Bird Portraits in Black and White : featuring Cattle Egret Siblings & a sleepy Louisiana Heron

Cattle Egret Chicks on a Rainy Day - black and white version

It is always tempting to convert certain images into a black and white or toned treatment and I think the appeal and compulsion to do that is only loosely definable. Photographer, Andri Cauldwell said, “To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul”.  Ted Grant said “When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B & W, you photograph their souls!”  Maybe there is something transcendant about black and white images. That is not really how we are wired to see, but it seems to ring a chord of response in us. I do not believe in our hyper-saturated world bombarding us with color that this can be chalked up merely to nostalgia; I think we respond to media that lets us see light!


I do love color but sometimes it is a distraction and consciousness is on color rather than the nuances of light, shade and tonality present in a scene or subject. Awareness tends to stop with color and perhaps how the colors contrast against each other.  So a black and white image shifts awareness to nuances of light, texture and expression in a subject. Stripped of color, that new detail is far more intimate and revealing. Tonal relationships exist in a color version but you are not as likely to notice the highlight and shadow on a leaf , its network of veins, its leathery texture or the raindrops standing on its surface in quite the same way. You might fail to notice the textures of a bird against the textures of its leafy backdrop!


While the word intimate may seem more appropriate for portraits of people; it still applies for wildlife too. I think the sleeping Louisiana Heron fledgling looks as vulnerable as a human sleeping. And, how human is it to want to curl up and sleep on a dark and rainy afternoon? At least we don’t have to sleep standing on one leg with our toes curled around a branch?? So, I think the black and white view of the young Cattle Egret siblings standing together in the rain, the lone Cattle Egret surveying his world…a white bird defined by shades of gray against a white sky.., and the napping Louisiana Heron…does provide a more intimate personal view than the color version would. The expressions and feather detail of the birds combined with the nuances of their environment make for an intimate portrait.


I hope you enjoy these views. Everything is always a work in process and the stuff of trying to hone creative and artistic vision when trying to decide how best to show the subject or find the simplicity of an often cluttered and tangled scene.


Cattle Egret against a light sky-black and white version

Louisiana Heron Fledgling Sleeping on a rainy afternoon - black and white version

As Ever,

~ by Judy on January 9, 2014.

11 Responses to “Bird Portraits in Black and White : featuring Cattle Egret Siblings & a sleepy Louisiana Heron”

  1. These look amazing in B&W Judy!
    Love the cattle egrets and also (what we call here) the tricolored heron! 🙂

    • I guess I’m a bit of a stuck in the mud on preferring the name Audubon used, Louisiana Heron. Initially I kept getting confused about which three colors were referred to as tri-color. Now I know its the slate blue upper parts, white underbelly and the brownish-rust markings along the neck. I was seeing buff/coppery aigrettes too and so I didn’t know whether to count that at first. But, Louisiana fits my sense of the lady-like delicacy of the adult bird and so it pops out first with me!!

      Thanks for kind words on the b&w treatment..appreciated!

  2. The first two shots are spectacular and much enhanced by Black and White. Wonderful work.

    • Thanks Victor!! I appreciate the feed back on which directions work for others. Easy to get invested in one’s own projects and lose perspective!!

  3. Your photography, in itself, seems to glance into the soul of these birds. But suggestion as to effect of B&W: it is the colour scheme of moonlight – perhaps that’s the magic?

    • I like to think that the black and white versions do show the essence of the subject in ways color doesn’t. But, if we must blame it on the moonlight, then so we shall. Moonlight has gotten lots of folks in big trouble!!

  4. I had a most interesting experience last night that affirms what you – and those whom you quote – have to say here. A friend posted a series of photos from the Kansas Statehouse. Half were in color, and half in black and white.

    I was surprised by my response. I much preferred the black and white, even though the building was filled with marvelous murals, woodwork, tiles and so on. While some of the b&w photos were of architectural details that do shine with such a treatment – stairways, doors and such – even some of the great rooms looked fine in black and white.

    This is just a stray thought… but I wonder if color doesn’t tend to engage us emotionally, while black and white appeals in a different way to the intellect. Have you ever heard anyone talk about that? I’ve never thought about it.

    In any event, the photos are so fine. I like the heron the most – and yes, ma’am, I’m glad to be able to stretch out and not to have cling to a branch!

    • Well there might be an emotional response to both color and b & w images. Generally color makes me feel happy to see, I love color. But, b&w evokes other emotional responses like a feeling of serenity in the light and shadow or maybe even fear if its a suspenseful film. Sometimes less detail leaves more to the imagination…things that go bump in the dark…or the freedom to imagine what else is in the shadows…more leaves, another bird? I can see the logic of the more intellectual response to b&w as it is sometimes perceived as more ‘artistic’ and there is that imagination thing?

      Thanks for the input on the heron!! I did spend more time on that one and love the way the leaves stand out.

  5. Absolutely precious and beautiful. Thanks for the props to the group on our year-end post over at Tkg Violin’s. Keep up the great work.

  6. Oh, we must, must, MUST meet up! I miss these most wonderful creatures… And you’ve honored them in such a loving and — as you say — intimate light. Such soul shines through the images.

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