Tip #72: High Key - Black & White

Young Capuchin (Cebus capucinus) - Hacienda Baru, Costa Rica
Canon 30D + Canon 70-200 f4L @ f4.0
When confronted with a shaded subject against a bright background, forget the highlights and shoot for a high key “glow.” Some animals live their lives in the trees, and unless you have access to a canopy blind, distracting highlights are unavoidable. While flash might be the equalizer, a burst of directional light might disrupt the subject and cast an unnatural tone across the image. On these occasions I live the light, accept the compromise, and expose for the subject.

For this image I chose to deal with the backlight and leave my flash in the bag. The inherent curiosity of the capuchin produced expressions that I feared a flash might alter. To capture the eye-eye perspective, I spot-metered the face, added a stop of light and purposefully blew the highlights. The raw image was converted to black & white in Aperture 3.2, while a red filter was used to accentuate the eyes. Throughout the years, I’ve discovered that I prefer to shoot within nature’s constraints, I love to be challenged by the unexpected, and would rather accept the light than impose my selfish goals on my wild subjects.
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