Black-and-White

Being a wildlife and outdoor photographer, I go out of my way to capture the wonderful colours nature displays. There are times though when there is so much colour that it is somewhat blinding and distracting. So every now and then it is interesting to stop and look at some of your images through digital monochrome filters, in this case, black-and-white. There are a number of features about the black-and-white treatment which are worth noting:

  • It is a medium that adapts really well to all lighting situations. Whereas colour photography often works best on sunny days or in brightly lit studios – low light just makes a black-and-white image moody.
  • Colours can be distracting in some images and can take the focus away from your subject. Creating a monochrome image lets you focus on form, texture, shape and composition.
  • Black-and-white can emphasise the subtlety of tones in the image. In a world which boasts millions of colours in a TV or monitor image. Black and white offer a similar variety but in a tonal sense.
  • The creative process in producing black-and-white images can be artistic. It’s like molding clay – you can shape it into a myriad of shapes. Black and White images can be strong, high contrast and powerful – or they can be so soft, gentle and subtle.
  • Black-and-white adds a timeless, fine-art appeal to an image. It allows us to look at our subjects more deeply, expanding the possibilities of our photography.
  • Black-and-white is timeless,  as it deconstructs a scene and reduces it to its forms and tones. Distracting colours are recast as subtle shades of gray that add to a composition—at least if the image has what it takes to be rendered in black-and-white.
  • Good black-and-white images that have broad tonal ranges and deep, rich blacks.
  • A colour photographer often will rely on contrasting colours to create separation between elements within a frame. With black-and-white, you do not have that luxury. Instead, by considering contrasting light, simplistic negative spaces, textures, lines and shapes. Such rigorous concentration helps to expand our understanding of what we’re shooting and what we’re seeing.

“One very important difference between colour and monochromatic photography is this: in black and white you suggest; in colour you state. Much can be implied by suggestion, but statement demands certainty… absolute certainty.”

– Paul Outerbridge

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“Inspiration lights the spark of creativity. Together, if well integrated, they result in a personal vision for our work. In turn, personal style allows us to express our vision in a unique manner.”

– Alain Briot

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Large male Lion along the Mkuze river - cropped B&W

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“It is light that reveals, light that obscures, light that communicates. It is light I “listen” to. The light late in the day has a distinct quality, as it fades toward the darkness of evening. After sunset there is a gentle leaving of the light, the air begins to still, and a quiet descends. I see magic in the quiet light of dusk. I feel quiet, yet intense energy in the natural elements of our habitat. A sense of magic prevails. A sense of mystery. It is a time for contemplation, for listening – a time for making photographs.”

– John Sexton

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Thirsty family of Elephants drinking from the Chobe River.

Above Elephant Valley these Elephants waited patiently to get a drink. There was a lot of dust because of so many Elephant at the river's edge.

“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.”
― Henri Cartier-Bresson

Having cooled down in the Chobe River, this Elephant proceeded to dust himself down. The late afternoon light caught the dust coming out of the trunk and the black and white filter emphasised this.

This Buffalo did not look impressed with us passing by. The composition lent itself to a black and white treatment.

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“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”

– Dorothea Lange

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Mock fighting

“What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.”

– John Berger

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“Above all, life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference”
― Robert Frank

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“You have to get away from relying only on the subject. Light is the imagination’s main tool. It is something you work with in defining anything you want to, whether subject or landscape.”

– David Muench

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“It’s often about the simple things, isn’t it? Painting and photography are first about seeing, they say. Writing is about observing. Technique is secondary. Sometimes the simple is the most difficult.”

― Linda Olsson

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 I hope you have enjoyed the different feel and perspective this black and white treatment gives the images. We are immersed in a world of great depth and subtlety.

“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”

– Ernst Haas

Seek to understand nature, marvel at its interconnectedness and then let it be.

Have fun

Mike

One thought on “Black-and-White

  1. Brilliant Mike. I have transferred some of my images from Mashatu into black and white and love the results. I wonder why we all went mad over colour when it first came in years ago!

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