Written by: Estelle Ackermann
As a wildlife photographer, everyone has to start somewhere. This morning I browsed through my photos and stumbled upon a golden oldie.
This photo was taken in 2014 when my husband and I went to the Kruger National Park with our family. It was an early July morning and the golden hour had just started to peak through the branches of the lush Kruger when we spotted two elephant bulls.
As any nature enthusiast will admit, the very first sighting on your first day back in the bush usually lingers a little longer. This played in my favour, as I managed to quickly filch the camera from my husband after he took his shots. At the time, I didn’t own a DSLR camera, I had never heard of aperture, ISO or shutter speed, let alone ever tried to focus with a camera that has buttons other than the shooting-button.
Wasting too much time on placing my focus point, time started to become of the essence as our family slowly started to drive along. I managed to see half an elephant head through my lens and I just took my very first shot on a DSLR.
Yes, this photo was unfortunately taken in ‘scene’ mode and I’ve also cut off part of my subject’s bum and head with not enough spacing or feel for the environment. I have also not taken this photo in optimal zoom; my photo would have been sharper and I easily could have cut the picture according to personal preference. Luckily I was completely unaware of all the foibles at the time and immediately told my husband that he really should share this photo on his Facebook page.
By then we had been dating for only a few months so the poor guy just couldn’t say no or let me in on some of the photo’s ‘quirks’. But my persistence paid off when my husband posted the picture on Petri Ackermann Wildlife Photography page and shortly thereafter received a Facebook message from an international professional photographer whom we both greatly admire.
He suggested that in future I should rather try to do ‘this’ when taking a similar shot, focus a little more on ‘that’ when editing, try not to do too much of the same thing with placing etc. We were both quite speechless and at the same time we just couldn’t contain ourselves; this very simple and amateur photo all of a sudden was the gateway of our learning and understanding the very basic dynamics of nature and wildlife photography.
Soon my partner and I started to guide one another (he mostly me). We analysed and argued the logics of our settings, spent some time reading photography magazines and blogs and religiously followed our favourite professional photographers’ Instagram profiles.
Our greatest investments by far were to attend photographic safaris and start to spend some time with local and international photographers, now our co-founders of iCapture Photo Safaris. And the rest is history!
If I had known then that publishing my flawed photo would lead up to this moment, where I can now guide and assist photographers internationally with the same enthusiasm and passion for nature, or the same initial confusion about the basics and highly advanced know-how of photography or a DSLR, I probably would have said something absurd like, “Are you sure? I am only an amateur!”
Some food for thought: Everybody (even the photographers who really inspire you) started with some amateur shots, very few likes and only after loads of practice, practice, practice, patience, time and guidance they’ve developed their genre and niche that will have you in awe.
But we all have to start somewhere.
I would like to invite all the shy photographers and amateurs out there to start sharing your photos and embrace your humble beginnings! If you are open to proper guidance, constructive comments or compliments, post your photos with the hashtag #icapture_forum or tag @icapturephotosafaris on Instagram, and our iCapture Photo Safari team members will gladly guide you in your development from rookie, to amateur, to professional photographer. Your transformation will be remarkable and who knows; maybe one day you too will be able to mentor your followers.