Sepia Tone in the Old West – Excerpts from a Photo Shoot

It seems to me that whenever I come across photo opportunities that are of the old west, my mind immediately thinks “What would this look like in a sepia tone?” The sepia tone gives photography an old rustic look since it dates back to the 1880’s and is a familiar sight from photography taken in the old west. Living in the Phoenix area, there are plenty of opportunities to capture shots from that time period. A couple of weeks ago, we had family visiting and decided we wanted to go up to Tortilla Flats for lunch. None of us had been out there in a number of years and thought it would be fun. For those of you that are wondering what Tortilla Flats is, it is a replica of an old west town (and I use the term loosely) that houses a restaurant,  saloon, ice cream parlor, gift shop and small museum. Tourist attraction, you say…absolutely but based on actual history. It was a stagecoach stop and originated as a camping ground for prospectors searching for gold in the surrounding Superstition Mountains. Needless to say, there are numerous “Old West” photo opportunities. I wanted to share a couple of shots that I took that day and walk you through my “sepia” process to create that old rustic look to the photos.

Both shots actually look good in color, but for someone who wants an art print of the rustic old west, they typically are looking for the sepia tone as they decorate a room around that warm earth tone.

Old West Mine 1

Old West Mine 1

The first shot is of a fake gold mine; the “Lost Dutchman Gold Mine” which is rumored to be loaded with a cache of gold somewhere in the Superstition Mountains. This setting is part of the “ambience” of Tortilla Flats and created a great photo opportunity.

In this second shot, I converted the photograph to a sepia tone using Photoshop. The look now takes on an age by using this color.

The last shot shows the sepia tone, but with a light filter darkening the edges, creating a focal point, depth, and drama completing the look I am going for.

Old West Window 1

Old West Window 1

This next shot is of an old wooden window partially boarded up (again… ambience for the setting) and a great photograph. I like the color in this shot as it pulls the wood grains out, but for purposes of an art print portraying the look of this era, I convert to sepia, which is the next shot.

And then doing the same lighting treatment as in the first series, I finish up with an art print that has a touch more drama to complete the look I was going for.


Please visit my main gallery: TheWallGallery (All domestic orders over $60.00 – free shipping!)

Follow my work:

Facebook: TheWallGallery by Kirt Tisdale. (Page likes are always appreciated!)

Google+: TheWallGallery

Twitter: KirtWallGallery

Instagram: Kirttisdale

Tsu: KirtWallGallery




37 thoughts on “Sepia Tone in the Old West – Excerpts from a Photo Shoot

  1. joypatzner

    Kirt, I actually like the mine in the colors that you first took them. The rest are very nice but the mine I like the original. Great photography and I am envious of the places you are able to go in your state to get great photos! 🙂

    1. Kirt D Tisdale Post author

      Thanks Joy, I appreciate your feedback!! There are a lot of opportunities here in Arizona and it is such a diverse state with so many different topographies and climates! I do miss my old stomping grounds in San Diego from time to time!!

  2. teagan geneviene

    Hi Kirt. Those are such fun pics! I like them in color just as much as the sepia. Actually… this time i think i like the color best. The colors are subtle, and don’t take away from the rustic look. Plus they add a little dimension. Great post. Hugs. 😀

    1. Kirt D Tisdale Post author

      I appreciate your feedback….the color shots do have a different element than the sepia tones! Thanks again! (My finger hit send before I was done typing on my last comment back to you😜)

    1. Kirt D Tisdale Post author

      Thanks Sue! Old west funky is the best way to describe it! A tradition started years ago at the restaurant where patrons pinned dollar bills to the walls …..needless to say the place is covered in dollar bills!

  3. ~Michelle Cook

    The light filter definitely gives the photos a more eerie appearance. I’m not much of a photographer, but to me, all of these look great! I love visiting historical places like these. It’s funny though, when you live near a place like this, I think most people find that they rarely go and visit. It’s only after you move away that you think about those places more often.

    1. Kirt D Tisdale Post author

      Thank you and it’s so true about living close to something and not going to it….we lived in San Diego for 24 years….just over three miles to the ocean and did we ever go to the beach…..hardly ever!

      1. ~Michelle Cook

        My husband and I met each other when we were in the Army and so we had to decide to go to his state or mine. Wisconsin won the vote. Now that he is getting ready to retire, we will probably head west again.

      2. Kirt D Tisdale Post author

        Retirement is how we ended up in Phoenix….real estate is so pricey in so cal and we wanted a house that was paid off. My wife and I grew up in Cedar Rapids and have friends in Wisconsin…. Beautiful state!!

      3. ~Michelle Cook

        Wow! Small world! We are aiming for Utah, Arizona, or Nevada for retirement. This summer we are going to be traveling for three weeks and hope to find a small town that we fall in love with.

  4. jjspina

    Hi Kurt, I always go with color myself but I do like what you did with the sepia too! Nice touch to bring out the age of the place more. How hot is it now in Arizona? Here in New Hampshire we are having 70’s & 80’s – usually is in the 60’s at this time of year. But we take it with pleasure because it will change to cooler again soon!

    1. Kirt D Tisdale Post author

      Thank you for your feedback! I appreciate your comments! We got to 100 last Friday….then ended up with thunderstorms Sunday night and Monday. It’s in the mid 80’s now! The 100 degree day is plenty early…80 and 90 more typical of this part of May. Thanks

  5. Teagan R. Geneviene

    Hi Kirt. Thanks for recommending your sepia prints. After spotting the “keep out” print in your gallery I came here to find the post, because I knew you’d give some lovely details about the location.
    I’m now looking at this post through the lens of my book-to-be and seeing more and more. My “location” had been generic desert. Since it would be a parallel world, I at first didn’t think to be more specific… Now I’m wondering if a parallel version resembling the Superstition Mountains might be just the thing… This post is great inspiration. If I ever own a home again, my walls will host many of your prints. Have a thriving Thursday.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s