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“I don’t want to call myself a professional wildlife photographer, because the term has expired. I don’t want to call myself a publisher, because I am a professional wildlife photographer. I don’t want to be only a photo trainer, or an app developer or a writer. I want to call myself an artist, but what qualifies one to become one? I don’t believe I am an artist yet, but one day perhaps I would be able to create something that I am proud enough of. In the meantime I just want to enjoy what I do” – Heinrich van den Berg
I don’t want Heinrich van den Berg’s quote to advocate that I am a professional photographer. I am not a professional in any shape or form, and I definitely don’t make apps either, I struggle to download them! It’s simply a quote from my favourite wildlife photographer that appeals to me. For me, the quote can be summed up as a ‘journey’. My personal journey relates to the experience and accumulation of pictures I have taken during my two years as an aspiring photographer. Photographs capture more than words, they recall the senses and emotions and bring back the flood of energy and excitement in that exact moment of time. I have this same feeling during the post-processing stage where I get to experiment with editing techniques. A photograph holds tremendous power, which is determined by the beholder, and it is this perspective of the viewer that holds the power.
My photographic journey was evident once scrolling through over 7000 photographs. I could see over time how my perspective has changed and in some ways how it has been rediscovered. One thing that is constant is my love of monochrome. Black and white not only uses texture and tone to tell a story but it has the power of changing the story which invites the viewer to experience the photos instead of just seeing it. For me, colour can be distracting, while black and white tonal contrasts allows you to focus on light, shadows and shapes which make it easier to focus on the subject. It infuses character and depth of field, which lures the viewer to the expression of the photo rather than just seeing the subject. Each image will be interpreted differently by its audience.
Below is a collection of images converted to black and white that I have had fun experimenting with – have a look and decide what each one means to you and whether you enjoy this style – each one offers something different from the use of white space to images that use grey to those that I have purposely made darker for effect. Scroll on to see part 1 of my photographic journal…
Tonal contrast of a buffalo bull, here I used the brush tool to overexpose and create space. ( Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/250 sec at 4.5f; ISO 200)
The Gowrie Male has a vantage point from a Marula Tree. Low light conditions work well in monochrome. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\640 at f5.6; ISO 1250)
A Yellow Billed Hornbill perched on a buffalo thorn. Depth of field highlights the subject. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm lens; 1/640 at f5.6, ISO 400)
Post processing can be a time consuming process, with a lot of trial and error. It look me a couple of times to get this image of the Styx Male to a point where I was pleased. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\640 at f5.6; ISO 500)
The Mashaba Female and a Marula tree. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\800 at f5; ISO 640)
A vulture scans its surrounds. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\2500 at f5.6; ISO 500)
High key elephant bull. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/250 sec at 4.5f; ISO 200)
One of the most incredible sightings I have had of a leopard in a tree. The Young Mashaba Female in her jungle gym. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/250 sec at 4.5f; ISO 200)
A pair of African Hawk-Eagles. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/1600 sec at 5.6f; ISO 100)
The sand helps make a soft image of the Styx Male. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\640 at f5.6; ISO 500)
Shades of Grey
I found a fixed 300mm lens tough to use in a environment where we get fairly close to animals. I played around with composition with the Styx Break away Pride. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\500 at f5.6; ISO 500)
I felt this view added some sort of juxtapositioning to the male cheetah on a prominent fallen down Marula tree. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/250 sec at 4.5f; ISO 200)
Natural black and white of a zebra skin. (7D + 70-200mm f2.8 lens; 1/800 at f4; ISO 250)
Elephants bring out beautiful texture. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1/640 at f5; ISO320)
Shapes, lines and texture are brought out by the tonal contrast.(Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/250 sec at 4.5f; ISO 200)
The Piva Male emerges from the dark. A long post process, using an under exposed brush tool. (Canon 600D + 70-200mm f4.0 lens; 1/640 at f5.0; ISO 200)
Highlighted and textured ivory. (Canon 7D + 70-200mm f2.8 lens; 1\500 at f5; ISO 640)
Hippo Yawn. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/500 sec at 5.6f; ISO 200)
Young male rhinos gently nudging one another. (Canon 600D + 70-200mm f4.0 lens; 1/250 at f4.0; ISO 1600)
I find photographing rhino extremely difficult. I tried underexposing in camera when there was harsh light on the rhino’s face. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/250 sec at 4.5f; ISO 200)
Experimenting with side lighting. (Canon 600D + 70-200mm f4.0 lens; 1/125 at f4.0; ISO 1600)
The Tutlwa Female on a granite bolder. There was a distracting background, I decided to try the brush tool and underexpose. I found this highlighted her unusual body posture. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/320 sec at 5f; ISO 400)
A Portrait of a male Majingilane. (Canon 600D + 55-250mm, 1/600 sec at 4.5f; ISO 200)
One small step for the Piva Male… Maybe too much? There are shapes and lines in this image that I find difficult to capture in wildlife photography. (Canon 600D + 70-200mm f4.0 lens; 1/320 at f4.0; ISO 200)
Half a portrait of the Mashaba female. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\640 at f5.6; ISO 500)
The Tutlwa female stalking in short grass. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\800 at f3.5; ISO 1250)
Black and white of a male cheetah in dappled light. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\640 at f5.6; ISO 500)
Monochrome of one of the Sparta young males in morning light. (Nikon D4 + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1\640 at f5.6; ISO 500)
Nanga the protector and the instinctively curious one. (Canon 600D + 70-200mm f4.0 lens; 1/320 at f4.0; ISO 200)
My first sighting of one of the Fourways coalition peeping over red grass and interested in a herd of buffalo. (Canon 600D + 70-200mm f4.0 lens; 1/320 at f5.6; ISO 1000)
Guinea fowl feathers are well highlighted in black and white. (Canon 600D + 70-200mm f4.0 lens; 1/600 at f4.0; ISO 400)
On the on the complete opposite end of the subjective scale, are my photos too far from reality? What would they look like in colour? Is black and white dated or timeless? Let me know what your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to know.
Don defines the quintessential success story in guide development. Having limited experience in the bush or photography when starting at Londolozi, his years here have been a meteoric rise to prominence, and his understanding of the bush and wildlife around him as well ...