Why and How: Photographing the Bugle of Deer in Black and White

You may have just finished a photo project dedicated to deer slab. This is a highly photographed autumn event for many European wildlife photographers.

Have you tried to create a series of black and white deer photographs?

In this article, I will give you reasons for exploring this artistic creative technique.

A photograph in black and white of a red deer stag during the bugle in France..
A photograph in black and white of a red deer stag during the bugle in France.

Black and White Is Well Adapted to the Bugle of Deer

Like many wildlife photographers, you may think that the bugle of deer must be photographed in a naturalistic way. Indeed, it is an animal behavior that takes place when the foliage is colored in warm tones.

You want to show stag deer in colorful decorations that serve as a showcase. It is quite commendable. I can perfectly understand this reasoning.

It is tempting to want to create behavioral illustrative photographs to illuminate this extraordinary event.

However, hundreds of thousands of color photographs have already been made. Why try to redo what has already been done?

Why not try black and white? Why not step out of your comfort zone and try a new photographic approach?

Indeed, the advantages of black and white photography are numerous:

  • It allows you to immediately focus viewers’ interests to the subject of the scene.
  • Black and white allows you to deliver messages in a direct manner. Your viewer is not distracted by the mesmerizing effects of color, rather he is immediately drawn to your creative technique of black and white.
  • Black and white allows you to return to the essential values of photography. You must manage your contrast, shapes, and textures. You must pay close attention to details.
  • Black and white is timeless. Color photographs are more subject to modern trends. When we look at color photos, we are always able to locate the subject and grasp the purpose after spending time studying details. This is not always the case with the black and white photo.

From this list of advantages, you can see that the bugle of the stag deer is shown in black and white.

The Advantages of Photographing the Bugle of Deer in Black and White

Besides its pure and creative technique, photographing in black and white can reveal attitudes and behaviors of the stag deer that might be overlooked if the same image was shot in color. When black and white is used, details and expressions are more noticeable.

  • A stag deer has its winter coat, which is darker and thicker. In the black and white photographs, the textures are silkier.
  • The antlers are dry unlike the birth fawns where the woods are velvet. In black and white, the antlers are textured and detailed.
  • On some antlers, the white tips add contrast to the photo. The form of the stag deer is best suited for black and white.
  • During the rut of the deer, you can watch the deer fight for power over a herd. These fights always take place in meadows, where the scenery is lighter than in the forest or the woods.
  • It is possible to create more refined photographs by strongly highlighting the combatants. The fights are perfect for black and white.
  • You can also photograph deer bugling. The image of the deer bellowing with tremendous force are images that have many connotations. If you have chosen your blind or if you have made a near approach, you can take close-up shots of this majestic scene.

    You may even have the chance to see the drip, which is a small hole under the eyes containing a gland that allows him to mark his territory during the rut.

    Likewise, hair on the throat is more developed at this time of the year. It is thickly distributed with a darker color. It is the part of the body that accentuates a powerful effect on the deer.

    In black and white, the body of the stag deer can be well highlighted.
  • You can photograph stag deer surrounded by does. Usually, stags and doe do not mix. During the bugle, herds of animals are formed. Each stag tries to gather some hinds that he will cover. A group of stags and does is called a herd.

    In black and white, these scenes are interesting because you can intricately display the beauties of the coats. You can also accentuate the size of the stags compared to the does.

The Photo Gallery

Advantages to Photographing Stag Deer During the Bugle

Photographing stag deer during the bugle has several advantages:

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  • You can easily guide yourself through the nature whether it is in the meadows or the woods, listening for the sounds of the slab. Just listen to where the animals are. The slab is a very hoarse and powerful scream. You can hear it from hundreds of feet away.

    Usually, it is difficult to locate stag deer by ear. They are silent and calm animals. To find them, you must know the flow of their habits.
  • If you do not hear stag bugling, you just need to spot fruit trees such as oaks and wild apple trees. The food is abundant, easy to find on the ground, and is more appetizing than the grass of the meadows. By locating these trees and setting up a suitable blind, you will soon have many chances to capture beautiful pictures.
  • During the bugle of deer, you will be spotted less easily than during the other months of the year. Indeed, the master of the place is preoccupied with keeping his rivals at a good distance from the herd. He constantly chases potential suitors who would like to steal a doe. If you make an approach and you are in your blind, even if you make the mistake of making noise, the herd will remain in the same place. The deer will not worry about you.

How to Photograph the Bugle of the Deer in Black and White?

As I described in this article, there are three methods to photograph the bugle of the deer:

  • Using a blind.
  • Approaching by crawling on the ground.
  • Walking.

To make interesting and creative black-and-white photos during the bugle, I recommend that you explore some rather unobstructed areas where there is less bushy foliage so that your images will emphasize the beauty and majesty of animals.

Avoid photographing in the undergrowth of forests because these places rarely produce clean images. Tree trunks or branches can become disruptive elements that may attract the attention of viewers away from the subject. Instead, choose simple and uncluttered scenes such as meadows or clearings. Try to isolate your animals. Your black and white photos will have more impact.

If you have never tried photographing with a morning blind, I recommend that you step out of your comfort zone and try using it. Before the day of shooting, explore your region and search for a path or clearing that is free from unwanted animal messes or uneven terrain. Prepare your blind with a tent. On the day of shooting, be prepared one hour before sunrise. Since you have spotted your corner before, you will have no problem moving in the dark. A group of stags or a herd may detect you, but they will not be able to see that you are human in the darkness.

Once you are positioned in your blind you must wait for the perfect moment, one which you will never forget. When the sun begins to rise, you may spot a herd or a stag. Wait a bit before shooting your first pictures. Take time to immerse yourself in the scene. I guarantee that it will be an extraordinary experience.


Step out of your comfort zone. Dare to paint with black and white in your canvas of photographing the bugle of the deer. You will be surprised by its effect on your creations. Remember to choose scenes that respect the spirit of black and white. Allow the power of your imagination to spark new ideas. Get off the beaten track. Embrace the technique of black and white.


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