Over the past few months I have been debating, if you can call it that, the importance of light over subject matter in wildlife photography. It came about from a question asked by a journalist a few years ago …
Is there any animal that you want to photograph but haven’t been able too yet?
That’s a dangerous question for a wildlife photographer. Because you are implying that wildlife photography is all about the subjects and not so much about the light. Most people would expect an answer like Leopards, Tiger or some other rare animals. My personal approach to wildlife photography is simple, common creatures in good light will always produce a stronger photograph than good creatures in bad light. So to answer your question, the humble Giraffe silhouette has been by nemesis photograph for years.
common creatures in good light will always produce a stronger photograph than good creatures in bad light …
Finding the Balance
The holy grail for wildlife photographers is finding amazing subject matter (Pangolin or that Leopard) in golden Light.
This favorite moment and scene that I photographed in the flood plains of the Lower Zambezi is a perfect example of photographing amazing light and waiting for something to develop in that light. The sun was still quite high in the sky, but the recent veld fires on the Zambezi escarpment had created golden light quite early in the day. It was the perfect time to get golden shafts of light through the winter thorn forest canopy, we wanted to photograph the light. However we wanted some context and subject matter to I found a herd of impala on the move and we followed them moving through the forest. This gap opened up and we sat there photographing the impala herd moving through this prefect scene. We had been there for 20 odd minutes before we saw elephants moving on the same game path, what followed is was we as photographic guides wish for every photographer that comes to Africa would experience.