In a world of Internet media we have instant access to the finest photographic images. With digital cameras and instant publishing platforms, we’ve become used to excellent wildlife photos. These days there are so many superlative images out there, taken by thousands of different professional and amateur photographers. It’s great to see, and the digital technology and Internet has made my career possible.
But I also think that as photographers we should remember that ultimately we’re just mirrors for the beauty which wild animals and landscapes present to us. The greatest value of any beautiful photograph is in the animal or landscape itself. The photograph – no matter how excellent – is simply a derivative of the remarkable creation that is an elephant, lion, baobab, leopard…or dung beetle. Or mountain, river annd ocean…
We risk “commoditising” nature when we take photographs, forgetting sometimes that we wildlife and landscape photographers are – or should be – conservationists first and foremost. We do what we do because we love our subjects. And we love to share the beauty of nature. Photography is the next best thing to actually being present in a wild area, surrounded by wild animals.
Sometimes, in our passion and drive to get the ultimate image, we maybe pass over the so-called “ordinary” or “average”. Shew, I’ve done this many times. Driving past a herd of zebra on the way to a lion. Or walking past a small flower on the way to photograph a resplendent sunset.
So today, when I was driving around Addo Elephant National Park, I simply took it slowly, and stopped at every little animal, no matter how seemingly “boring” it was. I tried to honour these unsung heroes of nature with the best photographic methods and equipment (my 500mm Canon lens and 1Dx!), and give them the equivalent effort, time and skill that I would give to a lion or leopard.
I’ve just finished reading Laurens van der Post’s “Walk with a white bushman”, and there are some classic quotes about Africa’s natural wonders, and why they mean so much to us as humans, and why they are so valuable to us on several levels. It’s a deeply moving book in places, and I feel like the old sage is speaking straight to me when he writes:
“When talking around a fire in Africa, no matter how varied and strange the company grouped by it one talks the kind of talk you never talk anywhere else, with the Southern Cross standing straighter, higher and brighter…In these circumstances one talks about things that do not even occur to one in towns. For instance, one talks naturally about God, of God and to God; one talks about mystery and wonder and one’s own experience of these things. One talks about everything in life in a way which shows there is really nothing ordinary on Earth, but all is extraordinary…Moreover, one talks of these things, so sanctified with wonder, with a natural humility and awe, and in voices that are low rather than loud, and with laughter which does not shatter but harmonizes with the silences in between the sounds of the night.”
Today, I realised once again that “there is really nothing ordinary on Earth, but all is extraordinary.”
A zebra is as radical and as miraculous as a lion, and a humble fiscal shrike is as deserving of our wonder as a soaring black eagle. Each species on Earth fully deserves it’s place in the sun, and each animal has equal rights to the planet we all call home.
For more, go to www.yearinthewild.com and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Check out my Flickr photos at www.flickr.com/scottnramsay and my Instagram photos at www.instagram.com/wildscotty. Twitter on www.twitter.com/yearinthewild.
Conservation partners BirdLife South Africa, Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, CapeNature, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Gorongosa National Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.