It’s okay to be inspired by others

Andrew Beck Andrew 1 Comment

Have you ever had that moment in the field where you are struck by sudden inspiration?

It may be a sheer moment of genius or it my be linked to an image you have seen and been inspired by and always wanted to capture for yourself.

This is exactly wha happened to me during our Extended Great Migration safari when we came across a pair of little bee-eaters perched along a bare branch alongside the Mara River.


It was overcast and the light was low and after initially cranking up the ISO to get a sharp shot I realised that this was the ideal scenario to capture an image I had always been inspired by.

Photograph by Jözsef L. Szentpéteri, National Geographic Creative

Photograph by Jözsef L. Szentpéteri, National Geographic Creative

If you own a mac or apple TV this image should look familiar as it s one of the standard screen-savers/wallpapers. I’d always loved this shot but had never been able to pull something like this off before.

Now, I feel I need to explain that were a number of variables which made this the ideal situation for attempting this sort of a shot:

  1. The overcast and low nature of the light meant that it would be a lot easer to achieve a slow shutter speed by reducing my ISO to 125
  2. The Bee-eaters were perched on a branch which was free of any distracting elements and with a slight adjustment in the position of our vehicle we were able to ensure that the background was made up of the dusty river bank on the far side, situated about 40metres away
  3. The Bee-eaters were pretty close to us which meant that very little cropping would be necessary and I would be able to preserve as much detail as possible with a focal length of 800mm
  4. The distance from the subject to the background was pretty extensive which meant that I would be able to ensure subject separation from the background even at F11 (the aperture value needed to slow the shutter speed down to 1/30 in AV mode)
  5. Little Bee-eaters often return to the same perch after taking off to catch insects. This predictable behaviour made it a lot easier to sit and wait for them to return to the same perch time and time again.
  6. Both of the guests in my vehicle were keen to try this for themselves as well which meant we could spend time working the scene
  7. We were on a photographic safari, the 45 minutes that we spent with this pair was definitely worth it!

There are a couple of other things like back-button focus which played a role in being able to get even close to recreating this specific image but I have covered a lot on that in this post.

I’d been waiting for years to capture an image like this and finally, all the variables were in my favour.

I had been inspired by someone else’s work, had the technical skills and knowledge to capture the image, and most importantly, the presence of mind to see the opportunity when all of the variables were presented before me.


Is it an original image?

Well even tough its slightly different to Jözsef’s shot, its definitely not an entirely original image.

Does that bother me?

Not in the slightest. I was stoked to see this on the back of my camera and loved seeing how much my gusts enjoyed trying to achieve the same result for themselves.

Don’t be afraid to be inspired by images that others have taken. The journey behind attempting to capture a similar image for yourself is an experience in itself and will almost certainly find you cementing  number of photographic principles for yourself.

Make mistakes, learn from them and continue to hone your skills.

You never know when those principles that you have learnt will be the foundation for an entirely original and unique interpretation of a scene.

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Have You Seen Our 100 Amazing Images from the Great Migration?

This image of the Little Bee-Eaters features in a selection of 100 Amazing imags take by the Wild Eye team during our 2015 Great Migration Safari Season

View the Images Here
About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.


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  1. Pingback: Be Inspired By: Big Cats - Wild Eye

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