Behind the shot – The Elephant Crossing

In February 2016 I was on a trip to Kenya. It was a personal trip rather than a work trip but being a photographer…well you know how it is!

We were on a safari drive making our way through the Masai Mara National Reserve. The reserve is an area of spectacular savannah wilderness in southwestern Kenya, along the Tanzanian border.

Its animals include lions, cheetahs, elephants and zebra’s. Wildebeest traverse its grassy plains and rolling hills during their annual migration.

Nile Crocodiles and pods of hippo’s populate the Mara and Talek rivers as they meander through the Mara before they spill out into Lake Victoria.

It is truly awe inspiring.

The Toyota land cruiser we were in, driven expertly by a really great and knowledgable bloke called Mahamed who in the years since the trip has subsequently become a friend, drove us along a bumpy track – all the tracks on the Mara are bumpy by the way – and as I stood in the back of the vehicle, bouncing off the open roof space with my cameras as I tried to keep an eye out for potential pictures I realised that after the last brief halt a few hundred yards back down the track I had neglected to secure one of my cameras properly.

The Fuji XT1 with a 50-140mm f2.8 lens attached was lying loose on a seat in the truck. I know, I know…bad drills all round! And as I turned realising my error the inevitable bump in the track was hit and it fell from the seat.

As it hit the floor of the truck the lens and camera parted company in a very unglamorous way. Rubber seals and tiny screws flying all over the place. It was quickly clear that this camera and lens would take no further active role in this Kenya trip! After a few strong words to myself for my mistake I wrapped the whole thing up in a cloth and put it in my bag to keep all the bits together.

Clearly these things happen. Annoying and frustrating as they are I still had a wide lens on another Fuji body and as usual I had my Leica M9 with a 50mm on it so it wasn’t like I couldn’t take any pictures – that would have been a tragic outcome!

The 50mm was now the longest lens I had to use. A thought that initially gave me a little concern because the immediate thought when you think about a safari holiday in a place like Kenya is that you need the longest glass you can get! But don’t worry. You don’t.

A short while after the Fuji-bump incident we crossed over the River Mara on a bridge not too far from the Kenya/Tanzania border. Stopping to cast our eyes along the banks of the river I noticed a small group of elephants on one side.

Slowly and with the complete assurance of a species completely comfortable in the environment they made their way from the tree-line and across a sandy bank before entering the water and crossing the river.

In their lumbering but highly efficient way they reached the far bank before blending into the trees and out of sight.

I shot the picture here on their approach to the water with the Leica M9 and a 50mm f2 Summicron. The exposure was 1/2000 @f4 with an ISO of 200.

Is there a moral to this story…not especially, other than take care of your kit, have a back up or two if you’re on a big and potentially one-off trip, make the best use of the equipment you have as you can still get good pictures and secure your bloody cameras if you’re bouncing along a rough track…oh and go to Kenya! Guarantee you won’t regret it.

And for those worrying about the state of the Fuji…on eventual return to the UK both camera and lens were repaired perfectly in a very short time by the helpful people at Fuji and both continued on to have a couple more years happy service.

 Image (c) Ian Forsyth

See more of my work at Room 2850

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