This week, I went on a day long hike in the Sierra de Huetor. The landscape is epic, and monolithic! Black and White seemed to suit this location more than colour. The mountains are not particularly high, (1700 metres at the highest point) though they take a few hours to climb, I think we were hiking for around seven hours including a break for lunch on the summit.
Sierra de Huetor
The Sierra de Huétor is a limestone based mountain range located in Granada Province, Andalucia, Spain.
The range is located to the northeast of Granada city, in the Sierra de Huetor National Park, about 60 kilometres from my base in the Lecrin Valley. You can just about make out Granada in the top left half of the image.
I drove out to Las Mimbres, at Puerto de la Mora, to meet the Mountain Nomads, a hiking group organised by Richard Hartley from Spanish Highs. I was carrying some photography gear, but for fitness these people put me to shame. I’m now convinced they are genetically part goat! Seriously, a testament to the long term power of walking as a fitness routine.
We drove a mile or so past the official car park and left our cars at the base of the pine forest. It took about half an hour walking up through the forest before we reached the edge of the trees from where we could see the real object of the hike.
The aim was to walk up to a point about half way into the image above, then traverse the ridge between peaks before descending again into the woods and wending our way back to the cars. Looks pretty straightforward from the treeline, but you absolutely need a GPS tracker or a proper guide to avoid getting lost, it’s terrifyingly easy in these mountains.
I stopped many times to shoot pictures and because the light is fairly flat in the middle of the day, lacking the nuances produced by the early morning and late evening sunshine, decided to go with black and white, which in turn influenced my shot selection. The components are largely rocks and trees, so texture, shape and contrast become more important than colour if you’re going the monochrome route.
Shooting for Black and White
As with any camera, if you’re shooting RAW then you’re capturing colour information. I generally process the images in colour first, these were done in Lightroom, but DxO PhotoLab would be just as good, concentrating on contrast, texture and luminosity. I use Silver Efex Pro to convert the graded image, usually using the “Structure” preset as a starting point and apply a few further tweaks as necessary. I’ve found Silver Efex to be the most effective colour conversion software and have used it for many years. It can be bought as part of the Nik Collection, which also includes Color Efex Pro.
When I shoot this type of landscape I normally take three lenses and a lightweight tripod. The camera I use currently is a Canon 5Ds and the lenses are 16-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm. If I’m not walking far, I’ll take a 100-300mm as well. This is entirely to do with the weight. some sacrifices have to be made with high altitude hiking because the distances covered are large compared to a normal photowalk, 15-20 km up and down is not uncommon.
The Sierra de Huetor is a location I will return to for sure, possible in winter when there is a blanket of snow. I can see the drama of these mountains enhanced dramatically as a snowscape.
Next week I’m heading for the Picos de Europa, part of the Cantabrian Mountain range in Northern Spain. Four days of hiking and photography. Perfect!
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