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The Water and Sea Boys

David Yarrow

The Water and Sea Boys

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THE WATERBOYS
Amboseli, Kenya - 206

As a result of the poor accord between cattle and elephants in Amboseli, there are not many cameras that have had this awesome scene in their line of fire over the last three years and I consider myself privileged. Equally, I have put in the time ... show more
THE WATERBOYS
Amboseli, Kenya - 206

As a result of the poor accord between cattle and elephants in Amboseli, there are not many cameras that have had this awesome scene in their line of fire over the last three years and I consider myself privileged. Equally, I have put in the time and know the area as well as any film maker. Looking at my notes, I have been on this lake on 47 occasions in the last three years and this is one of the biggest herds that has crossed during my visits. When our look out scouts saw the opportunity, we reacted very quickly. I don’t think that my guide and friend – Juma Wanyama – has ever driven quicker from base to the lake.

I think that big pictures need either transcending content that engages across much of the print, or the use of space to create a distinct sense of place. The Waterboys is a hybrid of these two dynamics – the herd offers as magnificent an animal collective as today’s natural world can offer – big tuskers in good numbers with their young. As the affiliated photographer for TUSK, the UK based conservation charity, I have witnessed some desperate sights in sub­Saharan Africa – no more so than the field operation on a rhino named ‘Hope’ after she had been butchered to within an inch of her life by poachers. But there are also uplifting stories and the stability of the elephants in Amboseli is one – only one elephant from a resident population of 1,200 has been killed by poachers this year.

This image is a product of not just the elephants, but also the sky. My camera metadata informs me that it was taken at 11.50 am – possibly about the worst time to photograph anything near the equator – high midday suns are not a camera­man’s friend. On this day, however, the sky was full of fluffy cloud cover and the light was not stark, but contextual. The darker rain clouds were also starting to assemble – as often happens at lunchtime at the start of the rainy season. This was good fortune, but that is also why I regard late October in Amboseli as prime season.

This is the best place in the world to photograph African elephants, as emphatically demonstrated by The Waterboys. It is a timeless image that I cherish.
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