Photographers’ Favourite Non-Wildlife Photo

April 25th 2016  |   Photography Safaris, Experiences  |  by   Richard Smith
Photographers’ Favourite Non-Wildlife Photo

We asked famous wildlife photographers for their favourite non-wildlife photo. Below, each photographer gives the story behind the photograph, why they chose it, and how they achieved it.

Niels van Gijn – Tanzania

Masai Askari at Rufiji River Camp, Selous, with child Inigo

Image taken at Rufiji River Camp, Selous, ‘Masai Askari with Inigo’ by Niels van Gijn @silverless

Where possible, we’ve always taken our children on assignment – it does add an element of chaos, but it’s so important to open young eyes to the world. We were taking portraits of the askari (nightwatchmen) at Rufiji River Camp, Selous in the last beautiful rays of light. Evenings are obviously the busiest part of the day for a photographer, but that does coincide with the children being hungry, tired and grumpy so it can be tricky.

These guys were so good with Inigo – cajoling him, playing with him, keeping him entertained, that we seized the chance for a group shot to keep him involved. I think his serious face (because he was tired) and the warmth of the Masai make this shot. That, and the underpants.

Shot with a Canon 5d mkiii 70-200mm f/2.8L and Profoto Acute B2 Air.

Edward Selfe – Zanzibar


Image taken at Stone Town, Zanzibar by Edward Selfe @edwardselfe

This request was harder than I thought – turns out that almost all of my favourite memories (photos represent memories to me) include the time that I have spent with this continent’s wonderful wildlife!

Even so, here’s one of my favourite photos of all time. It’s a simple concept: a beautiful sunset with the story of moored dhows in the foreground. But it reminds me of the time I first discovered the magic of Zanzibar, a beautiful paradise island which is so much more than that – culturally and ethnically rich with outstanding food and unbeatable views of the ocean.

That the island was a hub for trade routes for so long makes it attractive for more than just its white-sand beaches and creates a historical treasure-trove of intrigue. From Stone Town’s endless carved doors and long-abandoned palaces, to the spice plantations and small market stalls in the interior, the island’s trading heritage is ever-apparent, and the characteristic shape of the dhows captures that for me.

Alex Walters – Botswana


Raw image taken on the Selinda Adventure Trail, Botswana by Alex Walters @PersonalPangea for Great Plains Conservation

This before shot doesn’t look like much; flat light and a little messy.  It was the very end of the first Selinda Canoe Trail (now known as Selinda Adventure Trial) of the 2011 season.  After four days of canoeing and walking the Selinda Spillway, I’d turned around to see the other canoes behind. The guest I was canoeing with, Roxanne Wisner, had pulled a yoga shape and I snapped one frame before she put her arms down with whatever setting my camera was on, not having time to check the setting (it was on 1/125 f20 ISO160 17mm using a Canon 60D and Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens).

The initial result lacked punch, there’s a distracting tripod in the middle of our canoe as well as bags and paddle, but I felt this shot encapsulated the sense of achievement of canoeing down a river very few have ever done before.

So I went to work cropping the left and bottom parts of the picture, removing the tripod by cloning water and parts of Roxanne’s top over the area where the tripod was (possibly my first ever attempt at this, so not brilliant and should probably do this again) and then as the picture lacked punch with flat light, I converted to black and white using software called Silver Effects Pro by Nik Software (highly recommended and a now free plug-in you can get for Aperture, Lightroom and Photoshop) and increased the contrast and adding a Selenium tint.

So I like this shot a lot, the lines of the clouds draws you into the centre and lower third of the shot and the subjects.


Selinda Adventure Trail Botswana – modified and enhanced image

With Roxanne’s hands spread apart like this it also make for a great marketing billboard to launch our re-branded Selinda Adventure Trail, now with helicopter drop into the start of what is either a walking or canoeing trail, depending on water levels (see image 3)


Selinda Adventure Trail Botswana – marketing image

Lessons of the story:

  1. Get the shot first, if you have time thereafter and the subject’s doing the same you can then check your settings and re-shoot.
  2. Always have your camera on the ON position!
  3. Anticipate conditions. Leave your camera in a setting that is more or less suitable for the environmental conditions that you’re in i.e. if you’re driving into a group of animals, before you get there increase your shutter speed setting to capture fast movements and put a long lens on, or a wide angle for more scenic shots; and never start out on a morning drive with the previous nights settings e.g. high ISO and slow shutter speeds for those night scenes around camp.

Ross Couper – Tanzania

Image taken at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania by @rosscouperphoto for @singita_

Image taken at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania by @rosscouperphoto for @singita_

Next to wildlife photography, I enjoy taking portrait photography especially when I am able to capture a person’s mood or emotion.

This image was the essence of capturing the raw emotion of African culture.  It may not be perfect, but the imperfections of half silhouetted figures with an amber glow of the last few seconds of sunlight certainly evoked a matching emotion to what their traditional dance was emanating – sadness, happiness, love, strength (the list could go on).

Though this moment was captured in time, I can still hear the beat of the drum and the voices of the dancers echoing across the plains. I remember holding my breath as I glanced across to what was happening and as I pressed the shutter down on my camera….I knew this was magic – this was Africa.

Any questions?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have, on how to photograph on safari, something more about a specialist photograph safari that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

Whichever way you choose to capture photos on your safari holiday, we’re happy to help with advice. We’ve got keen photographers among the team at Aardvark Safaris for the relatively easy stuff, and I’m pleased to be contacted if you need any wildlife photography advice.  Contact me David Murray, a professional photographer based somewhere between the UK and Africa, for the tougher, geeky questions.

Please give us a call or drop us an email and we will do the rest.


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