Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Africa in Black & White

I was looking through some older images when I found a folder where, a while ago, I was playing around with converting some of my wildlife images to black & white. I did not sit for hours with different filters but did a pretty straight forward change in Photoshop.

I have not set my camera to capture images in black & white yet, but I reckon you can make very striking images by doing so. If you look at some of the landscapes that Ans
el Adams captured all those years ago you can see what is possible if you work with his zone system. Click here to see some of his iconic images.

The following description of the zone system was taken from The Luminous Landscape - "The zone system begins with a zone chart. Zone 1 is pure black; zone 9 is pure white; zone 5 can be described subjectively as middle gray. On paper, zone 5 corresponds to a reflectance of 18%. In a scene — in the field — each zone represents a doubling or halving of the luminance — the light reflected from the subject — or equivalently, a difference of one f-stop." Click here to read the complete informative article.

Must be honest, I have not really looked at my wildlife images like that but it is definitely something I would like to keep in mind when I return to Madikwe later this month. Even if you don't shoot black & white directly in camera I think it is an interesting exercise to change some of your images to black & white after the shoot to see how the different colors in an image would translate to shades of gray.

With some of the images I am faced with out in the field, especially in winter, it is sometimes difficult to see how the many shades of grays, yellows and brown would translate into shades of gray and how they would influence your final exposure throughout the enti
re image.

Just a thought... :)

Anyway, t
o end of with here are a few of my older black & white images.

Young Hyena - I love the way the light catches his ears and highlights one side of the face.

Tlou Dam in Madikwe - I have not done a lot of landscapes in b&w but was quite pleased with the above image. Kind of messy but still moody at the same time. Plan to look into landscapes a bit more in future.

Wild Dog - This guy stopped to look at us as the rest of the pack kept on fighting with the new Wild Dog pack that was going to be released into Madikwe. Perfect example of how many colors translate into gray scale.

Buffalo Stampede - This herd of about 100 buffalo was drinking at the lodge waterhole when something spooked them. They took off in all directions. Of all the images I got of the actual stampede I liked this one the most. Again, pure black to (almost) pure white. Difficult one to meter and included a bit of luck as well - as many wildlife images do.

Ditaba - This is Ditaba, one of the largest and most dominant male lions in the Madikwe Game Reserve. You might have seen some of his images in previous posts. On this particular day he was not interested in posing at all as he was stuffed from a wildebeest kill earlier that day! Still gave us good opportunity to play with composition.

Lion King - This image was taken in the Kruger National Park and is still one of my own favorites. Not cropped, it was shot as is. I felt that the black & white gave it some kind of intensity which echoes the nature of the beast.

Would love to see your comments on these images and on black & white wildlife and nature photography in general. If you have any interesting black & white wildlife photography links I would love to add them to this post as well!

As always I look forward to hearing from you!



Stacy said...

Wow...your work is very good. I love the contrast of the b/w conversions. Thanks for the comment on my blog. I am a confessed W.E. addict and it shows lol. Where in SA are you?

SAPhotographs said...

I am not a lover of black and white for animal photographs although if you do landscapes and plants, you can come up with some wonderful images. I like the tree with the reflection and the lioness came out quite well too.

Andy said...

Gerry, good stuff! I think some tweaking with the blending of different color filters would work even better, with some minor dodging and burning plus slight vignetting around the edges to draw the eyes in.

For The People said...

Those are excellent shots! I love the whole site!

Mike - Fenphotography said...

Great post Gerry, Black & white is something I don't do much of I love the use of it but can never make my mind up on my own shots wheather it looks good or not, something I think I will try on my next post, although I'm not into messing with the original image too much like andys comment.