African Elephant (Kruger NP, South Africa)

Behind the Shot: African Elephant

Welcome back to a Behind the Shot, where I choose one of my favourite photos and ramble on about how it came to exist. Enjoy!

On last year’s trip to Kruger National Park, I was in “bird mode” most of the time. It was my first outing with my Canon 500mm f4 II so I was excited to be playing with my new toy. But one day, whilst out looking for small feathery subjects, I came across a breeding herd of elephants and decided to change pace.

I love focusing in on the details. After scanning the herd for a while, I settled on this particular individual, found my composition and took a shot very similar to the one below. I checked on the back of the camera and was happy with it, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was something missing. In hindsight it was the large dark space on the bottom-left making things feel unbalanced, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it in the moment. I decided to have one last look through the viewfinder to see if I could find a different composition, but just at that moment I saw the tip of its trunk curl up into the frame and fill the empty space. A-ha! The missing piece of the puzzle.

The trunk balanced the frame out perfectly, as well as injecting an extra bit of colour into an otherwise monotone image. To me this image showcases everything that makes an elephant an elephant, whilst still retaining an abstract quality to it. Personally, it’s my favourite elephant image I’ve taken to date.

So what’s the lesson you can learn from this? Well, sometimes waiting after you’ve “got the shot” can lead to an even better one. Nature is a constantly changing landscape of compositions (much like the stairs in Harry Potter) as animals move around and weather conditions change, so you need to be actively looking for those perfect moments otherwise they’ll simply pass you by.

1/1250sec, f/5.6, ISO 2000
Canon 5D Mark IV, 500mm f4 II, 1×4 TC III
Kruger National Park, South Africa

This image is officially my #1 best-selling print since opening my print shop, and it now hangs on the walls of many incredible people who have supported me and my work. If you fancy being one of those people you can buy it here!

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