Back in saddle after a wee while away from the shutter, I set myself a challenge of attempting to transfer what I learned on flowers to animals. Trying to get animals on a black background was quite a challenge indeed. Armed with a Zoo pass and many hours of watching something sleep, hoping for a yawn or an eyelid to flutter took superhuman levels of self control. I soon abandoned that method coming to the conclusion that the second I nodded off or turned around was exactly when the action would happen. I took to roaming the Zoo looking for favourable light. Not largely forthcoming at high noon.
I thank the good Lord I settled on a style that needed high contrast, deep shadows and well lit subjects. A style carved out by my newest photographic heroes, the likes of Wolf Ademeit and Nicolas Evariste whose work on zoo animals is incredibly inspirational and proof you can take a nice picture at a Zoo.
After a lot of trial and error I finally managed to get the images I had in my mind. Knowing my post processing skills are in a range between zero and one I really had to work hard to get it right in camera. That was mainly working on positioning the subject in the place and exposing for the look I was after. Often I would see the animals do quirky little things in their daily routines and I went there with the aim of capturing it – on the black background. When you hear veteran photographers say things like ‘well, you need a lot of patience, and that’s about it…’ Don’t scoff and roll your eyes when you think of those masterpieces you shot from your hip. Funnily enough it’s actually true.
Post processing in Aperture largely consisted of cleaning up wayward elements in the background, sharpening and colour – or a black and white conversion – and adding a vignette to deepen the shadows around the edges if that’s what it needed.
Not everyone likes the black background look but I love it. I find myself constantly gravitating toward deep and moody images or totally isolated subjects. So stay tuned – there’s going to be plenty more from where that came from.
Oh, by the way I did close my eyes, grit my teeth and mortgage my home at the local photographic supply agent and forked out for that lovely long lens you need a wheelbarrow to carry around. That did help – heaps.