I made my first steps in photography watching the world around me through a Kodak Tri-X: I always loved the pictures in black and white. It is a timeless photography that always characterized the history of our time. Sublime stories have been told through its dreamy side and raw reportages has been shown with its unique way of being dramatic and intense, stripped of the carnality of color.
If we think of an “emotional” way of photographing I think almost all of us will imagine some famous image in black and white, but I don’t think that this is just the result of the cultural factor related to the history and literature of reportage photography. When looking at a picture in black and white the observer can be pushed, more or less voluntarily, to transfer an emotion in it, to actively participate in the vision of the reality interpreted by the photographer.
In nature and wildlife photography, where the human element in the vast majority of cases is not present – and therefore the process of identification is more difficult – this step assumes, in my opinion, even greater loads.
To remove the color in a black and white photo that “works”, it means to remove a distraction that interferes with the viewer’s ability to see shades, textures and contrasts. The composition becomes the key to guide the eye through the image using lines, shapes, shadows and get straight to the point about what you want to convey or highlight.
I take as an example my own photo “Eye-light”, awarded in the 52th edition of Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
The subject is a stunning lesser blue-eared glossy-starling, as the name implies, it’s a bird with beautiful colors. In this image, however, I didn’t want to highlight its magnificent plumage, but its hypnotic eye, of the same color of the sun reflecting on the water in the background. In this case a classic color image, like so many others, It would not work or would not be as interesting: the color of the feathers would have been distracting, too prominent than the element I wanted to highlight instead. Hence the choice of black and white becomes almost an imposition, both from the purely functional point of view of the image and the emotional charge given by the atmosphere of a beautiful sunset over the lake.
This leads to another thought: for a monochrome image to work it’s important to know where you want to arrive since the beginning; composing the shot keeping in mind that will be other elements, and not the colors, to lead the viewer’s eye to the center of interest of the image.
We must “think in black and white”, like the photographer Berengo Gardin said, “to look better.” In my experience I can say this more minimal and restrictive approach, that is to build a picture just by looking at its main components, not only led me to improve production in black and white, but it taught me to photograph better in general.
My Youtube channel (in italian) dedicated to nature and wildlife photography in blabk and white.
Follow me in my adventures, I’ll share with you my experiences, techniques and incredible places.
The Arctic region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The impact of rising temperatures and changing weather patterns is already affecting the musk oxen populations of the north.
It would be a disaster for the whole Arctic ecosystem if it were to lose a species that is stomping across the tundra for millennia.