I take most of my elephant images in Amboseli for three reasons, all of which helped make this image work. The first is that the flat and arid topography of the park - and particularly of the dry lake outside it—lends itself not only to clean backdrops, but also to good predictive analysis of elephant movement. The second is that I can get out and about and set up remotes without infringing upon any laws or endangering myself. Third, the elephants in Amboseli, just like in Tsavo, can be very big. I really don’t look outside of Kenya for elephants; it is the home of the big tuskers.
This was one of my most coveted images in 2017, and the limited-edition prints of it sold out within a year. That sort of demand always suggests a special image. I want to take pictures that stop people in their tracks. An American friend of mine in the fashion industry refers to it as a “Kennedy Dead” photograph or headline. This is a “Kennedy Dead” photograph.
In truth, it is a lucky shot on the widest-angle lens I have—the 20mm. The subject needs to be close, otherwise it will always be “loose,” and this requires a great deal of predictive analysis and good fortune. I am clearly not with the camera!
The composition is an act of god, but I am willing to take it—the frame within the frame. The big bull had to block the late-afternoon sun or there was no picture. He kindly did that, which allowed the lighting to be energetic and dramatic. The whole picture—almost full frame—will never be repeated. This immersive study of the elephant kingdom is a complete one-off.