The more I have photographed elephants the more difficult I have found it. To keep photographs of this incredible animal different and interesting is a challenge. They are the largest of all the land mammals and sometimes tricky to capture. Here are a few things I have played with over the last few months to try and keep things fresh.
The ears of an African elephant are one of their most prominent features. When you sit in the presence of an elephant, its ears attract a great deal of attention. Their smooth texture is so completely different to the countless folds on the skin that they lie against. I tried, not only, to capture this difference but also the contrasting light found on the ear and the shadow it casts behind it. There are some interesting combinations of colours, shades and textures that can be captured with some patience.
A very prominent and unique feature of elephants is their trunk. The way in which they move it and the control they have over it is mesmerizing. The fine hairs as well as all the wrinkles have a huge amount of character to add to a close-up photograph of the trunk. The different shapes created as they feed, drink and go about their day are another dimension to capture. Go further than just the trunk though and try to freeze these actions taking place. The two photos I have included here are just of the trunk as it is completing one or two actions I have mentioned above. These actions usually take place at high speed so remember to have a shutter speed capable of freezing this action (upwards of 1/1000 of a second).
Another option for keeping your photographs of elephants different is capturing them in their environment at a slightly wider angle. We rarely see elephants in the same place doing the same thing and this is a sure way of keeping things interesting. The bush around elephants where ever you look at them in Africa is on its own quite beautiful, adding an elephant as a subject will give your photograph just that much more.
I have only experimented with one or two close-up options, eyes, feet and tails are the things that you could also look at getting up-close with. Next time you find yourself with a herd of elephants or even a lone bull, give some of the ideas I have mentioned a try and get in really tight, even if it means only including half the face in the image and if that doesn’t give you what you are after, maybe go the opposite way and go wide and capture the surroundings.
Have you found it tricky to photograph elephants after doing it for a certain amount of time? Is there a way you prefer to photograph these amazing animals?
Written and photographed by: Simon Smit