Here is one of my favourite wildlife photos. A mute swan portrait in black and white. I took this at my local nature reserve, by laying down on an observation platform that sticks out over the water, and tracking the swan as it moved around. They’re quite used to people feeding them from the platform, and so it started towards me. I waited until it filled the frame, and took the picture.
When photographing wildlife, I really like to try and get a more intimate, candid feel, and in this image focusing just in on the eyes turned an image of a swan near the back into a high-drama black and white.
In Lightroom (where I do my workup) I boosted the contrast a little and switched to black and white (I shoot in RAW so all my initial images are full colour) and the picture all came together – I’d managed to time it just right, the focus around the eyes is exactly what I was after, even though the depth of field is quite shallow, blurring the front of the swan’s head, I think that it enhances the picture, drawing the viewer’s eyes to the swan’s eyes. The natural shape and colouring of the swan gives the impression of a furrowed brow, as though the swan is scowling or frowning, certainly very serious and not to be messed with. I felt that this sits well with a swan’s reputation, and was a good way to show it. Swans are often treated by children as an equivalent of a big duck, and I really wanted to show a more serious side to what is really quite an impressive bird.
All in all, I achieved what I was trying to do with this photo, and it sits at the front of my collection, and it has encouraged me to try and take more animal portraits in a similar style, as an ongoing project.
Interesting fact, the Queen has technical legal ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water in the UK!
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*Originally published on 29th October 2015