During the weeks preceding my trip to Kenya I seemed to give a huge and probably disproportionate amount of thought to photographing elephants. Out of all of the mammals I knew I would photograph I had a very specific composition of an elephant which I wished to capture. I also knew it had to be in black and white too!
When you remove the colour from a photograph it gives so much more emphasis towards the shape, composition and texture of the subject. Elephants are naturally a dull colour to start with and the features and texture of their hide can be emphasised so much more with the simplicity of black & white photography.
My first ‘requirement’ was for a head on composition with the eyes and top of the trunk being the key recognisable features. I wanted the frame completely filled by the elephant with no background of foliage or sky. On our last morning out in the conservancy I had just the opportunity. A bull elephant we had seen a couple of days previously came straight towards our vehicle looking right at us!
After I knew I had taken the photograph I wanted I took a few seconds of video on my iphone too. It’s not going to make the BBC’s Natural History Unit but it will give you an idea of our position etc!
We saw this same elephant a few times, quite sadly he was recognisable by a wound to the abdomen on his right hand side. He was quite obliging though and came close enough to let me try a few ‘abstract’ compositions, something out of the ordinary but still with a view to converting the photographs to a black and white or split tone finish.
A day or so previously we discovered a herd with this juvenile who stood feeding on some vegetation for quite some time. It looked like he had just had a bit of a mud bath and the light reflections from the wet mud helped bring out some of the features on the hide.
I took a little bit of impromptu video to capture how the elephant used his feet to hold down the foliage while ripping it up with the trunk. Again it isn’t one for the BBC! There was a bit of movement in the vehicle so it is a bit shaky and I had to remove the sound as the mic picked up the vr from the lens and not much else!