Black and White Nature Photography

Updated: Mar 7

At the end of last year, I was thinking about what I’d like to do more of this year, and one big one was to produce more black and white nature photography – both wildlife and landscapes.


I’ve been enjoying learning more about the nature of black and white photography; what works, what doesn’t, and how to identify situations where black and white will work better than colour. It’s an ongoing process, but I thought I’d share a few of my favourites here.

PHOTOS

a puffin, side-on in black and white
Puffin on White

This giraffe photo is one I’d wanted to get for a while, so it was great to go out and encounter the right conditions to get it.

giraffe head against a white background, in black and white

This is another image where the colour was just a distraction from the simple shapes of the composition, so converting to black and white simplifies to to get back to basics. The dark vignette is also more effective in black and white.

A british red squirrel, feeding in woodland
Woodland Red Squirrel

I wanted this portrait of a female macaque to resemble slightly, a Victorian portrait of a well-to-do lady. I’m sure to many this is ridiculous, but that was the inspiration, and I think it works nicely, making the most of the black and white format.

Portrait of a Barbary Macaque in Black and white.
Barbary Macaque Portrait

For many, hares instantly conjure images of dark and creepy situations, so using black and white here was an obvious choice.

A brown hare, filling the frame, in black and white
Brown Hare Close-Up

You would think that red squirrels are best suited to colour photos – as that’s their most distinctive feature. But again here, I think that converting to black and white creates a more simple, graphic image, and the dark background helps is accentuated in monochrome, to bring the subject seemingly closer.

Red Squirrel looks up from drinking
Red Squirrel - The Look

During the spring, I spent a lot of time at the woods, and this woodland scene was my favourite black and white image of the series.

Woodland Sunset (B&W)
Woodland Sunset (B&W)

When I took this photo, I was anticipating using the colour version, but when I looked at it on the computer back home, the colour wasn’t really adding anything to the image, so I converted to b&w. I much prefer it this way, and it’s another stark, graphic image.

Raven & Dead Trees
Raven & Dead Trees

This female brown bear was another one which looked nice enough in colour, but converting to black and white allows more contrast, and a more noticeable side-lighting, which in turn helps it to imply three dimensions.

Brown Bear in Black & White
Brown Bear in Black & White

Lastly, this huge beast of a red deer stag, which I managed to get reasonably close to at Woburn, was calling in the shade of a tree. I over-exposed the background for this deer-on-white look, and to get the eye-contact too, makes it a really compelling image. I’m really pleased with this one.

A roaring red deer, in high-key black and white.
Red Deer Roar

Summary

Shooting in black and white is certainly a skill in its own right, on top of the many other aspects of photography, and it’s one I’m enjoying learning. Hopefully, it’s something I can continue to improve at.

I have a gallery of black and white nature photography here, which is growing all the time.


George


 

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Red Deer Roaring, photographed in black and white

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