A Brief Elephant Encounter

May 12, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Elephants are one of my favourite animals. I love the sense of scale and weight which is so evident in the way they move. The fact that they're so slow-moving, thoughtful, and deliberate in their movements are all characteristics which appeal to me. They also demonstrate such sentience that it's impossible not to relate to them on some level. On top of those visual and emotional factors, there's also the background of their plight in the face of decades of ivory poaching, which I think is intertwined so tightly with the narrative of the animal, it's almost impossible to enjoy the majesty of an elephant without considering the sadder plight they face. That darker narrative is the perfect context for my low-key portraits, and this is a composition I had hoped to capture, given the opportunity.

Ivory On BlackIvory On BlackAfrican elephant, photographed and processed in the low-key portrait style.
Over time the darkness in my low-key portraits has become increasingly meaningful to me, and this photo certainly embodies that; representing the dark reality of the issues facing Elephants in the face of a continuing ivory trade.
Fine art nature photography. Captive subject, UK.


I took these three photos in captivity, here in the UK. I'd love to see elephants in the wild, and to photograph them too. But that experience is currently out of my reach, so the opportunity to see them in the UK was still one which I found captivating and awe-inspiring. I have conflicting feelings about keeping elephants in captivity. I'm not against zoos in principal, but I think each species should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Some animals have a healthier, happier life in captivity than in the wild. Others inarguably do not. But still, for those in the grey area, a case can be made for the value they serve to help protect their wild cousins. I've written about this before, but personally I think the value of giving people an opportunity to connect with animals they'd otherwise never experience is immeasurably beneficial to wildlife and justifiable, provided they are afforded the space and care they require.

Elephant Eye-ContactElephant Eye-ContactAfrican elephant, close-up.
Fine art nature photography. Captive subject, UK.


Like the first photo, this was another idea I had before-hand. But in practice it was so much more effective than I imagined. On the day I was a little underwhelmed with the light, but in hindsight it was perfect. Just enough for a subtle shadow, without too much contrast or hard edges. There's so much texture and detail in this photo, I have literally sat and looked at it for five minutes at a time. I'd like to see it in print. The lines, shapes, light, and shade are easy to get lost in. If you have the time, take it in slowly, and indulge yourself with an exercise in mindfulness...

Texture OverlapTexture OverlapTextures, wrinkles, and patterns of an elephant's ear resting on it's shoulder.
I could stare at this for some time - and have done, such is the ease with which I can get lost in the detail of it. Photographed low key, to make the most of the lines and texture.
Fine art nature photography. Captive subject, UK.



Post by George Wheelhouse, 2019.



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