Iconic Waters

Frans Lanting and Chris Eckstrom are leading exclusive photo safaris in Botswana in the spring and fall of 2015. Check www.lanting.com/phototours for details.

When First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt laid eyes on Iguazu Falls in the 1940s, she was overheard to exclaim, “Poor Niagara!” It’s easy to understand her remark when you stand at the amphitheater of Iguazu, where dozens of spectacular waterfalls plunge down to form one awesome spectacle—equally powerful whether viewed from the Argentinian or Brazilian side of the falls. Iguazu Falls (known as Iguaçu in Brazil) straddles the border of the two countries, both of which have protected the falls with contiguous national parks that draw millions of visitors.

The boardwalks and viewing platforms offer stunning views, but they’re often so crowded that it can make photography challenging, especially if you want to deploy a tripod. I had done my homework and decided to avoid the months with the lowest water flow (not dramatic enough) and the highest (so much spray that it can be hard to see the falls). I also avoided the peak holiday times but even so, when I arrived in mid-October there were lots of visitors. However, early and late in the day, the overlooks were nearly deserted.

On location I like to research different vantage points before I commit to spending time. Once I identify spots with potential I go back there as often as I can, knowing that the odds will turn in my favor at some point. To me, landscape photography is all about combining the immutability of a physical scene with the serendipitous nature of light and circumstance.

One early morning I went to one of my favorite overlooks and found a landscape saturated with water vapor from an overnight rainstorm mixed with mist rising from the falls—an ethereal combination that filtered the light and blended warm and cool colors into a diffused illumination that brought together land and water in a majestic portrait of an earthly icon.

Frans Lanting has been hailed as one of the great nature photographers of our time. For more than two decades he has documented wildlife and our relationship with nature in environments from the Amazon to Antarctica. He portrays wild creatures as ambassadors for the preservation of complete ecosystems, and his many publications have increased worldwide awareness of endangered ecological treasures in the far corners of the Earth.