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Elephants: Textures & Details

What is your go-to lens for photographing elephants? I would say that majority of elephant photographs are taken with wide-angle lenses, so that the elephant and its surroundings are shown in the shot. By displaying its surrounding environment, one gets the feel of the sheer size of these beasts. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of a shot, and before I start getting creative, I often ‘bank’ a few shots using my wide-angle lens as well.  In fact, some of the best elephant photographs that I have seen on social media and websites were shot using wide-angle lenses or mid-ranged zoom lenses.

African Elephant
| Focal length: 70mm | Settings: 1/80sec F/6.3 ISO100 | Photographed at: Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve |

But I think that elephant’s have much more to offer in terms of getting creative, and sometimes pulling out the big zoom lenses or telephoto lens may not be a bad idea! Textures and details are what I look for when getting creative with elephants. These factors are enhanced by good light and shadows. Whereas the eyes are the main focal point in close-ups, I prefer not to have the elephant’s eyes in the frame . I look for scenes where I can incorporate the beautiful, irregular lines on their tusks, or the different textures along the different parts of their body. I also add surrounding details if possible, to enhance the creativity of the shot. 

Knowing the end result or what you are looking to achieve in post-processing is also important when taking a photograph. When the light is quite harsh, I like to over-expose the shot in camera, and get creative by converting the photo to black and white or sepia during post-processing. I also de-saturate some photos quite a bit, still keeping some hints of colour, giving a better effect than the full colour version. 

Here’s a few photos I’ve taken over the past few years showing a more creative approach to photographing elephants. 

African Elephant
| Focal length: 500mm | Settings: 1/2000sec F/6.3 ISO640 | Photographed at: Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve |
African Elephant
| Focal length: 500mm | Settings: 1/400sec F/5.6 ISO1250 | Photographed at: Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve |
African Elephant
| Focal length: 280mm | Settings: 1/500sec F/7.1 ISO1000 | Photographed at: Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve |
African Elephant
| Focal length: 500mm | Settings: 1/500sec F/5.6 ISO1000 | Photographed at: Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve |
African Elephant
| Focal length: 500mm | Settings: 1/1600sec F/5.6 ISO1000 | Photographed at: Kruger National Park |
African Elephant
| Focal length: 500mm | Settings: 1/1250sec F/5.6 ISO640 | Photographed at: Kruger National Park |

Using higher focal lengths forces you to become more creative to a certain extent, and with the many wildlife photographers (amateurs and professionals) out there, it’s good to start shooting scenes that would otherwise not have been photographed. After trying these kinds of shots a few times, you will start thinking creatively not only with elephants, but with other species as well, where textures and details of an animal can be photographed in a unique way. 

So remember to use all the lenses in your bag the next time you out and have an opportunity to photograph elephants!

 

Pravir Patel

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