Mono? Tricky Challenge

I always shoot my nature photography in colour.  Well why wouldn’t you?  Colour is what nature is all about.  For sure there are some stunningly beautiful butterflies and birds that are black and white but the habitat adds that splash of colour.  So when Lisa launched her latest challenge  https://oureyesopen.blog/2021/03/19/bird-weekly-photo-challenge-birds-in-black-white-or-sepia/  it got me scratching the old noggin.  Any files I choose would have to be converted to monochrome and re-processed, what would work best?  I think I hit upon a formula.

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Juvenile Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

If I was to pick a bird that wasn’t very colourful to start with, add in a neutral background it might work.  I started with this gull image and was astounded how beautiful it looked.  It’s actually better than the colour version!

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Male Ruff (Calidris pugnax) non breeding plumage

If I was to pick a dull, dreary day perhaps mono could give those rubbish shots a lift?  I remembered a trip to Titchwell RSPB reserve when it was like that, so applied the treatment to a few images.  In breeding plumage this Ruff cries out to be photographed in colour but on a murky brown lagoon on a misty day?

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Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

And a black and white wader from the same trip, an Avocet.  To be fair this image is not too far removed from the original!

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Female Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

My last offering is perhaps my favourite bird image.  It was shot against a bright blue sky in winter.

Thanks for the tricky challenge Lisa.  I have been looking at these shots and realising there is potential for even more mono, I actually really like them.  Would I go out and photograph purely in mono?  Probably not, but with the software in post processing to convert them you can have the best of both worlds and even give so-so shots a big boost!

Check out Lisa’s challenge and why not join in?  https://oureyesopen.blog/2021/03/19/bird-weekly-photo-challenge-birds-in-black-white-or-sepia/

38 thoughts on “Mono? Tricky Challenge

  1. Brian, you’ve hit upon a very nice formula with perfect subjects. Absolutely the right thing to do! Avocet (No.3) is my outright favourite – live the contrast, reflection, poise… perfect. Shooting in black and white takes away a lot of possibilities for your final edit and so, shooting in colour gives you the option to adjust the colour bands in monochrome to further adjust contrast with opposing colours, tone and shade. Well done indeed! Like the stonechat shot very much too, by the way! 🙏📷

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    1. If there’s one person who knows a thing or two about b&w photography you’re the man Rob. I enjoyed re-processing these files and playing around with contrasts by trying different combos of colour bands. I’ve used mono for effect on landscapes and buildings never for wildlife. Thanks for the tip in shooting in colour and then converting, I suppose it makes sense I should have realised you lose the option to change contrasts.

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  2. Fabulous contrast in your black and whites. I always shoot in color and post process in mono when I need to. It is easier to take out the color than to try to put color into one that is black and white. I’m glad you stepped into a new realm. Selective Color will be coming up in a couple of months. I will do another mono later in the year. It is popular and gets the creative juices going. I love your choices this week! 🙂

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    1. Excellent challenge Lisa, certainly had fun doing these files! As Rob said above shooting in colour then converting gives you the full options to adjust contrasts, keeps you amused doing the processing!

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  3. Nice pics Brian. It’s good to have a ‘different’ challenge every now and again. I think I prefer the Herring Gull photo, mainly because of the variation in ‘colours’ or greyness! But I see what you mean about the Stonechat.

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  4. Right with you on always shooting color – you can always easily take away in the digital darkroom, but it is a hell of a lot harder to add in artificial colors and get it to look natural. In the early days of the powerhouse processing software there might have been a noticeable difference – these days I would challenge in contrary assertions. Liked your approach and it definitely worked on the first shot as the monochrome treatments tend to really bring out the contrast in the edge boundaries. Do think the last shot is my favorite with the glint and the isolation with the clear background. Well done.

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    1. Thanks B. Certainly adds a new string to the bow and it’s fun to process in mono, any mistakes and just re-set and start again.
      That last shot is great in colour as well but loses nothing when converted.

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  5. Black-and-white can add mood, alternative perspectives, studies in detail, artistic flair or can just plain look good. You selected images which showcase all of these traits.

    The Stonechat would be my favorite. The composition, the turned head, catchlight in the eye – beautiful photograph. And has some ringer added jewelry to its leg?

    Very nice series, Brian, and a reminder for some of us (okay, me) to always keep mono in mind when shooting.

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    1. Glad you like my favourite bird image Wally. Remember the day well. I had taken my daughter out and was photographing this pair of Stonechats along a shingle beach, no special shots, when the female popped up on this briar a few feet away in the late afternoon winter sun, it would have been rude not to have taken a photo as a memento! Mono works well with it and yes she’s sporting a bangle, the area is part of a very important nature reserve so a lot of birds get presents.
      Thanks for the lovely comments, it was fun converting these images and am delighted they look good.

      Like

  6. My favourite of your shots is your last one of the Stonechat to. I also rarely shoot any of my nature shots in black & white for the reasons you’ve touched on. These work really well, may also have to rethink the concept.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ryan. Yes it’s a handy alternative but I certainly won’t be going over the top, only using if it adds something to a shot.
      The Stonechat also looks great in colour just one of them rare ‘lucky’ shots.

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