In many articles I write for the National Parks Traveler, I stress a couple of things for capturing a great image: look for texture and look for color(s). This telephoto shot of a bison seen between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park is an example of both color and texture. Take a look at the thick, wooly textures of the bison. And take a look at the differing shades of red-brown. When you look at a bison from a distance, you don’t necessarily see all those color gradations within its furry coat. And you know that the bison has a thick, wooly coat for the winter, but when you look at a close-up, you see the fine differences in texture, from what looks like soft undergrowth to much coarser wooliness. Even the bison horn has a certain amount of textural and color differences.
I captured this image at a turnout on the way to the Lamar Valley, testing out my previously-underused 200-600mm lens on the Sony A1. While not a prime lens, it’s a pretty decent lens for getting close to the subject.
To me, wildlife photography was made for black-and-white photography. Or maybe it’s vice versa: black-and-white photography was made for wildlife. Yes, I love seeing wildlife and its environment in all the wonderful original colors of that environment, but you can’t disagree that reactions and drama aren’t ratcheted up a notch when a color image of wildlife is converted to black-and-white.
Take the bison in the snow, for instance. The day itself looked a little on the monochrome side, with the predominant colors being the brown-red coats of the bison herd on a snow-carpeted hillside. When converted to monochrome, textures, patterns, and the differences between light and dark really stand out in the absence of color.
The shading of this beautiful lone coyote goes hand-in-hand with the lights, darks, and shadows in between when converted to black-and-white.
And the trumpeter swan below is a part of the icy image – rather than separate from its environment – when converted to monochrome.
My father – from whom I inherited a love of photography – only shot in black-and-white with his Mamiya twin lens film camera, scores of decades ago. He’d return from a day out hiking in Glacier National Park and go down to his basement darkroom to process the day’s shots.
Speaking of getting a monochrome image, IMO, it’s always best to go ahead and get the color version as your original, then make a copy and turn that copy into monochrome once you have returned to your computer. That way, you’ll always have the color shot in addition to the monochrome image. Sure, most cameras have in-camera settings to use for solely capturing black-and-white, but then you won’t have any original color shots unless you waste the time to change the menu setting from monochrome back to color. It’s a hassle, especially if you only have minutes before that elusive wildlife disappears or moves to a less-than-desirable background.
The next time you are out with your camera photographing the wildlife and birdlife, go ahead and get that shot in color, but when you return to your computer, make a copy of that shot and convert it to black-and-white and look at the differences.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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Back in 2017, I had the privilege of photographing up close and personal a release of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings as they “swam” across the sandy beach of Padre Island National Seashore and into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to begin their life.
I also had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Donna Shaver, the expert in her field, and the head (at least, back then) of this national seashore’s sea turtle rescue program. Dr. Shaver has put her heart, soul, and smarts into the program to make it world-renown.
I find the article published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler very troubling. Like other aspects of life, nowadays, it would seem the non-experts are trying to force out the actual expert. I’m not the least bit impressed with the National Park Service’s superintendent for this national seashore and it makes me sad, angry, and disappointed over the muzzling of Dr. Shaver to keep her from doing the work which has made that program what it is.
To read the article, click on the image above.
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