Nature has been a bit of a common theme for me of late and, following on from my post earlier this week, I thought that it might be a good idea to run with the idea that nature is enough.
In a lot of my favourite images, both those that I have taken and those of other photographers, there is a common thread which revolves around capturing the essence of an animal and revealing their true nature.
Take these two images of a beautiful male leopard which Jono took last week during one of our Great Migration Safaris:
Whilst the light in this shot is out of this world and the blues and yellows really work well together, I feel that there is something amiss. Whilst its probably every photographers dream to have a big male leopard out in the open with no grass in front of its face whilst being bathed in magical light, it just feels like there is something missing.
Take a look at this second image of the same male on a different occasion (I know, these guys were spoilt for choice!):
Now to me, this is the better of the two images. Why?
The story here is just that much stronger. This big male seems to be moving stealthily through the long grass and, whilst his posture and tail show that he is clearly relaxed, you cant help but feel that he is sneaking up on you.
Quite simply put, it conveys the shy and elusive nature of the leopard.
I’ve heard many photographers complain about a branch or blade of grass being in the way, or that their view is obstructed. Personally, capturing a leopard amongst the dense undergrowth makes for a more compelling image in my opinion.
Here are two of my own examples, see if you agree.
So, leopards are shy, elusive and secretive.
How do you go about capturing the nature of other species though? Lets have a look at some examples from the rest of the team…
If you’ve ever watched hyena you’ll know that they are always on the move, sometimes strolling along but more often than not they make use of their sloping backs and loping gait to cover massive distances very quickly. This is one of my personal favourite images of Penny’s simply because I feel it captures the nature of the hyena perfectly.
Elephants are all about power and size and one can only really fully appreciate this when you are out on foot or are in a lower position than they are. Believe me, it is quite frightening to realise just how big these guys are when you are able to change your perspective from that of a game drive or private vehicle.
How do we show power and size, we emphasise height by getting down low, just like Morkel has done with this image:
Whilst its not always possible to do this from the safety of your private vehicle, both Chobe, Mana Pools and the Madikwe Wildlife Photography Workshop allow you to get up close and personal with these gentle giants in a safe manner.
If they’re not sleeping, they’re moving and hunting. Fact.
Once they’ve made a kill things turn into somewhat of a frenzy with dogs pulling the carcass apart from every direction imaginable. Gerry captured this perfectly in the Sabi Sands earlier this year where, using a slow shutter speed, he was able to convey that sense of chaos around a kill.
No other animal conveys a sense of raw power like a big male lion. SAs “Kings of the Jungle”, their nature is that of a regal beast. There is no way that you can convey this nature when shooting from an elevated position and you have to get low in order to really emphasise their power and supremacy.
Both of these images from Marlon do a damn fine job of playing to their nature and dialling up there size, power and supremacy.
Take it or leave it but I believe there is something to be said for understanding and being able to capture the nature of your subject. Give it some thought and perhaps try your hand at capturing something different the next time you’re out in the field.
Whilst the technical and compositional stuff is important, one should not forget the story that you are trying to tell. Even when there’s not much happening, if you focus on dialling up the nature of your subject, you’ve already created a far more compelling story than most.
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