Feeling small

A tiny sailing boat on Lake Geneva, with the majestic Alps in the back

Feeling small
November 14, 2011 Johan Peijnenburg
In Photography
Black & white seascape with a small boat on Lake Geneva, lit by sunbeams passing through fog and clouds with the Alps in the back (by Johan Peijnenburg)
120mm – f/11 – 1/500 – ISO100

I am starting to appreciate black & white photography more and more. Here’s a black & white seascape of a sailing boat on Lake Geneva (Lac Léman). The tiny boat is lit by sunbeams that pass through fog and “whispy” clouds above the lake. In the background you can see the silhouette of the French Alps of the Haute-Savoie region. The photograph was taken from Chexbrex, a small picturesque town situated in the midst of the Vineyards of Lavaux in Switzerland.

The image only started to work for me once I converted it to black and white in Color Efex Pro 2. Somehow the drama comes across much better. When I was working on this image I was debating about whether to keep the tiny boat in or not. Is it a distraction or an attraction? I decided to keep it in, as to me it emphasizes the scale of the lake and the mountains in the background. What do you think? Hope you like this black & white seascape!

Comments (122)

  1. Francis Gagnon 8 years ago

    Absolutely splendid !

  2. I’ll be honest, I didn’t notice the boat until I read the text. The magnitude of everything else (mountains, sun rays, clouds) kept me in a state of awe and the boat did not distract me from that in any way. It even helps in giving a sense of scale to the whole place.

  3. Bill Pevlor 8 years ago

    Love the scene…even thought I had to squint real, real hard to see the sailboat. lol

  4. Kerry Murphy 8 years ago

    Amazing! I am so glad you kept the boat. I agree that it really emphasizes how impressive the mountains are. Beautiful, Johan.

  5. Olivier Du Tré 8 years ago

    WAW that little boat makes this scene Johan !

  6. Grant Murray 8 years ago

    There is not a thing wrong with this scene Johan, well done Buddy.

    There is a reason you are drawn more and more to B&W. It is unmatched in tonal range, as this image is proof of. That is why I became a convert this year. 🙂

  7. Jamal Williams 8 years ago

    The picture doesn’t need the boat to be beautiful but it defiantly adds to your appreciation of the scene.

  8. Author

    @Francis: thank you!
    @Frederico: state of awe sound great 🙂 Thanks for the feedback!
    @Bill: thanks! It is more obvious when viewed full screen … or printed large 🙂

  9. Author

    @Kerry: thanks for the compliment and feedback!
    @Olivier: thank you as well! Nice to see you drop by 🙂

  10. Joanna Pechmann 8 years ago

    Great image with beautiful tones ! And the boat? I think this photo works very well with and without the boat.

  11. The boat, tiny in comparison, shows the magnitude and awesomeness of the great mountains indeed.

  12. Author

    @Grant: thank you. Nice to hear from you! You are right about your comment on black and white. I have quite a few alpine images that would be great objects to play with in B&W and have to say that Color Efex really is a great help … although there are quite a few directions you can go with it 🙂

  13. Author

    Jamal, Joanna and Phillip: thanks and thanks a lot for the feedback on the boat!

  14. Lisa Mikulski 8 years ago

    Oh my goodness… what a fantastic capture. I could write a book about this photo… small, vast, etched mountains, textures of the sea against clouds… but I’ll have to be content with saying this is just stunning Johan

    • Author

      Thank you for this very nice comment Lisa 🙂 I am glad I am not the only one that thinks that there is plenty of interest in this image 🙂

  15. Gary Olejniczak 8 years ago

    I’m glad you left it in. It is a nice surprise in this wonderful capture.

  16. Lana Walker 8 years ago

    I am starting to appreciate B&W photography more and more. — My sentiment exactly! Great capture. I agree with you about the boat – it surely emphasizes the scale of the lake and the mountains. In fact it’s the boat that made me say “wow” at the scale!

    • Author

      I really think that scenes can look great in B&W whilst they don’t work in color. This image only started to really work for me after converting it. These Alps in the background are quite far away, so even though the image had all the ingredients it only looked so-so because of haze and the slight blue color cast you often get then. So B&W came to the rescue 🙂 Thanks for the compliment and feedback on the boat!

      • Lana Walker 8 years ago

        Makes sense! I’ve never thought about it from this point of view to be honest. I’ll try B&W next time I’m not happy with a colour version! 🙂

        • Author

          I have worked on a few flowers with B&W as well. Haven’t dared to post them yet, but you can get quite interesting images especially when depth of field is right 🙂

  17. Beverley Aston 8 years ago

    B/W is an area that I’m so wanting to get into but struggling at the moment so I’ve had to clear my mind and start back at the beginning.
    I feel the first thing to making an image looking powerful in B/W is the subject and the way it has been captured. On both these points you have achieved exactly that. I agree with the previous comment in that boat really emphasizes the scale of the lake and mountains!!

    • Author

      looking forward to seeing your B&W images 🙂 Thank you also for the nice comment and feedback!

  18. Davorin Mance 8 years ago


  19. An outstanding photo

  20. Joel Tjintjelaar 8 years ago

    B&W is fun, isn’t it Johan:) Good decision to keep the tiny boat in: it gives a great sense of scale especially with the mighty Alps in the background. Like it a lot!

    • Author

      Thank you! It most certainly is fun Joel. You are actually one of the photographers here on G+ that has made me explore it more. It opens a whole world of opportunities and I’ll make sure to to use G+ to see which ones work and which ones don’t 🙂

  21. Beverley Aston 8 years ago

    Johan and Lana: As I do such a lot of flower photography during the summer months I will look forward to seeing your conversions to B/W as it’s a subject matter that I’m not sure yet works well in B/W !!

    • Author

      I will post one in the course of the week. I really like them when they are not too dark and moody, but more towards white with a soft grey background. Will plus you in when I do 🙂

  22. Joel Tjintjelaar 8 years ago

    @Beverley: I can assure you that flowers are a fantastic subject for B&W photography. In fact, some of the greatest flower photos ever made are in B&W: Just look at the work of masters like Imogen Cunningham or Robert Mapplethorpe.

    • Beverley Aston 8 years ago

      Thanks you both Johan and Joel. Before starting the B/W project I will look up the work of those mentioned..

      • Author

        would love to see how you approach it. Feel free to share in private if you want feedback!

  23. Nathan Wirth 8 years ago

    a very lovely image …

  24. dene' miles 8 years ago

    This is pure magic and yes, like the boat 🙂

  25. Sumit Sen 8 years ago

    Wow! The B&W treatment is terrific.

  26. S K Prasad Iyer 8 years ago


  27. Beautiful light and scene… Great work!

  28. Johan Swanepoel 8 years ago

    Wow Johan – awesome scene and work – glad you kept the boat 🙂

  29. Author

    @Beverley: you’re welcome!
    @Nathan, Dene’, Sumit, S K Prasad Iyer, Emanuele and Johan: thank you for your nice comments. Thanks for dropping by!

  30. Beautiful B&W! So dramatic with the clouds and beams of light. I like the tiny boat in there for scale!

  31. Antione Berger 8 years ago

    awesome shot Johan ! really !! The boat is the cherry on the cake (as we say in France ….), the little add which provides so much to your picture ! I like a lot ! … and perfect mood with these pretty clouds and rays of light.

    • Author

      hah Antoine. I saw you sitting on top of the mountain on the other side, so had to shoot this 😉 Thanks for the compliment and feedback. I really appreciate it! Been shooting Lac Léman again today …. or better the mountains around it, as the lake itself was covered with clouds. We got some awesome views from up above the clouds!

  32. Robert Esseboom 8 years ago

    wow a awesome shot

  33. Jessy Eykendorp 8 years ago

    Glorious rays of light..so heavenly. Excellent work, Johan!

  34. Oscar Martin 8 years ago

    Impresionat Landscape and Light, fantastic b/w congragulations
    Congratulations on the web site, nice design, greetings!

    • Author

      Thank you for the nice compliments for the image as well as for the site Oscar!

    • David Herreman 8 years ago

      The boat is so tiny that I didn’t see it the first time! :)) so I don’t think it is a distraction but as you say it gives us a sense of scale! Great image Johan!

  35. Piet Flour 8 years ago

    definitely : keep it in;
    Indeed, it emphasis the majestic of the landscape

  36. Author

    Thanks David and Piet and thanks for the feedback 🙂

  37. Daniel Cheong 8 years ago

    What an amazing view and lighting, beautiful layered composition!

  38. Suzanne Haggerty 8 years ago

    Beautiful Johan

  39. Robert Skreiner 8 years ago

    Very impressive photo!

  40. Daniel Ewert 8 years ago

    Those defined rays of light really help make this scene…beautiful work!

  41. Kurt Harvey 8 years ago

    Absolutely gorgeous shot Johan. I love the little sailboat. It adds scale and its also like a little hidden detail, a little gem.

    • Author

      Thanks for the very nice feedback Kurt! Judging from the comments I made the right choice with keeping the boat in 🙂

  42. Beautiful sunrays. Thanks, Johan!

  43. Author

    Thanks Robert and Wilfried !

  44. Simon Morris 8 years ago

    Wonderful capture Johan – stunning light! 🙂

  45. Cameron Siguenza 8 years ago

    Amazing scale and tones – you have a gift for the sublime Johan

    • Author

      A bit too much honor there Cameron, but thanks. Really appreciated 🙂

  46. Roland 8 years ago

    I love it, when landscape photography goes beyond documentation. Here, I see a wonderful metaphor about the sound of the world. Rhythm, scales, attraction and timeless beauty… so intense. Wonderful.

    Thanks and cheers

    • Author

      Thank you Roland! Really happy that this image inspires you like that 🙂

  47. Stunning image! The boat shows the scale so well. What a dramatic picture.

  48. Black and white photography is my favorite; it seems more ephemeral, less fixed.

    • Author

      I am finding that out as well Catherine, but not for all images. It is a great alternative though!

  49. I tend to convert to B&W those color pictures that I cannot fix due to too much noise or I simply think they look better as B&W.

    • Author

      Some images will look great in color and in B&W. It is definitely easier to create some drama 🙂

  50. Dirk Vietzke 8 years ago

    The sailing boat is so teeny weeny 🙂 crazily good!

  51. Nora Carol 8 years ago

    its amazing to see many tones of the b/w, love the rays too. Great shot!

  52. Ryan Layton 8 years ago

    It makes me feel so insignificant! But in a good way!

  53. Rob Amend 8 years ago

    Wonderful interplay of light and shadow!

  54. superb shot!! the way light filtrates through the clouds and the black chain of mountains in the background are making such a powerful image from this one!

  55. Author

    Julia Anna and Rob: thank you so much for visiting and for the nice comments!

  56. Andrew Mitchell 8 years ago

    needs to be there for scale, although it looks far too small. A radio controlled model yacht maybe?

    • Author

      It’s a real sailing boat Andrew !! I left it in to emphasize the scale of the Alps in the background … which are about 3500 to 4000 meters high 🙂

      • Andrew Mitchell 8 years ago

        thanks for confirming. As a sailor myself I can appreciate the scale, and hence the yacht is an important element. Impressive.

  57. Javier Esvall 8 years ago

    Good tone and contrast, good detail of the sun’s rays, Johan .

  58. Gemma Costa 8 years ago

    oh my! This is wonderful

  59. I just LOVE B&W photography. You have some gems in your stream. WOW !

    • Author

      Me too Khrystiane! I am just getting into it though. Only started with it a few months ago and getting the hang of it 🙂 Thanks so much for the compliment. Really appreciate it!

  60. Rikard Lindby 8 years ago

    One of the best b&w landscape photos I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing.

  61. Charles Lupica 8 years ago

    simply beautiful

  62. Hengki Koentjoro 8 years ago

    Wonderful Layers

  63. Alpana Chauhan 8 years ago


  64. Cédric Leblond 8 years ago

    The light filtered by the clouds.. all these layers are simply marvelous! Again a great B&W editing, love it !

    • Author

      Thanks for the compliment Cédric. Glad you like it. I just recently started to publish some of my B&W stuff so I’m really glad to get good feedback 🙂

  65. Radek Vik 8 years ago

    Oh this is great Johan. How could I miss it? Absolutely gorgeous image. well done!

    • Author

      I’m not sure how Radek, but glad you found it now and that you like it!

  66. Dion V 8 years ago

    I would have missed the boat if you had not mentioned it in the description. Keeping it in to show scale was a good choice. Beautiful shot. Thanks for sharing.

    • Author

      It is definitely going to stay in Dion . I love that small boat 🙂 Thanks for the compliment!

  67. Layla Kuyper 8 years ago

    This is absolutely fantastic.. incredible image Johan.

  68. Laura Riediker 8 years ago

    I love this best!:) <3

    • Author

      thank you. When’s is that next photo walk?

      • Laura Riediker 8 years ago

        I like to do two now. One on march in solothurn. And one after that in zürich.:)
        All details in a few days. 😉

  69. Trey Ratcliff 8 years ago

    Johan your photos are always so interesting… btw… I have you in a “secret elite” photographers circle !!

    • Author

      Very glad to hear that you find my work interesting Trey!! And that sounds like a great circle to be in 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  70. Markus Brungs 7 years ago

    Top notch work pal, much appreciated all your effort here.

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