Thick dark grey-blue clouds started to hug the horizon as we made our way to a nearby tree for sundowners on the plains of the Mara North Conservancy. The guests and myself hadn’t passed or seen another vehicle since departing from Ngare Serian Camp for the much anticipated afternoon game drive. I could vividly see on the Serian guests’ faces that they were soaking up the intimacy of this knowledge and experience that they were each having with this special destination. It was their last night and Francis, our wonderfully knowledgeable and always smiling guide, was taking us towards a beautiful Balanites tree.
There was very little light available that the storm-soaked clouds allowed through when we came upon a male ostrich, seemingly standing still for no apparent reason other than to very warily watch us as the road started to take us within a couple of meters away from him.
Francis pointed out that this handsome male did indeed have a reason for standing so still – he was standing over and protecting his eggs.
Approaching him slowly, all the while ensuring that we kept a respectable distance from him as in no way did we want to cause alarm and impose on him, the ostrich started moving his beautiful black with white-tipped wings back and forth, mimicking the crashing and receding movement of the ocean’s waves upon the shore.
That is when the magic started.
I knew there and then the specific image that I wanted to create. The specific image that my photographic voice called out to be captured. With the low light available, it all came together.
In order to capture the movement of the wings and to draw out that motion of them coming up and crashing down, I proceeded with the following steps:
- To blur the Ostrich’s slow-moving wings, I dialed in a shutter speed of 1/30s in order to accentuate the movement.
- In order to avoid camera shake due to the heaviness of my lens and the show shutter speed I dialed in, I securely rested my lens on one of the photographic beanbags that Serian provides in each of their vehicles.
- With my shutter speed decided upon and my camera’s stability assured, I composed my image in mind of the final image I wanted to create. As the ostrich was facing towards my right, I placed his long body predominantly on the left side of my frame in order capture the lifting movement of his wings whilst allowing space on the right side of my frame for the downward movement.
- I moved my focus point to the neck of the Ostrich – the most static point within my frame.
- Holding my focus button down, I waited for the circular motion of the wings to happen again.
- I released my shutter.
Thus the concept of Waves of Feathers was created.
By visualizing the type of image(s) you want to create when approaching a scene and taking account of the environmental factors surrounding you and your subject (the type of light, if the subject out in the open or surrounded by foliage, etc), it will help you engage with what you can create and the type of settings you need to dial in to capture it.
Photography is such a powerful medium with endless potential of what you can create and capture. Explore and play with different settings. There is no need to hold back. You may find yourself delightedly surprised with what your final image shows.
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Photographer in Residence at Alex Walker’s Serian Camps in Kenya from August to mid September 2016.
Photo Tour Leader at ORYX – Worldwide Photographic Expeditions and Craghoppers SA Ambassador.