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Before Man

Savute, Botswana - 2019
Savute, Botswana

This is the right title for this congested scene around a watering hole in Savute, Botswana. I needed a vista that could offer depth and the bank here was perfect.Finding the location was key to a concept that had been on my “mood board” for some time.

There is a timeless authority to the photograph and monochrome lends to that authority.We had a preconceived notion of what we wanted and it was not far off this image, though I never expected giraffes to play a part.

The first trip we failed because the location was quiet and so I came all the way back - from Brazil - to try again. The key was for the elephants to come when there was enough light for meaningful depth of field, but not so stark a light that facial shadows impinged on the quality of the narrative.

So 11 o’clock was a good time. It is never going to happen much before then as it takes time to warm up in Savute in August and elephants - like humans - bathe and drink when it is hot, not cold. The light at 11 am is much kinder than the hottest period of the day - around 3.30 - 4 pm.

I was as close as I could be without altering behaviour and the 58mm was the perfect lens - at F11 or F16 it allowed for pin sharp focus in the lead bull, but also crucially for the elephants and giraffes way in the distance to be in the focal field.

This photograph plays homage to the romanticist’s Africa.

This photograph plays homage to the romanticist’s Africa.

David Yarrow

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