There is nothing quite like the struggle to get one final image, one final shot before you pack it in for the night, knowing you won't be back here anytime soon. But there is also nothing quite like the magic of having that final image present itself to you, almost as if Africa decided to give you one final reason to love her. That was this moment for me.
It was our last day on safari. Floating along the Chobe River in northern Botswana we searched for those elusive shots. The only thing we didn't have a great photo of at this point was a crocodile, not the easiest of animals to capture, but something new none the less.
We traveled up and down the bank, searching hard to find something. After an hour or more, we found one. A big old buy, perhaps 16 feet long, a massive head and terrifying look to him. Our guide pulled the boat in as close as he could, and we sat, waiting for that moment he did something worth photographing.
Crocodiles are patient animals, slow, methodical, and working at their own pace. After 65 million years, evolving very very little, they have earned the right to do what they want. And he didn't want do do anything, so we waited.
We pulled out our final sundowners, again, Gin and Tonics, and toasted to a final evening in Africa. It was a peaceful moment, but it was still missing something, a final image.
Still, we waited.
It wasn't until we saw commotion along the river that we knew there might be some luck coming our way. Boats, more than could count, were making their way toward us. They had been following a herd of elephants along the river bank for miles, just as they began to appear through the tall grass and approach the waters edge. They were a good distance away still, but they were headed right at us. It looks like all that waiting might just pay off. If there was a better spot to photograph these guys, I couldn't see it. We had parked in the perfect spot.
The elephants emerged, one by one along the river bank, and headed into the shallow water right by our boat. They waded in, mid shoulder height and stopped, not 20 feet away. They were directly in front of where we were. After a moment or two, they began to eat, pulling the long grass out of the mud, but instead of just eating it, they would twist and hit it against the water, cleaning off all the mud before putting it in their mouth.
From the moment that they started to clean the grass, I knew what image I was looking to get. Our flat bottom boat, with very little railing made it perfect to get down right to water level and photograph. I laid on the bottom of the boat, my 600mm lens hanging over the edge. With each pull, each twist and turn I fired my shutter. It was already starting to get dark, so I continually had to adjust settings, change position. This seemed almost to be a final test, one last exam after the weeks of work I had gone through. Could I get this one final image, the one I could see, envision?
With each flip of the trunk, each pull of the grass, we were getting soaked. With the elephant only feet away, water was going everywhere, including all over us. I couldn't help but smile. Greg du Toit stood to my left, taking pictures in tandem with me. We were both focused, stuck in a zone, almost entranced by the moment. The trunk would twist and turn, grass and water flew in all directions.
When it was all done, the elephants walking off into the sunset, back into the tall grass from where they came, we stayed still for a moment. I was drenched, head to toe, I had not even noticed how much water had been sent my direction. I rolled to my side, looked over at Greg, Dad and Adrienne. Everyone smiled. It was one of those moments that you can't explain, but you can feel it. It captures your heart, and the moment holds you tight. forever something that look back on with a smile. Knowing how lucky you were to be there, to capture it. We rode back along the river, reliving the story, laughing and joking the whole way. Africa had delivered something magical, one of those moments that only Africa can.
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