Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with wildlife photography, but not just any kind of wildlife photography—specifically the ones that evoke a sense of grandeur, a sense of awe, and a feeling of being transported to a place and a time long forgotten. Invariably, the kind of images I described above, to me at least, were mostly depicted in monochrome and sepia, lending a kind of ancient quality to it. When I first picked up a DSLR camera in early 2009 and decided to spend every spare second at my disposal becoming a wildlife photographer, I knew that my end goal would have to be taking photos like the ones that have always inspired me and evoked these emotions within me. Of course it helped that I live in South Africa, having access to a variety of game reserves and national parks within a day or two’s drive from my house.
I started working at wider focal lengths almost from the outset. That doesn’t mean that I don’t shoot with my 500mm prime, I do—a LOT—but I knew right away that capturing these kinds of images requires that you look wider, incorporate more into the scene than just the mere animals of Africa, as magnificent as they can be. I needed to develop the eye of a landscape photographer—for the landscapes of Africa are as dramatic and captivating as her inhabitants. Everything you include and exclude adds or detracts from the story you’re able to tell.
This photo was captured late one afternoon in the Mara Triangle, a remote section of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. We had arrived late in the Great Migration season and the massive herds of Whitebearded wildebeest had already crossed the Mara River into this part of the reserve. As we drove among the herds, the stormy clouds parted and crepuscular rays of sunlight created key lighting in the background that I knew I had to capture. Add in a couple of oddly galloping wildebeest and you have a recipe for the kind of image that I love creating.
So, the title for this image then? To reference the old Toto song: “I Bless The Rains…”
If I can inspire you with one thing it is this—look wider, shoot wider, take it all in. We get so fixated on filling the frame with our subjects that we forget that there’s so much else to fill the frame with as well, a more cohesive story. A lot of wildlife photographers claim to want to instil a sense of conservation—responsibility in their viewers—but how are we to conserve the species if we don’t also conserve the habitat/environment in which they roam?
Equipment & Settings: Nikon D800, Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR2, F5.6, 1/200 sec., ISO 220