Behind the Photo – The Elephant’s Scratching Tree

Published On: January 29th, 2022By Categories: Behind The Photo, BlogViews: 1004


A herd of elephants slowly made its way over the Ol Choro Conservancy Savannah as we sat in our vehicle by this acacia tree.

They were roughly heading in our direction, so we decided to sit tight hoping to photograph them as they approached. But, a closer look at the tree gave us an alternative plan. One side of the tree had a much smoother and polished feel to the bark, so we quickly moved a short distance away.

As the herd got closer, one elephant broke off and walked towards the tree.

Just like humans, elephants also need relief from parasites like flies and ticks and as we suspected, we had found a well-used scratching post!



I opted for a portrait orientation as I felt it was crucial to include all of the tree. Not just for aesthetic reasons, but also to show the natural history story in its entirety. I’m photographing the elephant’s relationship with the tree, it is “proto-tool” behaviour, therefore the tree is as much a part of the photograph as the elephant.


The elephant was looking towards my right, so I placed it towards the left of my frame to give it a little bit of…


… space in the bottom right. It’s more pleasing for the elephant to have this space to look into, rather than looking immediately out of a frame.

African Elephant © Alan HewittAfrican Elephant © Alan Hewitt
Equipment Focal Length Aperture Shutter Speed ISO
FUJIFILM X-T4* XF100-400mm 100mm f/5 1/250 640


The versatility of the XF100-400mm zoom lens was very useful, as was the lens and body stabilisation. I had to zoom back to 100mm and furthermore, lean back in a muscle tremor inducing position to compose the shot. The stability was useful given my awkward positioning in the confines and limits of a safari vehicle.
*Pre-production Fujifilm X-T4

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