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.