Improve a Photo with a Conversion to Black and White

When a photo is not very interesting as a color version it's a mental trigger for me to try a black and white conversion. A photo may have a lot going for it with composition, light and so on, but the color look is just meh. Take this scene from St. Michaels, Maryland.

Color Version

Color Version

The sky has a blue-gray cast to it with a little warmth along the horizon. The water is blue-green-gray. This color mix isn't doing anything for the photo, and it gives it a sickly look. That's too bad because with the strong foreground element and the dramatic clouds it seems this image should be a keeper. So just like you would adjust a composition to eliminate distracting elements, let's get rid of these colors that are a distraction.

Black and White Version

Black and White Version

For the black and white (B&W) conversion I used Macphun's Tonality Pro. When doing B&W conversions I tend to use presets more than with my color photos. Since I don't work as much in B&W, maybe I don't have as refined a vision of where I want to go with an image. So I poke around with presets until something clicks. For this photo I used the Sleepy Forest preset (as a lover of the outdoors, that name conjures wonderful woodsy scenes in my mind). The preset got me most of the way done, however the sky was still too light. I wanted a bit more drama to match the dark, heavy feel of the pier. While still in Tonality Pro I used a second layer with a gradient mask to darken the sky, and I had the image.

Tech Specs
Processing: Lightroom, Tonality Pro (save 10% with discount code COREYHILZ)
Camera: Nikon D2x
Focal length: 52mm
Aperture: 9
Shutter: 1/125