#8 : ELEPHANT WITH EXPLODING DUST, AMBOSELI, 2004
From the least inspiring of origins : A lesson in keeping your - or more to the point, my - mind open.
It was a cloudless sunny afternoon, the kind I always regard as un-photographable, when I always feel that there is no point even pulling my camera out of the case. I have convinced myself that I can only shoot with cloudy sky backdrops, that cloudless blue skies are ugly and devoid of atmosphere. However, in this instance I was (gladly) wrong.
This big bull elephant came ambling by, very relaxed. In spite of that, I couldn’t see any point in photographing him in such terrible midday overhead sunlight, and against such a boring backdrop of clear sky.
But Ninian, my guide, insisted that since we were doing nothing, I should stop being such a pessimistic git and try taking a photograph of the elephant. So we followed him across the bare pans. And as he walked, he dusted himself.
For that split second moment, the effect was quite beautiful. The dust effectively became the clouds in the sky that I always crave. In fact, you could view the photograph from the perspective that the elephant actually looks like a giant walking through the clouds.
This photograph is an anomaly within my work in one other respect. It is a photograph of an animal in action. Typically, I have no interest in taking photographs such as this. I prefer to photograph animals in a state of Being, taking their portraits in an attempt to capture a sense of their personalities, their spirit.
So in two regards, I broke my ‘rules’ here. And I am glad that I did.
So the photographic moral of the story: don’t be a pessimistic git. (One that I continue to have not learned, it has to be admitted).
Technical : As usual, the photo was shot on medium format black and white film, without zoom or telephoto.
The photo is published in “On This Earth, A Shadow Falls” (available on Amazon at this new link :
The reprint is available on amazon.co.uk at :
SIGNED copies of this 4th edition printing of the book are also available now at http://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZE223