People often have an image in mind when they picture a certain place. When planning a holiday to a destination you have never been to, you look at all the best pictures of that place and start dreaming about seeing those scenes with your own eyes and maybe even getting a similar picture of your own. There are plenty of iconic photographs from breathtaking locations all over the world that people try and recreate. Off the top of my head I can think of the Golden Gate Bridge spanning across the Golden Gate Strait in the USA, lemurs jumping around the jungle canopies in Madagascar, Uluru at sunset in the Australian outback, brown bears catching salmon in Alaska and a view of the Sacred Valley from Machu Picchu in Peru as places I would love to visit and photographs I would like to take.

However, having said all of that, there are still a lot of photos that I would like to take that involve far less traveling and money but just a lot more patience as well as a spoonful of luck. Just like a lot of guests who travel from around the world to Africa I also have a list of iconic safari images that I would like to take and recently I was able to capture the most quintessential African photo of all, the silhouette of a giraffe directly in front of the setting sun.

A few days ago Sean Cresswell wrote about his journey to a photo that he had imagined in his head and how he had finally managed to capture it. My journey was somewhat different. This was not an image that I had dreamt up in my head, it was an image that I had seen numerous times in different variations. Some would even go so far as calling it cliché. Naturally, I would strongly disagree. If you do a Google image search and you type in “Africa Sunset Giraffe” you will be met with page after page of photos that include a combination of all three. The only problem is none of those are mine. Up until a few weeks back I had not managed to capture one of the most iconic images of Africa and it frustrated me.

A definition of the word ‘cliché’ is that it “is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing it’s original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.”

Unless you have a phobia of Africa, giraffes or sunsets it is impossible to find the combination of all three “irritating!” I would accept that the combination may have been “overused” in photography, but to the point of it losing it’s original effect? Definitely not! Capturing a photo of a scene that has been captured by millions of photographers before you is not a negative when that scene is simply magical.

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With a spectacular sunset taking place I spotted a giraffe feeding on the horizon and I knew that I could be in with a chance of getting the iconic image that I had been dreaming of. I tried to position the vehicle to line them up but still needed the giraffe to keep moving towards the setting sun to get the shot that I was after.

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The giraffe changed direction once or twice as it zig-zagged across the horizon making its way from tree top to tree top. I still love this shot but the real one I was after was to have the giraffe directly in front of the sunset.

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At one stage we were almost there as the giraffe walked past but the sun was just a little bit too high for my liking and the perfectionist in me needed to keep trying.

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The sun was getting to the perfect height as the giraffe started to move in the right direction again.

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Then it started to feed again! One doesn’t realize how fast a sun sets when you are willing a giraffe to line up with it perfectly.

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Luckily, for me, it didn’t feed for too long before it continued towards the sunset unaware of what it was doing to my nerves.

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Finally! A picture that I had been dreaming of for a while. After having seen many other pictures similar to it I eventually had one that I could call my own.

It’s not over now though. There will be more opportunities like this one and each time I’ll have my camera out trying to get a different combination of Africa, giraffe and sunset. I wouldn’t mind adding in the silhouette of a flat-crowned acacia tree to the mix as well! There are many more iconic safari images that I am still searching for. An African fish-eagle with talons outstretched about to grip an unsuspecting fish from the water, a cheetah at full sprint chasing after its prey, a male lion crossing the Sand River and an elephant at night silhouetted by a full moon are but a few…

What’s the one iconic picture that you would like to get for yourself? I’d love to know…

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

James Souchon

Field Guide

James started his guiding career at the world-renowned Phinda Game Reserve, spending four years learning about and showing guests the wonder of the incredibly rich biodiversity that the Mapuataland area of South Africa has to offer. Having always wanted to guide in the ...

More stories by James

28 Comments

on Africa. Sunset. Giraffe.
    Dave Mills says:

    Great story, James, great sequence of photos and commentary, and, quite obviously, a great final shot. Now for Google!

    James Souchon says:

    Thanks very much Dave, Glad you enjoyed it!

    Guido,Dina says:

    Hi James , you know someone who would call it “kitch” , as every sunset or sundowner is to him(he was sitting behind you ) !I love it , but I’m already happy when i get a good (sharp )picture of whatever happens , you know me!
    I’m still very happy with my picture of the lion cubs drinking in Londolozi, but also with so many other occasions, like our fantastic safari of last year !

    James Souchon says:

    Hi Dina, hahaha…’kitch’ is good! That was a fantastic picture that you got when you were here. Hopefully you have mastered lightroom by now. All the best to you and Guido for 2017 and I hope to see you for another memorable safari!

    Leslie says:

    I would love to see and therefore photograph a mother cheetah sitting on a termite mound with three or four small Cubs gathered around her. A beautiful blue sky with white fluffy clouds behind would be icing on the cake.

    James Souchon says:

    What a great photo that would be Leslie! Look forward to you showing us when you get it!

    Senior Moment says:

    We all have them, the image I want is of a leopard in a tree, with a pack of wild dog underneath it or a caracal chasing Franklyn’s by leaping up.
    Not much to ask for .

    James Souchon says:

    Hi Ian, A caracal at full leap catching any bird is definitely on my bucket list as well!

    Jeff Rodgers says:

    I love this post . . . particularly when you are willing the giraffe to be where it needs to be. Congratulations on your success. So many of the images on my iconic wish list have been realized during my visits to Londolozi.

    James Souchon says:

    Hi Jeff, thats great to hear! Thanks so much for reading!

    Gillian Evans says:

    always inspiring. Taking the iconic photograph requires a lot of luck and patience as well as technical skill.. I’m still searching for the rays of light shot through evening dark cloud spotlighting an elephant (or giraffe) on the horizon – but would also be very happy to get the clear view leopard shot in a tree not obscured by foliage and when the leopard is actually awake!.. always hoping!

    James Souchon says:

    Hi Gillian, both of those would be beautiful shots! There will always be more and more shots you dream of taking. Always hoping as you say!

    Wendy MacNicol says:

    Hi James. Congratulations on getting your iconic pic! Please note I have taken a copy for my collection of Londolozi screensavers. I have a VERY large collection of Londolozi screensavers I must tell you …. There are so many really beautiful ones and Neil and I both love the Bush and the animals although we have sadly never been able to visit Londolozi. Not yet anyway. Keep up the good work!

    James Souchon says:

    Hi Wendy, thats awesome to hear. Thanks very much and hopefully we get to see you and Neil here soon!

    Ed and Angela Bramson says:

    Fantastic, James! Congratulations!

    James Souchon says:

    Hi Ed and Angela, Hopefully we can take a few more ‘iconic’ photos together next year! Happy New Year!

    Helena Stuhlberg says:

    I would love to capture a large coalition of huge male lions crossing a river together.

    James Souchon says:

    That would be an incredible shot Helena!

    Ange Wallace says:

    Wow! Nicely done, James!

    I am sure the only thing that would have improved the experience would have been if Sheila and I were narrating. Bahahaha!!

    Happy end to 2016. All the best in 2017! I can only imagine want New Years Eve at Londolozi would be like. Enjoy!!!

    James Souchon says:

    Hi Ange, That would have definitely added a lot of value to the whole experience! Stay tuned to the blog and you will find out about our New Years Party! Hope you guys are all well.

    Francis Daisy janssen says:

    These are the very best phot,s I have seen ,just stunning thank you for the share

    James Souchon says:

    Thanks a lot Francis

    Lea says:

    James. these are breathtakingly beautiful shots of the sunset and giraffe. Looking forward to seeing the others on your bucket list. Great work. Thanks for sharing with us.

    James Souchon says:

    Hi Lea, its my pleasure. Thank you very much!

    Fran says:

    Such gorgeous pictures. I follow your blog everyday and remember our stay at Varty Camp in October this year.

    James Souchon says:

    Thank you Fran, glad you enjoy it! Hopefully, we will see you back here at some stage!

    Susan Strauss says:

    The image is amazing as is your telling of the story with the other images leading up to the “big one”. Thanks for sharing!

    Lori says:

    James , I’m so jealous. I was so happy with my sunset shot that is until I saw yours.
    Keep taking those amazing photos
    Lori

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