Recently we’ve we visited the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum. Always an inspiration, the exhibition never fails to make me want to grab my camera and head out into the wilds. There were some very spectacular shots this year. Those from the young photographers particularly impressed me.
Of all the submissions, of particular interest to me were the black and white images that had been submitted and exhibited. Black and white wildlife photography is a subject close to my heart. In October 2009 I created a black and white book about Kenya’s wildlife called “Kenya – Memories of the Maasai Mara.” It’s a monochrome view of the Maasai Mara, telling the stories of the wildlife that inhabit this great plain, through good times and bad. The creation of my black and white photobook was inspired by the images of Alain Pons and Phillippe Huet in “Impressions of Africa.”
I found that by transforming full colour wildlife images into black and white, the eye is forced to reassess its expectations of wildlife photography and can be forced to notice patterns, textures and expressions often overlooked in full colour images. In particular, I find that black and white can add ‘mood’ and atmosphere to an image. It can also bring to life images that you might discard for reasons of sharpness or noise. I find black and white imagery can be more forgiving for the amateur photographer, more atmospheric and more dramatic.
For wildlife shots, I’ve experimented with different black and white applications through Bibble5, trialling different applications of luminance and applying red tints / curves to a black and white plug in to create sepia shots. I also like to add different ‘look profiles’, favouring ‘wedding’ for wildlife profile shots and ‘product’ settings for capturing wildlife in their environment.
For landscape shots I have trialled different print stock with black and white plug ins, finding Kodak Kodalith a difficult setting to apply, but when you get it right it can add drama and atmosphere to extreme landscapes like Arctic and Antarctic landscapes.
We’ve recently added black and white wildlife shots to the end of our Kenya Gallery, available online now. This allows for the visitor to compare colour and monochrome versions of the same image(s). We hope you like them and learn from them. Please do let us know what you think.