Ghost Trees

White aspen grow in the row in front of a forest of fir trees, Grand Teton National Park
White aspen grow in the row in front of a forest of fir trees, Grand Teton National Park

On my recent trip to Wyoming, I spent quite a bit of time photographing stands of aspen. In one particular grove, there was a nice mix of fir with the aspen. One of the guys I was with found this line of leave-less trees in front of a dark backdrop of thick fir trees. As soon as I saw it, I starting thinking in black and white. I really liked the way trees seemed to flatten out in front of the firs. This was definitely not a fall color subject, but something almost morose or Gothic.

White aspen grow in the row in front of a forest of fir trees, Grand Teton National Park
White aspen grow in the row in front of a forest of fir trees, Grand Teton National Park

I began by processing this photo in color, but realized that my first instincts were correct. This needed a black and white treatment! One of the wonders of digital conversion to black and white is the ability to set luminance settings per color. This flexibility allowed me to drop just the greens close to black, which created an even backdrop from which the white bark of the trees could pop. It’s like using a magic filter with black and white film. Instead of picking a filter color that would lighten one color and darken its opposite color (for example, a red filter would darken a blue sky), I get to pick and choose in post processing which colors I want light and which I want dark.

What do you think? Which do you like better and why?