightning struck our house and the electric clock saw its demise as the smoke rolled out of it.!!!
Lottie Walker

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