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Dexter

David Yarrow

Dexter

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DEXTER
Zambezi, Zambia - 2018

This image ended up close to the preconceived vision I had on arrival on the Zambezi River. My goal was a full-on face-off portrait of a hippopotamus, which emphatically conveyed both the enormity of a bull and also the primeval bone structure of his fa... show more
DEXTER
Zambezi, Zambia - 2018

This image ended up close to the preconceived vision I had on arrival on the Zambezi River. My goal was a full-on face-off portrait of a hippopotamus, which emphatically conveyed both the enormity of a bull and also the primeval bone structure of his face. Hippos are half contemporary African wildlife, half dinosaur, and 100 percent lethal when compromised.

I wanted to get close and low, but with thousands of hippos on the Zambezi, this required either a large dose of bravery or a momentarily compliant animal. In most cases, hippos will drop their heads and go underwater if approached—they are mammal submarines with little tolerance for humans. Working on the Zambezi can be extremely frustrating, but the world does not need any more banal long-distance hippo shots from a boat—in which there is neither intensity nor immersion.

I had one card in my hand: the help and support of the best guide on the lower Zambezi. To him, each hippo on his stretch of the river has a personality and, in a few cases, even a name. Over the years, he has become familiar with many individual male hippos that to the rest of us look identical. There was one hippo—Dexter—who showboated and was not intimidated by boats or humans.

My guide recommended that I lie on the other bank 30 yards across the creek and wait until I grabbed Dexter’s attention. Luckily, my presence had no impact, but the angle required me to crawl even closer through mud and water. As Dexter moved toward me, it was not easy to think about single-point focus on the camera, composition, or exposure from the sun. It was a highly intense five seconds, but I got the shot.
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