Amboseli, Kenya 2016
Working with radio operated cameras in Amboseli is an integral part of my job. Every year for several days a year, I wake up at 4.45 am on the outskirts of the National Park and head off with my guide and friend – Juma Wanyama – to the dry lake outside the park. On almost every occasion, we are the only two people there in the vast elemental dustbowl. It is a spiritual and tireless experience.
The dry lake is a kind canvas to work with because it is flat and clean – there are no tension points and no distractions. Furthermore, the topography allows for no surprises – the elephants can see you and vice versa from a long way off. This lends itself to getting out and about setting up cameras in the dust in the hope that the elephants will maintain their path and walk right up to the camera. I have never been charged in Amboseli – the bulls give you plenty of warnings.
With wide angle photography at minimal focal distances, there is luck involved in the formation of elephants when the lead elephant hits my preselected four foot focus point. In particular, I have no control over the stature of the tusks on that first elephant and, of course, I want them to be fully grown and magnificent, not broken, short or missing. I have taken many remote shots where the image has been impaired by the disappointing ivory detail and whilst this is the reality of elephant life, I am looking for the imagery to transcend at every level and missing ivory never helps.
This picture therefore is extremely lucky – the lead bull is magnificent and the formation behind lends perspective and narrative as one. This is a garrison of giants walking with purpose and pride through the desert – a wonderful sight and the textural detail validates the lens choice. Meanwhile the fluffy clouds ensure that there is a full tonal range in the print. I am not sure how close to perfect it is, but I know it is a gem of an image.