2013 in Retrospect #1

Oryx on the Pan, Deadvlei, Namibia. May 23, 2013

Sometime around January 1 of each year, I would post my top 10 or 11 or 12 images from the previous twelve months here on the Earth and Light Blog. For 2012, for example, I posted a 12 for ’12: The Year’s Best. For this past year, however, I decided to do something a bit different.  Instead of just listing my favorite images, I instead wanted to share some insights into how some of these were made – not necessarily my favorites – and what was going on at the time. Some short stories, in other words.

Oryx on the Pan

After a 20-minute hike over loose, unstable sand, Ian Plant and I crested the last dune and looked down upon the bright clay pan known as Deadvlei, home to surreal landscapes of barren earth, red dunes, and dead camelthorn trees. This is one of the most iconic photo locations in Namibia and a must stop during our two-week scouting tour in this country. When we descended to the pan, I spied a lone oryx – also known locally as a gemsbok – slowly walking across the hard clay surface. I thought there might be the possibility for a compelling shot here. What animal is crazy enough to live and survive in this harsh environment? It seemed wildly odd yet captivating. But by the time I retrieved the camera from the pack and mounted the telephoto lens, the oryx took off running. This is not a shock. It’s a well known but little understood natural law to which photographers are frequent victims.

Leaving my pack and tripod behind, I shadowed the oryx while running at full speed, with the hope of getting a chance. I wasn’t chasing, but rather moving parallel with it’s direction from 80 yards out, hoping for more than just a photo of it’s rear end. I could see the composition coming together as I ran- strong sidelight on the oryx and pan, diagonal shadow on the dunes, screaming color – all I needed was for this little guy to stop for 5 seconds – FIVE LOUSY SECONDS!

And of course (you guessed right) it did – for about five seconds – just a few meters before it would have been lost to the deep shadows on the right side of the image frame. I managed not to screw up the fleeting opportunity and I was pleased with the 3 frames I recorded, one of which you see above. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 100-400mm @ 400mm, 1/800 second @ f8, ISO 320.

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10 Comments

  1. Posted January 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm by Randy Hall | Permalink

    This is a fantastic shot and I think you have a great idea here with the short story concept. Seeing that barren landscape, it’s a wonder anything does live there. Love your work Richard, and I look forward to seeing the other shots in this series.

    Randy

  2. Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:49 pm by Gary | Permalink

    Great idea! Really like the story behind the capture. Awesome image as well. Thanks!

  3. Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:08 pm by Kimberley | Permalink

    Awesome photo! Love the dark orange background and the light beige sand. It really makes the colors of the Oryx stand out. Beautiful!

  4. Posted January 7, 2014 at 8:17 am by Ralphie | Permalink

    Amazing to find animal life on Mars. Great capture.

  5. Posted January 7, 2014 at 9:06 am by David Johnston | Permalink

    Fantastic photograph and story! It’s always so interesting to hear how photographers get shots because they are never what you expect! Looks like an awesome location

  6. Posted January 7, 2014 at 9:16 pm by Peter Hinkson | Permalink

    Love the image and the story behind it thanks

  7. Posted January 8, 2014 at 6:24 am by John Dunne | Permalink

    Namibia is a target rich environment for photography. The mix of dramatic landscape and lighting with wild animals thrown in makes it an ideal location. I enjoy going there for vacations and would love to do it more often. Great photo by the way.

  8. Posted January 8, 2014 at 10:59 am by Glenn | Permalink

    Great idea. So one every day for a year. :-)

  9. Posted January 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm by Linda | Permalink

    Love this image. I was always thrilled to see an oryx when I was a young girl growing up in East Africa.

  10. Posted January 16, 2014 at 11:11 pm by Eric Erlenbusch | Permalink

    It’s always incredible that moments continue to define great photography. Thanks for sharing, it really does add that something special to this image.

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