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Larger Mammals Archives

Elephants Reflected III

Reflection of elephant with trunk extendedCaption: Reflection of elephant with trunk extended as it sucks water from a small pool in an otherwise dry river, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom; Focal length: 220mm; Shutter speed: 1/1600; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400

In this image, one in a series of elephant reflections where I’m striving to illustrate the same scene in different ways, I made the reflection the main subject, rather than the other way round. Now there’s only a hint of the physical elephant shown, where the trunk and its reflection meet on the water’s surface.

Here I focused the camera on the reflection, trying to get it as sharp as possible, as I want attention to be drawn to the elephant’s tusks and eye, then move updwards along the trunk.

Elephants Reflected II

Elephant group reflected as they drink from pool in river Caption: Elephant group is reflected as they crowd together to drink from last remaining water in river, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom; Focal length: 115mm; Shutter speed: 1/2000; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400

This is the second in a series of elephant reflection images, trying to show different views of the same scene.

Elephants Reflected I

Elephants drinking from small pool are reflected in the water Caption: Elephants cast reflections as they drink from a shallow pool, the only water remaining in one of the rivers found in Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom; Focal length: 70mm; Shutter speed: 1/2500; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400; Exposure compensation: -1/3

Elephants (Loxodonta africana) are relatively easy to photograph, yet difficult to make interesting. They’re often out and about in the mid-day sun when the light’s most harsh and contrasty. They don’t snarl, glare, bare their teeth, hang their tongues out or show facial expressions.

It helps if they’re near water, as they will often go into the water, splash around, spray themselves and glisten with moisture. Otherwise reflections are useful to add interest, as in the shot above. I took a series of pictures of this group at the water, and will post the others in the next couple of days, showing how I tried to find different ways of illustrating the same event.

Baby Elephant Under Close Protection

Baby elephant protected by adults Caption: Baby elephant (Loxodonta africana) under close protection by a pair of adults, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botsana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Focal length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/2000; aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400

While out on a morning game drive during a visit to Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana, we had the privilege of watching a large herd of elephants — probably around 150 in all — moving slowly past in groups of varying sizes (below).

Elephant herd, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana

Within the groups there were many youngsters, varying in age from vulnerable infants to precocious sub-adults.

It was the “close protection” afforded the babies by the surrounding adults that was particularly fascinating to watch. Very seldom was a young elephant isolated for long enough to grab a photo; the majority of the time the youngsters were obscured by a protective forest of adults’ legs and trunks.

Elephant Tusk, Close-Up

Elephant Tusk, Close-UpCaption: Close-up of male elephant’s tusk, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/320; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.

Dale Peterson, in the excellent book Elephant Reflections that he co-authored with photographer Karl Ammann, says this of elephant tusks:

“Tusks are teeth, incisors that have grown over time and under evolutionary pressure taken on a projective profile. Like an ordinay tooth, a tusk’s hard outer husk protects an inner cavity of soft pulp and nerves, making it sensitive to pressure and, in case of injury, to pain. Instead of having roots, these specialized incisors are embedded for about a third of their length within a cranial socket.

“African savanna males will have tusks seven times heavier, on average, than those of the average female of the species: 49 kg (108 lbs) for the former, around 7 kg (15 lbs) for the latter.

“Not merely vital weapons, tusks are also highly functional tools: good for digging up underground water, minerals, and edible tubers. They serve as chisels to pry bark away from a tree, and as crowbars or levers to snap off branches or otherwise manipulate bulky or big objects.

“They are good things to rest a heavy trunk on (below), and, being electrical nonconductors, they’re useful as well for breaking down or through electric fences.

“Just as humans commonly prefer one hand over the other, so most elephants favor one tusk over the other, and typically these appendages will develop a consequental symmetry.”

Elephant resting trunk on left tuskCaption: Elephant bull resting his trunk on a tusk, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

See our previous post, In the Wake of Elephant Poachers, to see the sickening aftermath of a poaching sortie in the Lower Zambezi National Park, where the above photos were also taken.

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