Award-winning photo-journalist, Chris Marais believes you don’t have to be an F-Stop Fundi to take good shots in a place like Namibia’s Etosha National Park. You just have to pay attention . . .
1. If you’re heading for Etosha sometime this year and intend returning with good photographic memories, get used to early nights and very early mornings. You want to begin your Etosha Day way before sun-up. There is always dust in the air, but at this time it combines with the pre-dawn ambient light to create a light pink haze over everything you photograph.
2. Keep looking at the shapes of the landscape. At first, you’ll see nothing but white chalk and a small strip of water. And then, from out of the bush on all sides, the animals appear, trooping down for their morning drink. Within minutes the scene might well resemble a beast-version of a busy Bruegel painting, and you might find yourself dazed and confused.
3. By the time the Golden Moment arrives and the first rays have flooded the veld, you need to be set up with an early herd of very photogenic zebras on hand. Work with your short and long lenses and keep looking for the way the animals compose themselves before you. And then go in as close as you can with the long lens and work on the striped patterns of the zebras. Try to catch small moments among animals, like when a loving Burchell’s gives his wife a little schnoggle on the neck just because it’s a nice day and living in Etosha beats living anywhere else.
4. Take your eye off the viewfinder, sit back and suss out the scene before you. Then zoom in on sections of the tableau, and try to tell a story with the image you take. Take note of their shapes, together in a group, and try to find diagonal lines, as made here from bottom left to top right, by the neck and head of giraffes.
6. Nor should you always concentrate on capturing herds, or groups of animals. You’re in Etosha, flat land of open space, and there’s nothing more evocative than a lone beast, and sparce trees, on a vast, empty landscape under an early morning sky.
7 If you’re staying at a romantic place like Fort Namutoni, try to get back before night falls for some last-light architectural shots, in the unbeatable gold light that you get just before dark.