“Ready for Lunch Under the Giants” © Marvin Groves

This image was captured in August of 2023 during the dry season when wildlife seek out waterholes.  It is one of a series of images of young elephants interacting with, and nursing around the elephant herd.  This unique perspective was made possible by utilization of an underground “hide”.  

There are several such “hides” scattered around Africa.  The “hides” are typically near waterholes and located at just above ground level, giving photographers a great view.  This perspective allows for reduced stress for wildlife and protection for both the animals and photographers.  

This image was captured with a Nikon D850 / 28-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm / ISO 400 / f 8. / 1/60th second using center-weighted metering.  We can appreciate how close the “hide” allows us to be by the 70mm setting.  The perspective of actually photographing upwards increases the feeling of intimacy.  While I haven’t had the opportunity to experience similar “blinds” or “hides” here in the States, I’ve heard they too can afford unique photographic opportunities.

Many animals frequent the waterholes as they depend on water for their daily lives.  Lions, zebras, kudu, elands, impalas and many others, including birds, too many to even name, come to drink but make no mistake, when the lions arrive, everyone else stays away.  It’s interesting to watch animal behavior as they clearly can “smell” that the lions have been in the area earlier.  All the animals remain highly vigilant as they drink, just in case a lion might be lurking around.

The elephant herds are enormously entertaining as they come to drink.  The younger ones can barely contain their excitement as they often run the last several yards to the water.  The elephants demonstrate fascinating social skills as they drink and interact.  Their babies are not crowded, bumped or jostled and many find it the perfect opportunity to nurse as mom enjoys her drink.  

The individuals may trumpet, rumble and/or make low-frequency sounds as they communicate with each other.  On occasion some young adults wade into the water where they roll, splash and throw mud everywhere.  Photographers need to be on the lookout to avoid getting splashed by the exuberate youngsters. 

I have been fortunate to travel many places to photograph wildlife but personally I found this experience to be incredible and I consider it to be simply “life changing”.  I would encourage anyone that is serious about wildlife photography to make a trip to Africa and see this wonderful land.  

Also, I encourage you to make prints – large prints.  Having photographic examples of your adventures hanging on your wall is so rewarding.  Whether you print them yourself or have it done professionally, having them to see and share with others adds such a dimension.  You might even consider arranging to hang them in a local coffee shop, art center, or other venue.   

I confess that my love for prints probably comes from my background in photo-labs.  I have had friends, family and business associates that have encouraged, supported and guided me over the years. After my most recent trip to Africa I made a collage that has several of my most favorite images displayed.  I printed 8×10 copies of the collage to distribute to those folks that have been so helpful and that mean so much to me.  

I am constantly pleased to see how much those collages mean to others.  It’s a beautiful, tangible piece of art that they can carry away and then revisit on occasion to remind them of their involvement with you, the photographer.  Be sure to place your name on the collage, prominently but discreetly on the page.