Pedal Boating by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial / by Todd Henson

Pedal boating in the Tidal Basin in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.

I recently realized I have not travelled into Washington, D.C. to photograph anything in over a year. This prompted me to look back over some of the photographs from my previous trips to see if perhaps there was something in there I had yet to process.

I have a bad habit of importing my photos onto the computer and then moving on to the next shoot, forgetting about what I’d just imported. So occasionally going through my back catalog is a useful exercise. Thankfully, it’s also a lot of fun, bringing back memories of the days I snapped the shutter.

Today’s photograph was from early Spring many years back. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom. You can see some of them on the shore surrounding the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. And of course, on days like this people love to take the pedal boats out into the Tidal Basin. So I included a family in a pedal boat as they passed by the memorial. I also positioned myself to include at least part of the profile of Thomas Jefferson’s statue in the memorial.

The weather was very interesting that day. For the first part of the day it was pleasant, if slightly overcast. This actually worked well for photographing the cherry blossoms. The clouds acted like a giant soft box, softening the light and helping to avoid harsh shadows. Today’s photo was from this time period, when the light was fairly soft.

Later in the day the sky darkened and we were drenched by a pop-up storm that quickly moved over the city. After that, the sun came back out and many of the clouds broke up. We ended up visiting one of the museums before heading back out of town.

But back to today’s photograph. It was from the time period prior to the storm, when the clouds in the sky contributed to a generally soft light without overly harsh shadows. Something about this prompted me to process the image as a high key black and white. I thought the soft light was perfect for a high key image, where everything is very light and bright, with very little dark throughout the image.

Split Toning settings I used in Adobe Lightroom

Split Toning settings I used in Adobe Lightroom

After I’d finished the conversion to black and white I felt the image seemed a little cool and wanted to warm it up just a touch. To do this I used split toning, where you tone the highlights one color and tone the shadows another color. But I didn’t want the image to feel like a color image so I kept the tones very, very subtle. I gave the highlights a very light touch of yellow and the shadows an even lighter touch of red.

Here are both versions of the photograph, one as a black and white, and the other as a black and white with the subtle split tone.

Which version do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below.

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