The Amboseli National Park, established in 1948 and gazetted as a National Park in 1974, takes it name from the dried up lake bed Embosel or Empusel situated in the north-west of the park.
With Kilimanjaro as a backdrop Amboseli hosts a wildlife spectacle in it’s fragile grasslands, swamps, springs and seasonal lakes.
This diversity of landscapes means that, from a photography point of view, you do not only have many subjects to work with but you can also create very diverse and dramatic images ranging from the must-have elephant in front of the mountain shot to Nick Brandt like images of a group of elephants walking through a lunar looking landscape.
From the top of Normatior, a lookout hill in the south east of the park, you can see the amazingly diverse patchwork of swamps and dusty plains which make up the unique ecosystem of Amboseli.
Now ask anybody today what you can expect to see at Amboseli and they will without a doubt say… elephants.
In years gone by the answer could very well have been black rhino as during the 1950’s and 1960’s they were the pride of Amboseli. Names like ‘Gertie‘ and ‘Gladys‘ bring back memories of animals with horns well in excess of 1.2 meters but today black rhino is unfortunately extinct in Amboseli.
Elephants are, however, in good supply and the Amboseli is without a doubt one of the best places in the world to view and photograph free-roaming elephants and this was the reason we visited the park as a part of our Big Cats & Tuskers photo safari earlier this month.
Amboseli’s diverse landscapes means that you can spend many days photographing elephants in different settings and if you are patient you can get some truly remarkable images.
Local knowledge cannot be over-emphasized and when you understand the movement of the elephant herds you will be able to predict your shots.
Every morning the numerous family units move from the thick woodlands in the south towards the marshes and springs further north from there. By working the main road next to the woodlands you can almost put money on it that you wil be able to get the truly African image of an elephant, or a herd of elephants, in front of Africa’s highest mountain.
The options are endless and by taking time you can get some amazing images.
As you move further away from the woodlands you will have the opportunity to photograph the herds as the move into and through the marshes – feeding and drinking as the go along. When you face south Kilimanjaro is always there waiting to be used as a backdrop to your wildlife images.
By using various different lenses and compositions you can make the focus of your images the mountain and, by including animals in the image, show the grand scale of, as the Maasai call it, Ol Doinyo Oiber- the White Mountain.
For a relatively small reserve Amboseli is an amazing photographic destination with wonderful landscapes, all sustained by the meltwaters and springs from Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as more than 400 bird species and a host of large mammals ranging from Impala and Grant’s Gazelle to Buffalo and Giraffe.
This is all great and makes for amazing photographic excitement but at the end of the day it all revolves around the big guys.
They are what we want to photograph.
They are the keystone species of the area.
They are Amboseli.
During the next few weeks we will be releasing the dates for our 2014 Big Cats & Tuskers photo safari so make sure to stay tuned to the Wild Eye Facebook Page for details and join me on a trip that will change the way you see elephant photography.
Until next time.
Gerry van der Walt
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