Day Three — Into Moremi: the Lost Elephant

August 19

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The early part of the day was hurry up and wait. Waiting for bags to get collected and moved to the front of the lodge, waiting for bags to be put into the trailer, waiting for everything to get sorted out before we had four Land Cruisers loaded with all students, teachers, and our gear. Still, we were headed out of Tree Lodge by 9:30 am and on the long 150km worth of road that would take us to camp and the animals.

No, no wild dogs on the road before Moremi this time. In fact, we had a predator-less day. 

That doesn't mean it was a bad day. Not at all. We had cooperative giraffe, birds of all sort, and best of all lots and lots of elephant. Elephant in the trees, elephants walking, elephants at the water, the whole elephant experience. 

Let's start with the giraffe. You know you've got a bad case of the fleas when you have an entire colony of Ox Peckers lined up on you (see image at right).

I immediately followed this image up with a challenge to my students: so how much giraffe and how many Ox Peckers do you actually need to get across what's happening here? I immediately framed up a different shot to show them what I meant (unfortunately, giraffe and birds were all moving constantly, so by the time I managed to take it I personally found my demonstration shot sub-optimal, but I include it here to show you what I was talking about with the students in the vehicle):

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As you can see, the light and the bird positions changed on me, but I think you get the idea: you don't need much giraffe to get across which animal these birds are riding on. 

All of which leads us to our first image review (the next day), when I got this image from Mark:


Here Mark is using the same thing I was talking to him and the others about: how much of something do you need to get a point across? The natural thing to do would be to show the entire adult giraffe, but by cropping this way Mark basically makes his point much more obvious: the baby is rump high. (It's always all about the baby, isn't it? ;~) 

The temptation on safari is to just take two types of photos: full animal, or animal face. Since much of the time the animals are just standing around or doing some common activity (eating usually), if you just use those two framings—full animal and head shot—you'll come back from safari with a lot of images that look the same. In fact, they'll look the same as the reference photos you'd find in an animal encyclopedia or field guide. BORE-ing.

It's better to look for the stories. The details. The relationships. The action. And to frame those things so that you make an obvious statement, as Mark did with his baby giraffe. 

The highlight of the day was having multiple families of elephants walking down to the water later in the afternoon. Here's Murali's shot of the group coming out of the forest and down to the water:

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Of course, waterhole activity is just part of an elephant's day, so as the dominate males and females decided it was time to walk back and destroy some more forest, all the other family members set off after them. One group of elephants crossed the water, making nice, loud sloshing sounds, sounds that almost overrode the sounds of shutters clicking. 

Wait, what's that? One of the elephants is turning around and going back across the water again in a frenzy! The last male doing the crossing with him gave our splasher a bronx cheer: turns out we had an elephant that followed the wrong family! Sure enough, our teen elephant frantically splashed back across the water and ran to join the correct elephant family:

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Well, that's a new one I hadn't seen before. Apparently even elephants get lost at the water park. 

We had so much good shooting during our drive in, we didn't get into camp until just before dark, so we didn't have much of a camp orientation in daylight. No biggie. Everyone was happy with our first day of shooting. Time for a shower, a meal, and a nice campfire chat.

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