We come across animals in all different manners, and no sighting is ever the same. From the individual animal and it’s behaviour, the lighting, environment and even the attitude of the photographer; it all feeds into constantly unique experiences and ever an ever-expanding portfolio of images.
Living in Africa, and having been photographing these animals for years now, what interests me the most and often makes me the proudest, is when I capture what I believe to be the essence of that creature. A photograph that isn’t necessarily telling a story, but conveys in one-thousandth of a second, the nature and character of that being. Below are some of my favourite photographs, not necessarily my best, but ones I feel more attached to purely because I feel they sum up their species as a whole in one single frame.
The elusive and majestic nature of the leopard is something quite tricky to communicate in a single frame. Often sightings are at night and by pure luck, with a quick glimpse of rosettes disappearing into the thick bush. However, luck does prevail once every so often with the combination of a very relaxed female during the first hour of the morning. The subtle golden lighting lends an ethereal and kingly nature to the big cat, whilst it’s upward glance hints at a curiosity, perhaps looking up into the sky or eyeing up a kill in a tree – a perfect representation of a predator often perceived to be tree dwellers and shrouded with an air superiority.
The Cape Buffalo is one of my favourite subjects to photograph, purely because of their stern character. Their staunch and livid faces, staring directly down the camera lens, shoots a feeling of insignificance so strong as to shatter any confidence. The lifted head, as if rising to a challenge, is coupled with a complete desaturation of colour and high contrast to emphasise the textured horns and harsh attitude. The buzzing flies complemented a sense of unapologetic filth (as they’re often found wallowing in disgusting mud puts), and the puffed-up eyes instantly makes me think of a boxer post a lengthy and gruelling match.
Being my favourite animal, my heart races when I see them but they can be a nightmare to photograph as they're constantly on the move, and always doing so in early mornings when lighting conditions aren’t ideal. They’re nomadic animals and synonymous with endurance running, but instead of photographing them on the move, why not focus on those in-between periods? The moment of rest, when nothing is more needed than a quick nap and a cool down… and hence this is my Painted Wolf picture that I love the most. A moment of calm, wallowing in a shallow puddle in the heat of a summer’s late morning. A determined and alert stare, ready to spring into a hunt, but for the moment soaking in the cool water.
An intimidating stare, cutting right through the screen and into the eye of the viewer. It was a close up sighting that enabled me to get the opportunity and detail to get this portrait at the end of the day. There’s nothing else to distract in the image, it’s all about eye contact and the communication of power and, through the curled up position, a noble restraint. If there’s any image of mine that perfectly sums up the kingly status of the might lion (that also sleeps up to twenty hours a day), then this is it.
I hate the idea of rhinos being synonymous with peril, being represented as a sad and soon to be historic giant; often depicted in a desaturated and gritty fashion. Seeing them in their element, as a part of the African landscape and living unabashedly without fear is far more in line with their character, as opposed to their status. Having a large white rhino, out in the open and standing tall and proud as the sun begins to set, gives a noble and heroic quality to him.