With the privileged opportunity to photography such a wide variety of animals on such a regular basis, it becomes easy to develop a favourite subject. Within each family of mammal, bird, reptile or insect (particularly in macrophotography) there lies a favourite subject for many photographer.
She is occasionally seen around the far north west corner of Londolozi, and is generally quite relaxed around vehicles.
Behaviour, surrounding habitat, size or shape each play a role in contributing to the subject’s favourability and this differs for each of us. Classically, the leopard fits this capacity, most likely due to its aesthetic beauty matched by its tendency to be up in a tree in full view. Not to say there are better subjects out there to photograph, but there certainly are vastly different ones to discover.
Personally, I have always loved photographing zebra, in portrait or in their mesmerising dazzles. Herds of them cast contradictory patterns and flows of competing blacks and whites with a little touch of warm dust in their shadow stripes to the rear. Their faces seem to emit calm beauty and a sense of mystery is created when viewing their precise facial markings. A good friend of mine, Simon Smit, used to have the same fascination with photographing elephants, and could talk of their photographic potential for hours (and get the proof!) while I find them wonderful to watch but incredibly difficult to capture in a frame and portray that wonder. Rob Crankshaw gets lost on a daily basis while crawling around camp with his macro lens, waiting patiently for a territorial dragonfly to return to its perch just inches in front of his face, or for a jumping spider to turn and face the dim afternoon light. Each to their own, it seems.
Lately I have rediscovered the potential photographic portrayal of spotted hyena in the wild and have been looking through past and present photographs of mine to explore this idea.
Hyena are in fact not very hygienic mammals nor do they expose their presence high up in trees or on top of termite mounds giving us pretty sightings of them. They are, however, brutally successful and surprisingly intelligent predators and scavengers, and deserve a second glance; one out of appreciation and not initial shock. Their characteristic image often involves the remains of a carcass, a blood-stained coat, unhealed battle wounds or the untidy and unkept surroundings of their den. Yet this series of attributes should be used to compliment their uniqueness and noteworthiness in a photograph and not diminish them as a spectacle.
I found great joy in processing older photographs I had taken of hyena while making the effort to appreciate their individuality; their infamous traits and burdens. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “beauty”, but a definite aesthetic delight!