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3 tips from experts on making better black and white photography
John dee holeman

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Photography African Black And White.

Shoot RAW + JPEG. The best monochrome conversions are made by editing raw files which have the full colour information, but if you shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome picture Style/Picture Control/Film Simulation mode you get an indication of how the image will look in black and white. As many photographers struggle to visualise a scene in black and white, these monochrome modes are an invaluable tool that will help with composition and scene assessment. many cameras are also capable of producing decent in-camera monochrome images these days and it’s worth experimenting with image parameters (usually contrast, sharpness, filter effects and toning) to find a look that you like. Because compact avenue cameras and compact cameras show the scene seen by the sensor with camera settings applied, users of these cameras are able to preview the monochrome image in the electronic viewfinder or on rear screen before taking the shot. DSLR users can also do this if they activate his camera’s live image characteristic , but the usually slower responses mean that many will find it preferable or check the image on the screen post-capture.

Use Filters. Graduated neutral density (AKA ND grad) and polarizing filters are just as advantageous in monochrome photography as they are in colour. In fact, because they manipulate image contrast they are arguably more useful . An ND grad is supportive when you want to retain detail in a bright sky while a polarizing filter should be used to decrease reflections and boost contrast. Alternatively, look on taking two or more shots with diverse exposures to create a high dynamic range (HDR) composite. Don’t be anxious to use a ND grad with a standard neural density filter if the sky is brighter than the foreground in a long exposure shot. Coloured filters, which are an essential tool for monochrome film photographers, could also be useful for manipulating contrast in digital images. They work by darkening objects of her opposite colour while lightening objects of their own. An orange filter, for example, will darken the blue of the sky while a green single will lighten foliage.

Dodge and Burn. Dodging and burning is a process that comes from the traditional darkroom and is usually used to burn in or darken highlights and hold back (brighten) shadows. Photoshop’s Dodge and Burn tools allow a level of control that film photographers can only dream of because you should target the highlights, shadows or mid-tones with both. This means that you may use the Burn tool to darken highlights when they are too bright, or the Dodge tool to brighten them to increase local contrast. It’s a great procedure of giving a sense of greater sharpness and enhancing texture. Plus, because you could set the opacity of the tools, you can build up his effect gradually so the impact is subtle and there are no hard edges.

Look for Contrast, Shape and Texture. The complimentary and opposing colours that bring a colour image to life are all decreased to black and white or shades of grey in a monochrome image and you have to look for tonal contrast to make a shot stand out. In colour photography, for example, your eye would at once be drawn to a red object on a green background, but in monochrome photography these two areas are likely to have the same brightness, so the image looks flat and dowdy straight from the camera. fortunately , it’s possible to work adjust the brightness of these two colours singly to introduce some contrast. However, a great starting point is to look for scenes with tonal contrast. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule look for scenes that contain some forceful blacks and whites. This can be achieved by the light or by the brightness (or tone) of the objects in the scene as well as the exposure settings that you use. The brightness of the bark of a silver birch tree for example, should inject some contrast (and interest) in to a woodland scene. Setting the exposure for these brighter areas also makes the shadows darker, so the highlights stand out even more. Look for shapes, patterns and textures in a scene and move around to find the greatest composition.

Take Control. Although coloured filters could still be used to manipulate contrast when shooting digital black and white images, it’s more common to save this work until the processing stage. Until a a couple years ago Photoshop’s Channel Mixer was the preferred means of turning colour images monochrome, but now Adobe Camera Raw has more powerful tools (in the HSL/Grayscale tab) that allow you to adjust the brightness of eight individual colours that make up the image. It’s possible to adjust single of these colours to make it anything from white to black with the sliding control. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the whole image when adjusting a particular colour as crafty gradations could become unnatural looking. And adjusting the brightness of a red or pinkish shirt with the red sliding control, for instance , will have an impact on the model’s skin, especially the lips. The Levels and Curves controls should also be used to manipulate tonal range and contrast, but the HSL/Grayscale controls allow you to create segregation between objects of the same brightness but with varied colours.

Try Long Exposure. Long exposure shots can work really well in monochrome photography, especially where there’s moving water or clouds. During the exposure the highlights of the water, for example, are recorded across a wider area than they would with a short exposure and this can help enhance tonal contrast. The blurring of the movement also adds textural contrast with any solid objects in the frame. If required , use a neutral density filter such as Lee Filters’ Big Stopper or Little Stopper to decrease exposure and extend shutter speed (by 10 and 4 stops respectively). typically , when exposures extend beyond regarding 1/60 sec a tripod is wanted to keep the camera still and avoid blurring. It’s also advisable to use a remote release and mirror lock-up to minimise vibration and produce super-sharp images.

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Cheetah in Samara Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa Photo Credit: Jean Goldston

Then its a matter of waiting for that magical moment to happen. 

This behaviour leads to very intense battles sometimes to the death. 

This majestic animal once was the bane of a forefathers who lived on this land. They created kraals around there dwellings to keep there families and livestock safe .

Soon a big herd of elephants arrive within 20 meters of the hide. At my disposal isa 600mm telephoto lens. With this dilemma of too much lens .I decided to concentrate on getting close up shots of the elephants, the tusk, the eye, tail ,and this “Big foot”. 

I love the simplicity of this image, it allows you to look directly at the Giraffe, no distractions, long eyelashes, the alert ears. The curiosity as two species stares at one another.

When you are alone and in the presence of a Kalahari black mane lion, a primeval fear takes a hold of you. Even though you tell yourself “you’r safe” you can not totally shake this feeling. It’s there lodged in the back of your mind.

It was so hard to describe the excitement tinged with fear as the magnificent African predator walks towards with you.

Zebras have keen sense of smell and hearing and they are strong runners too. They are the favorite prey of lions. 

Thirsty trudge. Wildebeest searching for water in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, South Africa Photo Credit: John Mullineux:

Mapungubwe game reserve. 6am ,Its very cold. The day has not started well.I am sitting at a hide hoping to get images of Mapungubwes elusive wildlife.  I have forgottenmy flask of coffee and then a sudden realization that I also forgotten my short lens. To say I was a little irritated would be an understatement. 

Younger Bull Elephants will leave the herd as they approach adulthood. They often join with other young bulls. This band of young elephants will learn vital interactions preparing them for adulthood. 

The leap of faith Photo Credit: Karthik Bangalore Thirumala Raju

A herd elephants standing together Photo Credit: Chase Wells

Salvadora is the name I have given this magnificent Lion, His scared face shows the battles and turmoil in the life of a pride male lion has to keep his family and territory safe from rivals.

Elephants deserve to keep their tusks Photo Credit: Gurveer Sira

Female rhino with baby rhino making a stop for drinking Sabi Sand. Aren’t they wonderful? Photo Credit: Johannes Ratemann

There is nothing more satisfying than photographing a big Kalahari Black mane Lion and his coalition male partner walking straight towards you. 

Trekking a Kalahari Black-maned Lion in his prime across the grass veld of Namibia is a memorable Wildlife experience.

There is something reaffirming when on observing the behaviour of Elephants. These Elephants are protecting their young against a perceived threat. It is so easy to attach human emotions to their behaviour but to be honest we as a race could probably be learn and benefit from the tolerance and respect that show to each other.

An Etosha Black-maned Lion walks towards a waterhole. I use a long lens to compose this wildlife photo as the lion walks towards me. I can’t help but notice the disheveled look to his mane and his scared face. He is in his prime and he rules this territory.

Cape Buffalo is a subspecies of African Buffalo are extremely dangerous animals, they have been nicknamed, “Black Death” They have killed more “Big Game Hunters” than any other animals. Both male and female have horns and grow up to 4 feet in width, the middle of the horn is called the “Boss’. They can grow up to 6 feet in height and 1,500lbs.

A scarred and half blind male lion looks for rest after feasting on a cape buffalo the night before Photo Credit: Gabriel Clark

This African safari photo was taken in a private SouthAfrican game reserve. This Tawny lion had noticed some white lions passing through his territories. H immediately set after the pride of lions. He caught up with the lions and taught them a lesson and chased them off. One tough Tawny Lion against 4 white lions. This black and white lion photograph will make a wonderful wildlife print for your wall space at home. 

Photo of a young male lion taken in Kruger National Park Photo Credit: Uwe Firnhaber

This is one of my favorite wildlife prints of elephants. I love elephants, I think most people do. So I was a bit frustrated when after a week I could not find this herd. It was on my last day of safari when I came upon them. I was annoyed as I could see from a distance they were just leaving a waterhole. But it turned out to be a very serendipitous moment as they turned and walked in my direction, The waterhole was at higher vantage point than I was. Which meant I could bet this unique point of view. *

“I think I’m going to get a print of this for my room. Then the chimpanzee and I can dream together ” Gaynor Young

Kalahari lions are the biggest of lions in Africa. Every time when they get close to me and I take the camera from eye to look at these big cats I am in awe of there size and power they exude.

“I believe that if black-and-white photography is done correctly it can convey much more emotion and a deeper meaning than colour ever could. It’s as if by subtracting colour, the viewer is forced to add his own emotion to the images. Colour photography is like a novel that spells everything out in detail, whereas black-and-white photography is like poetry—its strength isn’t in what’s said; it’s in what’s left out.” – Heinrich van den Berg

Totti is name of this wanna be alpha male chimpanzee (Pan Pan). This male chimp came down from the canopy to the forest floor with one motive. Desire. A young female chimpanzee is above him in the canopy. Totti is doing his best to entice her away from other males. He poses and gestures and calls in every seductive way possible. But alas to no avail. His advances go un noticed. The female chimpanzee ignores him. Totti the wanna be alpha male chimpanzee. Lies back with hands behind his head and dreams of what could have been.

This is one my favorite monchrome fine art Giraffe prints. I sometimes struggle composition wise with giraffes. But on this particular day the Giraffes were wonderful models. Each Giraffe seem to have his or her own signature pose. A portrait photographer could not have wished for more. Needless to say I was so thankful. I had the easy job of clicking the shutter.

Feeling inspired to create black-and-white wildlife photography? Show us what you’ve got, by submitting your images on our website!

The stallion zebra will defend his family to the death. He leads from the front. If he thinks there is danger lurking he will stop and wait in front of his zebra herd. His family of Zebra will not move unless he does. 

One very playful Rhino looking for attention from the rest of the herd Photo Credit: Werner Kruse

A leopard resting in a tree in the Sabi Sands Photo Credit: Justus van Dillen:

Most afternoons this Old Black Rhino would amble towards his favorite watering hole. He never seemed perturbed by our presence. It is a wildlife photographers dream to have such a dangerous animal so close and relaxed in your presence. This allowed me to create this wonderful portrait as he kick ups dust to cover his midden after marking his territory. 

Heinrich’s description of wildlife photography in black-and-white accurately conveys the impact these images have on viewers. Submissions from Africa’s Photographer of the Year truly portray the impact these images can have on the viewer. Here are a few photographs from our talented photographers:

Tawny Lions colouring is slightly more yellow/tawny than other Southeast African lions. This could be due to the environs they live in, adapting to the heat and vegetation. The Kalahari Lions have darker manes and tend to be heavier in weight.

The first White Lions were found by a researcher in the Timbavati area of the Kruger National Park. 

The growing demand from the Asian market is the main threat to all rhino species. While the southern white rhino is not endangered because of successful conservation efforts, northern white rhinos are on the brink of extinction in the wild and it is possible that they may unfortunately already be extinct.

The Deadly Dance of Stallion Zebras as Fight over the Rights to Females

When you are a few meters from this killing machine and hispredatorily eyes lock with yours ,you will be chilled to the bone.

Elephants, probably could teach humans a thing a too about “family”

Is it a yawn or is it a roar? Photo Credit: Camille Boerderie

The sharp-end. A male lion giving a late afternoon yawn Photo Credit: Thinus Schoeman

Africa Tribal elders African elders regard them as “the most sacred animal on the African continent”

This is one of my best selling black & white fine art wildlife prints and thats all down to this wonderful giraffe family. Thank you..

A leopard eyeing out his prey Photo Credit: Arnfinn Johansen

A young baby elephant is surrounded and protected by the family at a waterhole, while the elephant family quench their thirst, the young elephant mimics their drinking by putting her trunk in water..

And when you get that stare that chills you to bone. You know you have captured the essence of this wonderful predator.

Black and White Fine Art Portrait of a Black-Maned Lion of the Kalahari

Dusty traveller. A herd of zebras trudge across the dusty plains of Ndutu Photo Credit: Zhayynn James

This was not by accident or a coincident but by observing and predicting behavior.

Cheetah in the early morning light – Sabi Sand Photo Credit: Johannes Ratemann

Mkanye staring straight on into the distance Photo Credit: Nicole Van Der Walt

Zebra stallions testing each other’s strength in a beuatiful but deadly dance  

Burchells Zebras or Plains Zebras number in there tens of thousands in Etosha National Park. They need to drink water at least twice a day. The zebras arrive in small family clusters at the same time. This gives them safety in numbers and chance for rivals to steal a daughter or two. 

As a wildlife photographer, there is nothing more rewarding than to be in the presence of such wild animal. Every time I photograph lions I am in awe of their size and the sense of foreboding I feel.  A true predator, no wonder lions are part of the big five.

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