Monochrome in photography, by definition, is when something is depicted in varying tones of one single colour OR in just black and white. For this post, I will reference to it as the latter.
I strongly believe that monochrome ( black&white ) is one of the very purest forms of image making and quite a tough one too. Being devoid of the distractions from a motley of colours, communicating the idea, the story or the thought process behind an image becomes challenging indeed. Choosing the right subject, understanding its unique characteristics, accurate lighting, all become very important here. Though these are important while shooting in colour as well, sometimes the bright, dashing colours in an image can pass it off. However, in monochrome, they become doubly critical. When it comes to wildlife and nature photography, it is no different, monochrome can result in some amazing imagery.
I am no expert here, but have been dabbling with black&white, specifically in the genre of macro photography. Here are some of the results that I am kind of happy with, along with their narratives.
The contours - Monochrome is all about simplicity. The unique characteristic of a subject can become the highlight, focusing the viewer’s attention. Here is a snail with its characteristic shell. I chose just the right amount of light to highlight the contours on the shell. I also wanted to show that it is a live snail and not just a shell, so a bit of light on the snail’s snout too.
Dancer on the podium - Sometimes a unique behaviour along with the subject’s unique body structure can work well. A simple, straightforward portrait of a mantis would not have worked here. It had to be something different to make it stand out. I waited sometime for it to change its position and posture. I got the lighting to be just enough to make the mantis glow in the night making it look like a dancer on a podium.
Owl fly - Owl flies are beautiful creatures. Their characteristic posture while resting, their hairy upper body and their clubby antennae are the standout features. Came across this individual one late evening in Agumbe. Monochrome is very much about play of light and shadow. Lighting the owl fly from behind, I was able to bring out the details that I wanted to highlight. The broken spider web just added to the scene pretty well.
A caterpillar train - Caterpillars have this unique behaviour of moving along in a single file, hooking on to each other. They look like the coaches of a train. When I came across these on a trail in Goa, I wanted to effectively depict this behaviour. They were quite brightly coloured too. However, their hairy growth and the black spots on them were prominent. I felt this will augur well for a monochrome. Using an external source of light, a flash, I highlighted these aspects and this was the result.
Spiral of nature - Millipedes have this behaviour of coiling up when they sense any kind of a threat or disturbance. I came across one such coiled up individual on the trail path. It was late evening, light was low, the forest floor was quite damp and the millipede was not looking radiant. I felt that a monochrome would work well in the situation. There were some brighter portions on the millipede’s body that were sort of glowing and standing out from the rest. That struck the thought of a golden spiral or more like the spiral of nature. Enhancing the brighter portions by using a flash, combined with a high aperture, made this image.
Monochrome is indeed a fantastic way to convey the beauty, yet the simplicity of things in nature. A very demanding genre for sure. Hope to keep at it and see how it turns out :) Hope you liked my images and the post. Do feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments below.