Selection of April 2019: Reindeer On White by George Wheelhouse

Reindeer On White by George Wheelhouse

I took the photo during a trip to Pyha-Luosto National Park, in Finnish Lapland. I am fond of photographing animals in high-key and low-key style, so the prospect of a white reindeer against white snow was an idea I’d very much pre-planned, yet obviously it still required a good deal of luck on the day.

We only saw reindeer once during our visit, so I was pretty focused on engineering the best possible photo opportunity. As the reindeer milled around, I wanted to capture just one in the frame, which wasn’t easy, as they tend to herd closely together. I also needed to select the best shooting angle, with the cleanest background. Then I positioned myself facing that angle and waited for a lone reindeer to enter the frame. After several groups, and pairs of reindeer came and went, this lone individual walked right into shot. She was probably the best looking of the whole group, with this beautiful subtle colouration, so I was very pleased. I was fortunate to catch the eye-contact as she looked up, which makes the photo, for me.

Originally I was disappointed to have clipped the back leg, but when I went back to the photo later, in Lightroom, I loved it. I think it anchors the subject to the scene, in a way it wouldn’t have been if the whole animal had been ‘hanging’ there against the white background. It also adds tension to the composition, and emphasises the reindeer’s almost constant movement; via the implication of stepping into the frame.

I enjoy the post-processing aspect of photography, and especially so with my ‘On Black’ & ‘On White’ creative projects. This photo didn’t require much work to the subject, but I spent some time cleaning up any remaining background elements. Given more opportunity I’d have likely found a cleaner scene to begin with, but on this occasion, I left myself some tidying to do. There were some twigs on the ground, and I think the outline of a woodshed to one side. My aim was to remove any distracting elements, to create a studio-style high-key portrait, but to prevent clipping the background to white, so as to retain the context of the Lapland tundra. 

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