By Melanie Day

In March 2023, The Art of Birding Wildlife& Nature Art & Photography Community presented a challenge that called for the production of black and white or monochrome photos. Participants were encouraged to employ a diverse range of techniques discussed in the weekly sparks, including high contrast, monochrome editing, textures and patterns, and directional light. It was an opportunity for photographers to showcase their skills and creativity in capturing the beauty of wildlife and nature using these artistic and visually engaging techniques.

Week 10: High contrast

Helen Smith: Cabbage tree

The goal of the week 10 spark was to create a striking high contrast photo, achieved by skillfully incorporating various shades of light and dark to add depth to the image. Helen Smith's submission demonstrated this, showcasing an exemplary display of contrasting elements. The different shades of leaves enhanced the distinctive shape of the spiky pom-poms. The lichen on the trunks cast intricate shadows, creating a captivating dappled effect that added texture to the composition. The light-coloured sky served to further emphasise the tree, with its interplay of light and dark shadows, resulting in a visually stunning image.

Week 11: Monochrome editing

Gayle Beveridge-Marien: Inverloch driftwood teepee

For week 11, our attention shifted towards photo editing techniques. The task at hand was to transform our images into monochrome masterpieces using various processing methods. Monochrome doesn't solely refer to black and white, but can also encompass different tones of a single colour, such as sepia. For this challenge, Gayle Beveridge-Marien opted to work with black and white, starting with a colour photo as her base. She earned extra credit by describing her editing techniques. She said “I converted from colour to monochrome in Raw Therapee. I switched on tone mapping and increased the strengthening slider which really brought out the texture and footprints in the sand. I then increased contrast and used the gradient tool to darken the cloudy sky. I then transferred the image to GIMP where the clouds were further darkened using the dodge and burn tool and some areas of the sand were shaded using the dodge and burn tool.”

Week 12: Textures, patterns, shapes

Gayle Beveridge-Marien: Yellow-faced honeyeater 

Week 12 delved into the captivating world of textures, patterns, and shapes in black and white photography. Gayle Beveridge-Marien expertly employed these elements in her shot of a yellow-faced honeyeater. The small, intricate feathers of the bird created a mesmerising texture, while the soft, blurred background provided a perfect balance and contrast, making the bird truly stand out. The zig-zag edges and curved veins of the leaves added a delightful interchange of patterns and shapes, with solid patches of dark and light contrast, adding depth to the composition. It was a masterful display of how textures, patterns, and shapes can enhance the visual impact of black and white photography.

Week 13: Directional light

Paul Le Roy: Tuatara

In week 13, the spotlight was on directional light in black and white photography, as it has a profound impact on the mood of a photo. Participants were challenged to capture an image that exemplified directional light, for example, the long shadows that occur during early morning or late afternoon. Paul Le Roy excelled in this task, utilising directional light to create a stunning effect. The strong shadow that fell on half of the Tuatara's face added a sense of drama, with the body concealed in shadows and only the claws of one foot illuminated, heightening the intensity of the composition. It was a clever use of directional light to create a visually captivating and emotionally evocative photograph. To view more of Paul’s photos visit his Flickr account

March monthly challenge

Helen Smith: Holdsworth National Park, Wairarapa

As March 2023 came to an end, the monthly challenge culminated with a breathtaking collection of photos that captured the essence of the weekly sparks. Utilising techniques such as high contrast, monochrome editing, textures, patterns, and directional light, the results were truly delightful. One standout submission was Helen Smith's captivating forest scene, taken in Holdsworth National Park.

Helen's skillful composition seamlessly blended all the elements, with backlit gnarled tree trunks appearing to emit a gentle glow along their edges, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. The moss in the foreground, with its interplay of light and dark textures, added a soft and intriguing touch to the scene. Together, these elements combined to depict an ancient forest, evoking a sense of timelessness and wonder. To see more of Helen’s photos and fine art visit her website

Damon Marshall: Common blue butterfly  

Another stunning photograph, captured by the skilled lens of Damon Marshall, showcased the beauty of the Common blue butterfly. This remarkable image was crafted using a 60-frame focus stack technique, resulting in sharp details and clarity. The circular water drops, which adorn the butterfly, are skillfully captured, magnifying or blurring certain parts of its body  including the delicate antennae. Against the darker, softer background, the creature stands out with its paler hue, showcasing Damon’s artistic vision and meticulous attention to detail. He said “I wanted to get the antennae details so it required a fair bit of depth. The droplets are from overnight dew. The butterflies are helplessly immobile until the sun warms them up, which is great for [photography].”

The next challenge

Thanks to everyone who took part in the March Challenge. In April, we will be doing a daily photography challenge. It’s not too late to join us in the Art of Birding, Wildlife and Nature Art and Photography Community.

The voluntary challenges are suitable for all ages, abilities, and gear. All you need is a camera or a mobile phone and some enthusiasm.

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