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Photographic challenges and opportunities in Etosha

Written by: Ed Aylmer

Etosha National Park in Namibia covers an area of approximately 22,000km², with the pan occupying approximately 23% of the area of the park. The name Etosha in the Ovambo language means ‘great white place’. For most of the year, the pan is a dusty depression of salt and clay, which means that animals mainly occur around the edges of the pan.

The dry season provides unique opportunities to photograph wildlife, which congregate at the many waterholes in the park. In addition, the vast open areas around the pan allow animals to be photographed with uncluttered backgrounds, which tend to emphasise the animal against a relatively soft background.

The highly reflective lighting conditions caused by the white calcrete rocks can, however, be extremely challenging, with the need for constant adjustments to camera exposure settings. Sometimes when predators are absent, one has to think more creatively about how to capture fairly common subjects by focusing on unusual behaviour, animal interactions, specific species features and use of golden light in early mornings and late afternoons.

I am a wildlife photographer and have recently made a number of visits to the park. The images below are a selection from my recent trips.

Lions playing near Salvadora waterhole with the pan in the background.

Lions playing near Salvadora Waterhole with the pan in the background.

A Martial Eagle at the Goas waterhole stares into the lens with its striking eyes. The blood on the beak is evidence of a recent kill.

A martial eagle at the Goas Waterhole stares into the lens with its striking eyes. The blood on its beak is evidence of a recent kill.

After enjoying a drink and mud bath at Nebrownii Waterhole, this elephant decided to put on a show for the onlookers.

After enjoying a drink and mud bath at Nebrownii Waterhole, this elephant decided to put on a show for the onlookers.

These zebras were part of a bigger herd and decided to move off and settle a score. One has to be patient and watch for any change in animal behaviour in order to anticipate action.

These zebras were part of a bigger herd and decided to move off to settle a score. One has to be patient and watch for any change in animal behaviour in order to anticipate action.

A spotted hyena mobilises itself in the golden light of evening preparing for a night of hunting.

A spotted hyena mobilises itself in the golden light of evening, preparing for a night of hunting.

A kori bustard is gently moved away from the waterhole by a thirsty springbok. Two fairly common subjects caught in a moment of interaction.

A kori bustard is gently moved away from the waterhole by a thirsty springbok. These are two fairly common subjects caught in a moment of interaction.

Animals normally stand back from the waterhole when Elephants are present. These gemsbok were desperate for a drink and I was lucky enough to photograph them using the legs of the elephant as a frame.

Animals normally stand back from the waterhole when elephants are present. These gemsbok were desperate for a drink and I was lucky enough to photograph them using the legs of the elephant as a frame.

Etosha is famous for its ‘ghost’ elephants. The white coloration results from the elephants bathing and covering themselves with white clay to protect their hides from the sun and insects.

Etosha is famous for its ‘ghost’ elephants. The white colouration results from the elephants bathing and covering themselves with white clay to protect their hides from the sun and insects.

Etosha has one of the biggest free-roaming populations of black rhinoceros in the world. This rhino was photographed in evening light near Namutoni Camp.

Etosha has one of the biggest free-roaming populations of black rhinoceros in the world. This rhino was photographed in evening light near Namutoni Camp.

A lone elephant trudges through a vast barren landscape on its way to a waterhole. I wanted to show the Elephant in its environment and the long distances it has to walk for a drink.

A lone elephant trudges through a vast, barren landscape on its way to a waterhole. I wanted to show the elephant in its environment and the long distances it has to walk for a drink.

A yellow-billed hornbill portrait, emphasising the facial features and large bill.

A yellow-billed hornbill portrait, emphasising the facial features and large bill.

A northern black korhaan calling out to its mate. The contrasting colours of the bird against the drab background, gives the image impact.

A northern black korhaan calling out to its mate. The contrasting colours of the bird against the drab background gives the image impact.

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  • Owen Jason Kandume

    Point of correction Its not Ovambo language… I think you meant Oshiwambo or Owambo

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