Year in the Wild Blog

Day 34 – Year in the Wild 2013-14 – All is extraordinary

In a world of Internet media we have instant access to the finest photographic images. With digital cameras and instant publishing platforms, we’ve become used to excellent wildlife photos. These days there are so many superlative images out there, taken by thousands of different professional and amateur photographers. It’s great to see, and the digital technology and Internet has made my career possible.

But I also think that as photographers we should remember that ultimately we’re just mirrors for the beauty which wild animals and landscapes present to us. The greatest value of any beautiful photograph is in the animal or landscape itself. The photograph – no matter how excellent – is simply a derivative of the remarkable creation that is an elephant, lion, baobab, leopard…or dung beetle. Or mountain, river annd ocean…

We risk “commoditising” nature when we take photographs, forgetting sometimes that we wildlife and landscape photographers are – or should be – conservationists first and foremost. We do what we do because we love our subjects. And we love to share the beauty of nature. Photography is the next best thing to actually being present in a wild area, surrounded by wild animals.

Sometimes, in our passion and drive to get the ultimate image, we maybe pass over the so-called “ordinary” or “average”. Shew, I’ve done this many times. Driving past a herd of zebra on the way to a lion. Or walking past a small flower on the way to photograph a resplendent sunset.

So today, when I was driving around Addo Elephant National Park, I simply took it slowly, and stopped at every little animal, no matter how seemingly “boring” it was. I tried to honour these unsung heroes of nature with the best photographic methods and equipment (my 500mm Canon lens and 1Dx!), and give them the equivalent effort, time and skill that I would give to a lion or leopard.

I’ve just finished reading Laurens van der Post’s “Walk with a white bushman”, and there are some classic quotes about Africa’s natural wonders, and why they mean so much to us as humans, and why they are so valuable to us on several levels. It’s a deeply moving book in places, and I feel like the old sage is speaking straight to me when he writes:

“When talking around a fire in Africa, no matter how varied and strange the company grouped by it one talks the kind of talk you never talk anywhere else, with the Southern Cross standing straighter, higher and brighter…In these circumstances one talks about things that do not even occur to one in towns. For instance, one talks naturally about God, of God and to God; one talks about mystery and wonder and one’s own experience of these things. One talks about everything in life in a way which shows there is really nothing ordinary on Earth, but all is extraordinary…Moreover, one talks of these things, so sanctified with wonder, with a natural humility and awe, and in voices that are low rather than loud, and with laughter which does not shatter but harmonizes with the silences in between the sounds of the night.”

Today, I realised once again that “there is really nothing ordinary on Earth, but all is extraordinary.”

A zebra is as radical and as miraculous as a lion, and a humble fiscal shrike is as deserving of our wonder as a soaring black eagle. Each species on Earth fully deserves it’s place in the sun, and each animal has equal rights to the planet we all call home.

A large herd of buffalo came past me late this afternoon, with a cohort of cattle egrets acting as personal valets

The biggest tusker I've seen in Addo so far...most of the elephants have no tusks or very small tusks, because of the excessive hunting in the 1800s. Several bulls from Kruger NP were introduced a few years ago, and I wouldn't be suprised if this one is the offspring of one of them. Good to see a decent-sized tusk in Addo!

A cliche'd but dependable photographic subject!

Punk rocker

A black-backed jackal on its way to dinner

Black-headed heron taking off...

Crowned lapwing

Zebras have beautiful behinds...are they white with black stripes, or black with white stripes? One theory suggests that their white and black stripes create mini convection currents over the surface of their skin, because of the difference in temperature between white and black, thereby keeping them cooler in the heat of a windless day. Interesting theory!

Zebra crossing

Malachite sunbird posing for me...how those colours!?!

Punk rocker of the bird world - speckled mousebird

Sunlight catching an ellie's eyelashes

Bokmakierie standing its ground on a piece of elephant dung

Anyone guess what bird this is?!

Cool sideburns

Common fiscal - but there's nothing common about you, my friend!

For more, go to www.yearinthewild.com and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Check out my Flickr photos at www.flickr.com/scottnramsay and my Instagram photos at www.instagram.com/wildscotty. Twitter on www.twitter.com/yearinthewild.

Thanks to my partners Cape Union MartFord EverestGoodyear, and K-Way.

As well as EeziAwnFrontrunnerGlobecommHetznerNational LunaOutdoor PhotoSafari Centre Cape Town, Tracks 4 Africa, and Vodacom.

Conservation partners BirdLife South AfricaBotswana Department of Wildlife and National ParksCapeNatureEastern Cape Parks and TourismEzemvelo KZN WildlifeGorongosa National ParkiSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

4 comments

  • Absolutely AWESOME post! The narrative AND the photos! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Have no idea what bird it is but maybe a bustard? Anyway, love your photos and would love to use the one of the Jackal on my blog with a link to you if that is OK with you??

  • What beautiful, poetic, lyrical language by Sir Laurens. It is so obvious that his was a soul touched by the mystery and infinite beauty of wild places. Once a person understands and experiences this connection a conservation ethic takes hold. It is crucial that we teach this and expose people to the to the natural world. Well done, Scott!

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