To kick off this post, I have to apologise to the band “The Killers”, whose song title made a perfect title for this photo and its resulting blog post. As you may know, we recently returned from an amazing family safari-camping-roadtrip through some of the most iconic places in Namibia.
One of the destinations was the famous Etosha National Park. Though it was not my first visit to Etosha, this was definitely my longest to date. We stayed a total of 12 days in the park, to ensure we made the most of each of the main camps and its surrounding regions. One of the photographic opportunities that has eluded me on my trips to Etosha prior to this one, has been to see and photograph the iconic elephant bulls caked in the white calcium-rich mud of this particular arid ecosystem.
In my presentations and workshops, I always make mention of the fact that understanding animal behaviour is key to obtaining good wildlife photos. This particular photo is also the result of such understanding, and a bit of luck…
We first saw these elephant bulls when we transferred from Namutoni camp to Halali camp. They were moving across the pan towards the mudholes at the Springbokfontein waterhole. Because we were busy moving camp and had our big trailers hitched, we could not maximise the sighting for us photographically. It was also in the heat of midday, which meant the heat haze affected the quality of our photos.
During our stay at Halali, I was tempted to see if these bulls perhaps frequent this particular waterhole. I made a late morning run to this waterhole (a 32km trip one way) – and lo and behold, they were there, albeit further from the road than what is ideal.
I knew now that these boys were the locals, this was their pub, and they would probably be found here most days until the rains come.We decided to return in that direction the next morning – and although they weren’t there when we first arrived, they had made their way to the same spot far from the road by the time we got back from our brunch stop (we made delicious jaffels on the edge of the Etosha Pan, yum)…this time there were a total of 9 elephant bulls in the immediate area!
The 4 we’d seen previously, and another 5. Photos were, again, hampered by the heart haze (it was upwards of 45 degrees Celcius by this time).
That hatched a plan for me. The next day we would be moving from Halali to Okaukuejo, and although the potential is there for the “white ghosts of Etosha” to be photographed around that area as well, I really wanted another crack at getting bankable photos of these boys.
So we decided to scoot out to Springbokfontein one last time that afternoon, in hope that they would still be around the waterhole and possibly even close enough for decent photos. Man, were we right!! Some of them had moved off way into the bush, but 2 of the bulls were feeding right next to the road, and they were super relaxed…meaning we could work some really nice closeups and even wide angle shots of them.
The golden afternoon light and some puffy clouds made for a very enjoyable afternoon of photography.
Are these photos unique – will they win me awards?
Does it matter?
Did my friend and I enjoy the culmination of my quest to photograph these white boys?
Go out there, and enjoy your photography!
I used to relish writing these kinds of “bio” pieces and would flaunt the odd impressive word and use dashing grammar to make it sound like I am a boundary-shifting photographer. These days I prefer stating it in much simpler ways, much more relatable ways, much more believable ways… The fact of the matter is this: I love Africa. I love its people, its wild places and its wildlife. I love being immersed in these places, observing and photographing the fall of light on the land and the daily lives of the creatures that call it home, and presenting the results to whoever will take a look. To me, nature photography is all about being in the moment, and capturing that moment in a way that can relate to someone who didn’t have the privilege of being there with me. Sometimes I am able to capture a unique vision of the scene before me, and sometimes I just capture it the way most folks would according to classical photographic guidelines. Yet I always enjoy sharing the images and experiences and imparting the knowledge I have, both in-the-field and later online or in presentations, workshops and courses. I also just simply enjoy capturing and sharing the beauty of God's creation! The greatest thing I’ve found about wildlife and nature photography in Southern Africa is the unity and familiarity of the community of people that share this passion. We come from all walks of life and all cultures and backgrounds, yet our passion for our natural heritage and our dream to see it preserved for future generations binds strangers together and fuels conversations around campfires long after other people have run out of conversation and energy. Join me on a WildEye adventure to experience this sharing community spirit and learn to anticipate that fleeting moment and be ready for it, learn to immerse yourself in the experience without losing focus of your photographic goals…and above all, learn to see Africa anew… because there are none as blind as those who look but do not see!
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