While I would like to insert some deep philosophical statement about how this moment felt, or where I was, I think the most important thing to remember, when I captured this I was two gin and tonics down with a third right next to me and a handful of mixed nuts laying on the floor of the boat next to me. Now those nuts were soaking wet, and they did taste like the Chobe river. Wildlife photography can be rough.
If epic and peaceful had a smell, I imagine this place is what it would smell like. This weird combination of fresh and gritty. There was so little sound, the river was slow at this point and no tourist boats were in the area. It's one of those few places on this earth that I could sit all day and just watch the sky pass overhead.
We were in a double decker flat bottom boat, something like a house boat without the house. It allowed us to get incredible low angle photos, but its design also let us get into spots that we normally couldn't get to. We puttered around most of the afternoon looking for large game coming up to the water. This was a particularly quite afternoon, now our second night here. We could see a few elephants off in the distance, but with the pace that this boat could move, there was no promise we would be there before they took off, so we took out time.
We worked slow along the riverbank, searching for crocs, buffalo, anything really as we worked our way toward the elephants. I had multiple camera's (three to be exact) and with very little that was close by I decided to have a little but of fun. I set my camera on the deck of the boat, covered it with my jacket and pulled out my Infra Red conversion canon 5d mkii and popped on my 14mm lens. The sky was incredible, the clouds were flowing overhead and were creating beautiful texture across the sky. I chose to use the I/R converted camera as I knew I wanted to present this photo in black and white. The dramatic sky and clouds. The 14mm lens was perfect for bringing out the bend in the river and prominence to the sky, creating a dramatic and moody landscape.
I could see what I wanted to capture here. While the river seems to meander slowly, there is much more force, and much more water moving than it really looks like. The river bent back south here as it widened, creating a small shallow area of slow moving water. The river doesn't make a sound, the wind was blowing but silent as clouds raced overhead. I wanted to emulate the peaceful feel yet powerful reality of the river while showing very little of it. I used the bend, the subtle shift in the river to soften the overall feel while giving a sense of motion and flow to the image.
I lay on the bottom of the boat, water lapped up and over the shallow edge and covered my face and hands as I worked. I adjusted the camera to create the right balance of water, land and sky. I wanted the sky to blend in the land far into the distance to create a feeling of infinite expanse. We pulled close the bank, much closer than it looks like we were in this image . . . maybe 45 feet or so. Our driver killed the engine and we floated for a few minutes in utter silence as I snapped a few images. It didn't take more than a few snaps to capture what I was looking for.
Its funny those little things that you just fail to forget sometimes, like if your looking through the viewfinder, and your face is getting wet, so is the lens. Even more important, everyone will think this is funny but you, so if the picture isn't any good, tell them it is anyway.
I also just realized that writing about landscape photography can be quite boring.
"Mighty River Bend" is part of my collection "Of Things Large and Small" and is offered in two sizes, each in a limited edition. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this photo will go to conservation efforts in East Africa.
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