Portraits: What they look like
We will use a long lens possibly with a converter to go in very close to emphasize the different aspects of the elephant, showing detail for instance of the trunk or of the hair on the babys back.
Landscape: Where they live
It is important to include their living space so that the images go beyond the straight record and place the elephant in their natural terrain, otherwise you might as well photograph them in a zoo.
Action: What they do
Observing and recording behavior makes for more interesting experiences and ultimately better images. One needs to always be prepared and ready to shoot that special moment in time. Elephants are social creatures, which makes them fun to photograph.
While they may not resemble humans in appearance, they are like us social, intelligent, playful, emotional, vulnerable. Elephants strong social attachments are what make them special.
Whether you are on safari in, visiting a sanctuary, or on a trip to the zoo, the key to a great photograph lies in understanding elephant behaviour so that you can photograph and appreciate.
Elephants are social creatures what makes them truly magical. If you have the chance to see them in the wild, it is well worth taking the time to wait and see what unfolds.
Elephants gather in small family groups. If you see a baby elephant, dont leave. Wait and follow that family because every elephant wants to see and smell that baby. If you spend the day with them, I assure you something magical will happen.
If you see a big bull elephant and another is not too far away, they will eventually greet each other by wrapping their trunks around each other. Its a way of shaking hands and of sharing scent.
Although sometimes it is just fun to roll around in the mud, a mud bath has its utility, serving to cool and protect against the sun and parasites.
Midday may be the time when the light is harshest but it is often the time when elephants will seek refreshment and recreation in a watering hole or mud pit.
Go to a source of water if it is nearby. There will be a lot of play and fooling around. Elephants standing there is boring. Elephants playing with other elephants is fantastic.
Arrive before the elephants do so they can see you as they come nearer and get used to your presence. When youre photographing its not about being a part of things. You dont want a picture of them interacting with you. You want them interacting with each other.
Finally, if you are going to be sitting in one place for a while, position yourself where the light will ultimately work to your advantage as the sun moves across the sky.
Elephants dont like humans on foot, so your best options are photographing from a car or elevated area. And never approach an elephant. Let them come closer to you. Then you can put away the telephoto lens and use a wide angle instead.
Elephants operate by smell, not sight, And those sensory memories are strong. If a scent is associated with past danger, they will either charge or run away depending on the situation.
When elephants are habituated to humans in cars, they will allow a much closer visit if they have seen the car before and smelled the same smells that did them no harm.
An expensive telephoto lens is not going to get you an interesting picture, while you might need one if you are photographing from a distance, like from a tree platform or an overlook, what makes your photograph a success is not the quality of your lens but the moment happening beyond it. And you definitely dont need special lighting. In fact, camera flashes agitate elephants.
By Koos Fourie