Blue Heron Gone Grey
Taking The Blue Out Of the Great Blue Heron
When it comes to wildlife and photography, I am a big fan of color, texture, detail, and lighting. But in the absence of color and with different rules for how lighting presents, do texture and detail still hold the same exact value? Do they hold less? Or Perhaps more? Curious about these questions, I did something I usually do not do, I turned my camera to black and white before shooting a few shots on a recent outing to a pond I have shot at dozens of times in color, but never in black and white. Shooting in black and white on a digital camera is almost pointless as taking a photo from color to black and white in post takes a second and does not rob any fidelity or detail, but there is still a point to doing so. Shooting in black and white, you can focus on crispness of details, how lighting effects the photograph (differently than when color is present), patterning, and textures visible in a shot, and in framing your subject, capturing it in an interesting pose or position and one that might play with lighting. It can be a fun challenge, but can also produce some truly beautiful shots.
The Photographs Shooting Details
I shot this photo on a Sony DSC-H400 under early morning natural light, a little after 6:00 AM in mid-July. It was shot with full zoom from about 80 yards, free hand, with auto stabilization turned on, and using the screen instead of view finder. Though I was able to get a few shots of this heron, some in color and some in black and white, this photo was taken just as a gust of wind has ruffled its feathers and it braces against the wind. The heron light from the East (the right side of the photo) but a sun that is just starting to creep creeping over the horizon.
What I First Noticed When Reviewing This Shot
When I am shooting a wild subject in nature, I do not typically immediately get the chance to look at a photo after it is captured it. In those situations, I always want to continue taking shots so long as the subject is in view and lined up for the shot. It is sometimes seconds and other times minutes, but repeat showings can be few and far between, so you have to photograph wildlife when it allows you to do so. When I heron walked to the other side of a protruding tree line and I was relatively certain it was not coming back, I immediately looked back at the photos I took interested in seeing how the black and white shots came out and noticed a few things immediately upon reviewing this photo that I had not notice in color.
A very clear water line is visible in this shot, showing that the pond is quite low, visible in color but offering a contrast of scale rather than color. I also noticed the sharp texturing of the rock the heron is standing on, something that I had not noticed in the same way, under the same lighting, in color photos, the texture does not stand so crisp, muddled by its hues of color. On the heron itself, I saw the subtle patterning, especially in its neck, that appears different that with color, as it is the contrast in color that draws the eye rather than the darkness of the shade, casting the same bird to look quite different. To illustrate my study and realizations, below is a photo taken at about the same time in color. Please note it is not the same photo as the photo was shot in black and white and no color version of the shot exists.
The exercise of shooting in black and white and of reviewing the photo, changed the way I looked at nature photography a bit as well as the details I look for and can bring to light in a photograph. For that reason, Blue Heron Gone Grey is a shot that I look at as shift in how I see photography and how I use it to tell stories.