Ellies in black & white

Elephants, aren’t they just something out of the ordinary? I just love them both as the fascinating animal they are and as photo subject. I just can’t get enough of them.

Addo National Park in Eastern Cape, South Africa is well known for its big herds of Elephants. It is not uncommon to see herds of over hundreds of animals especially at the Hapoor dam which is one of the Elephants favourite hang outs. As a photographer the light is a crucial factor for the outcome of the images. Being in Africa the sunrise and sunsets are a magical time for photography but they are so short, the good light is gonna in just a few minutes. This gives you a very small time frame to get your shots in and when working with animals you are not just dependent on the light but also of course of the animals. It doesn’t matter if the light is fabulous if there´s no animals around.

They say an elephant never forgets. What they don’t tell you is, you never forget an elephant.

Bill Murray

This means that you have to be adaptable in your photography and create images in whatever light is present. The strong African light can be difficult to handle but it can also give fantastic opportunities for other types of photography such as black & white. In my opinon elephants are a perfect subject for black & white photography with all the structures they got in there skin.

The strong light and the black & white technique also makes perfect conditions for high-key images. High-key images lack shadows and have blown out backgrounds. It isolates the subject perfectly, and when combined with wildlife, it looks like the animal was photographed in a studio. Creating high-key images of wildlife is a two step process, partly in the field taking the images and partly infront of the computer processing the images.

When your in the field try and positioning yourself so the backdrop is as bright as possible, focus on the subject and expose the image as you usually would. The difference is that you want to make the background as light as possible, without blowing any highlights on the animal.

Shooting in raw allows you to make adjustments later. As long as you get the basics right here, you’ll be fine. You’ll rarely create a perfect high-key image of wildlife in camera. So, the rest of the high-key style is tied together during post production. Depending on how bright your background is the process differ. I don’t see a high-key black & white image as a documentary image but more as art. This means that you are free to do the adjustments that you think is necessary. To get the background white and clean you almost always need to do some cloning and that is ok. Process the image so you get a good exposer on the subject and the background as bright as possible. Then you have to work with selective areas to get the background white and clean, this means that you can work with highlights, whites and cloning.

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