The good old days…

Marlon duToit All Authors, Marlon 26 Comments

One of my fondest childhood memories was going through my dads library of wildlife books and exploring them page after page. I would sit in wonder as I looked at these magnificent moments in nature incredibly captured on film.

These images, even as a young boy, would transport me into another world, a world filled with danger and excitement and exploration. These photographers were my heroes. In my youthful enthusiasm I would beg my dad to take me to the places where they go, to see what they saw.

I will always remember an image of a male lion on a sandy dune captured by Chris John, the now editor of National Geographic Magazine. It was beautiful, it was wild, it was Africa. I loved that image so much. It would transport me right to the wonderfully wild Kalahari.

chris john













Looking back today, is that image perfect? Can the composure be better? How many “pixels” was it shot at? Is the background distracting? WHAT DOES IT MATTER? Back then it blew me away, and it still does to this day.

Today I painfully miss that feeling I got when looking at images of African wildlife.Β Too many of today’s images lack inspiration, originality, wildness and passion. Instead of inspiring me to pack my bags and ready myself to travel, I find myself simply scrolling past as I mind-numbingly go through my Facebook newsfeed.

Seriously, something needs to change!

Too many wildlife photographers are in search of a quick fix.

If their 6 day trip to the Kgalagadi did not produce a golden-lit lion fight, a cheetah chasing down a springbok and atleast 2 proper sightings of a Brown Hyena, they return home disappointed and let down. Everyone flocks to the Masai Mara expecting to see gazillions of wildebeest heaving themselves into the Mara River, all whilst being killed by crocodile, lions, leopard, hyenas and often themselves and others around them. If their week’s safari did not yield the desired results then obviously the Mara or the Kgalagadi did not produce to meet their high expectations.

What has happened to us?

Where did romantic, wild, dangerous Africa go?

private guiding, people, travel, outdoors,

I long for the days when the photo came second to the incredible life-changing experience of being immersed in the wilds of the Serengeti, the Kalahari or even Kruger National Park.

I long for the days when the excitement to travel to all of our favourite wild destinations trumped the expectation to get a BBC award-winning photographic moment.

At times and with the advent of social media and the ease of travel, it feels as if Africa has shrunk, as if it is too accessible! Where did all the mystery go? Is Africa not dangerous anymore? So many people shy away from areas because of the possibility of a mosquito bite, a tsetse fly or a little too much sun on their sunscreen-plastered skins.

Has Africa become a convenient destination? Perhaps as a child the Africa I imagined was just exactly that. My imagination? Perhaps the thought of menacing lions, dusty dry landscapes and photographers immersed within this raw beauty was a little far-fetched? I mean today you can get just about any image you want from the comfort of a brand new Land Rover and an air-conditioned hide with reflectors for optimal light.

You know what?

I will dare to be different!! I refuse to believe that these places don’t exist. I have always and will continue the fan the flame that burns within me to discover, explore and share my beautiful Africa for the world to see.

Yes, I will visit the Masai Mara and stand alongside hundreds of other people as they watch one of the wonders of the world unfold.

But will I take it for granted? Am I there in search of my next BBC entry? I answer you with a resounding NO.

I am there to engross myself in a natural spectacle few have laid eyes upon. I will strive to talk about this to others and to live out my childhood dream. I will refuse to accept that Africa is fully explored and over traveled.

I will revel in my childhood fantasies and partake in a romance with this dark continent I know still exists.

I dare you to join me.

Africa is not for the weak nor for the feint-hearted.

The Africa I know is for those with a daring spirit ready to dive into a journey of risk-filled adventure and life-long memories.

If you take that first step she will reward you bountifully…


Marlon du Toit

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Comments 26

  1. Steve Glasgow

    There is no “rule” that says a photograph has to be technically perfect to be a good shot. If it makes someone smile or go “oh wow”! then the photographer has done their job

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  2. Morkel Erasmus

    just a PROPER post, bud…
    I too fall into this trap sometimes, only to be jolted awake by the realisation of the privilege we have of visiting these places and experiencing them with our senses more than with our cameras.

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  3. Bret Charman

    Spot on Marlon and I will happily join you on an adventure into that wild, dark Africa. For me the places where I feel truly alone with the wildlife are the ones where I would like most to be, the fewer people the better. I too believe these places still exist but they need to stay that way for those that want to find them, one day we will find them because it drives us onwards.

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      Marlon duToit

      Hey Bret, thanks for taking the time!
      The sad thing is that these “dark” places will eventually be discovered and get their place in the spotlight. If that does not happen they might be deemed valueless and this is something one wants to avoid as much as possible. Lets enjoy these unspoiled places whilst we can πŸ™‚

  4. Wayne Marinovich

    Great honest post bru.

    I also fall into that trap sometimes and recall the Custos posters up on my wall as a kid in the 80’s with fond memories of dreaming of being out there on my own.

    As someone that now lives on the outside and looks “in” at Africa. It is still sold in the media as that dark and dangerous continent. Sadly not for wildlife adventures but rather for things like murder, corruption and dark diseases. So when the safety of Eco-tours or Photo-tours came a long, the masses could have their “safe safari’s” and still make it home. It is what it is and so business must continue.

    The downside as you say is the torrent flood of “same as the rest” photos. But the experiences will never change for those who love wildlife before photography

    I follow Vincent Munier with great eagerness as he is never online. He is out here by himself in the cold wilds. Him, his sled and camera. Maybe that is the way forward to top up the soul. Get out there by yourself.

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      Marlon duToit

      Hey Wayne, thanks for your comment! Some very good points in there, true words!

      If you have watched the move called the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, you will know why I say that I envy Sean Penn’s role in there. It seems so awesome to travel to places hardly anyone goes, or to just be “offline” and away!

      Thanks man, great to hear from you!

  5. Adam Kotze

    Lekker post bud just being out in the bush should be enough and if you get a great moment then, well LEKKER πŸ™‚

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  6. Edin W

    Too often we get engrossed with the end products or ‘trophies’ of our experiences rather than appreciating them for what they are in the moment. Fantastic post, always something to bear in mind. Even if a place is well visited, it doesn’t mean that it cannot hold new wonders for us to discover!

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  7. Kanwar

    Very well written Marlon,

    We need to appreciate the bush when we are there and photos are only incidental! No short cuts and the moments in the wild will come to you!


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  8. Sam Marais

    Great Post – our Africa is filled with awe and wonder in her own magnificent and sometimes cruel way – for regular armature photographers and avid adventurers we live through your lenses and your photos – I always try to imagine the actual experience when the photo was taken – keep it up !!!

  9. Joshua McPhail

    Man this article spoke to me! To be totally honest I have recently found myself getting more frustrated about the wildlife photography world the deeper I get deeper into it. I often just find myself wanting to take a step back, enjoy the moment. My passion is not just for the photography, but for the beauty of the experience and then possibly trying to display that through an image.

    I love this – “I long for the days when the photo came second to the incredible life-changing experience of being immersed in the wilds of the Serengeti, the Kalahari or even Kruger National Park. I long for the days when the excitement to travel to all of our favourite wild destinations trumped the expectation to get a BBC award-winning photographic moment.”

    1. Gerry

      Couldn’t agree more Joshua. Have also been finding myself getting frustrated by the industry but, along with Marlon, will continue to strive for the good old days!

  10. Riaan Marais

    Hi Marlon,

    Agreed 100%, I sit with my camera on my lap on every game drive, always ready. We were in Selous GR a week ago and an herd of elephants walk towards where we were parked. They eventually passed us quite close by and we all watched in awe. Not a single photo was taken. Sometimes just enjoy the presence of these magnificent creatures!! Viva Africa!!


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      Marlon duToit

      Riaan I know this feeling my friend! I think as a young photographer one tries to capture everything that moves, regardless of the quality of the final product. But as you grow in your photographic passion, you sometimes just sit and enjoy moments, forgetting about your camera on your lap. It does not mean the sighting was not good enough for an image, but sometimes just leaving it on your lap and taking it all in is first prize for me! Glad you feel the same πŸ™‚

  11. Mark Hampton

    Having been to Africa myself now 5 times in the last 10 years, I too am now seeking new and less populated places to explore and photograph. I tell and my friends and colleagues that if I would have traveled to Africa in my teens or early twenties I would have never returned to the US. I would have figured out a way to stay and make a living in the bush. I am schedule to travel back in Feb/Mar 2015 and I cannot wait. Being in the US it is hard to describe to people the remoteness you can find and unplugging for the never ending electronic life we led and with that the overwhelming serenity. I envy stories such as your growing up in a place like Kruger.

    In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
    John Muir

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      Marlon duToit

      Hi Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to reply to my post.

      I am fortunate for having grown up where I did. My love for nature stemmed from many days in the bush as a child! There are so many beautiful places to explore. That said, we should not take for granted even places such as Kruger. I love that quote by John Muir, fantastic and meaningful and so very true!

      Thanks again, and look forward to staying in touch ! Enjoy your safari in Feb and let me know if you ever feel like joining me in some african wilderness.


  12. Alan Smith

    I read this article whilst enjoying the wonders of Etosha National Park in Namibia. It is a truly magical place. We have spent many hours sitting at waterholes enjoying the variety of wildlife that comes to these oases. It has been a magical experience and, of course, I’ve tried to record it photographically.

    The photographs will never replace the fun of what we have seen: two young elephants pushing each other around whilst others frolicked in the water; three rhinos fencing; the skittishness of kudu as they come to drink; a lion lapping up water for minutes on end; and so on. As we waited we watched large numbers of tourists come, take their photographs, tick another species off their list and carry on in search of the elusive cats. They too will have their memories but I think ours will be the richer for the interactions we have seen, most unrecorded by the camera or taken in such poor quality light that they are unlikely even to make it to facebook, never mind an international competition.

    Thank you for reminding us that it is the experience that counts, not the picture.

    1. Steve Glasgow

      Alan, sitting in Brisbane, half a world and too many days removed from Africa I envy you!
      Enjoy Etosha, it is probably the best place in Southern Africa to sit around and enjoy the animals and the experience of Africa.

  13. Phil Abraham

    Great thought stream Marlon and it got me thinking to a point where a distinction arose between those who photograph wildlife and those who are wildlife photographers …. The first group set out with a shopping list of species and images, the second are happy to let the wildlife dictate the image. Neither is better than the other … Indeed people may flip from one to the other where personal and professional needs move and change over time…need images to feed a book, probably the former….. Researching for a new project maybe the latter, but always ultimately on the animals terms but the more focused your need, the more blinkered the view on the holistic environment that forms the indelible memory of,not just “the shot” or even a Cartier Bresson’s “moment”, but of the whole impact of all senses that will reignite when that image is viewed in later days. Viewing the world outside the viewfinder is living life in widescreen HD πŸ˜€


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