Photos I Wish I Had Taken: Mark Drury

Photo: Mark Drury

Photo: Mark Drury

We’re heading into summer and with the season I always think of Africa. Two years ago I was in Amboseli, Kenya where this photo by Mark Drury was taken, and ever since I’ve wanted to go back. It’s an extraordinary place, mainly because if you love elephants ( and I LOVE elephants),  Amboseli will be your nirvana. Underground springs flowing from Mount Kilimanjaro in nearby Tanzania, feed swamps that draw the elephants year round but in huge numbers during the dry season.

When I saw this photo I was instantly engrossed. First, because it’s lovely, and second because I am pretty sure I photographed the same elephant. Big Tuskers like this one have practically been poached into extinction, so when you see one it’s pretty special and his tusks are pretty unique. I made and OK photo (see below), but this one SO much better.

Big Tusker elephant in Amboseli, KenyaWhy? Everything worked. The black and white conversion adds a moody quality I love. The lighting is soft and wonderful and the shadow and stunning cloud formations deliver texture and depth. But even with all that, for me, it’s the footpath that makes it.

The trail tells a story and gives the image a sense of history.  You can see that this handsome fellow is walking where hundreds, perhaps thousands of other elephants have walked before. Your mind wonders…. where is he going? Where are the other elephants? How long has that path been there? Are there elephants walking it now?  It’s beautiful.


What do you think of this photo?


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165 replies »

  1. I do not have a great understanding of what great photography looks like but the elephant drew me into reading this article. I like how it explains the picture , even a non-admirer of photography would be driven into looking for reasons to admire it ……Cheers!!

  2. What a great post! I love that photo too. You can imagine standing there with that magnificent creature slowly trudging towards you..I look forward to reading more of your posts! – Stay excellent.

  3. Amazing photos! I am going to Africa in three days and I’m so excited to see all their amazing wildlife! Have you by any chance been to Namibia? This is where I’ll be staying most of the time.

    • How wonderful! Yes, I was in Namibia last year. I was in the Skeleton Coast. You can see the posts if you go to Namibia in the nav bar under destinations. Where are you going?

      • Awesome posts on Namibia. I’m getting really excited to go now! I’m spending most of my time there in the wildlife sanctuary N/a’an ku se in Windhoek but I’m going to go up to the Etosha national park as well.

      • Have a fantastic time. I was only in Windhoek for the night and I’ve heard great things about Etosha. Please let me know how it went when you get back.

  4. I think for me, the things that make Mark’s photo really powerful are the sense of scale. We seem to be looking up at him from lower down (the horizon is level with the elephant’s legs, whereas in yours it is around his body). The light and dark contrasts are really defined and the elephant is walking straight towards the camera and looking into your eyes. That’s what makes it engrossing for me. I love elephants. Both pictures are beautiful though and make me want to go to Kenya.

  5. Nicely wrtitten the blog and clicked the pictures.
    But still I still ponder on the fact that how would you have started loving elephants. Was it from your childhood or what?

    • Thank you so much…

      In answer to your question: I can’t remember not loving elephants honestly. I have to assume that trips to the zoo, stories that were read to me as a child influenced that.

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  7. Beautiful thoughts on Mark’s picture. Its such a shame that these beautiful animals are endangered due to its decreasing population. I remember being overwhelmed at the size of elephants when i actually saw one during a brief trip to South Africa. It is sad that the future generation’s children may not experience that if it becomes extinct

    • I felt the same way when I first saw an elephant in the wild. He was standing in the middle of the road when we turned a corner. I remember thinking how crazy big his head was. How broad the expanse between his tusks were. It breaks my heart that they are being driven to extinction. Sometimes I’m so ashamed by humanity.

    • Thanks, I find that if I really take the time to analyze why an image touches me it helps me in field. And thank you very much about the kind words about my image.:)

  8. Nice photo. I do photography as well and seeing this photo really catches my attention. The bnw edit brings a moody feeling and it is awesome. Keep up. Check out my blog if you wont mind.

  9. Oh I know the feeling of wishing that I had taken the picture myself. Especially when I had the chance to do so. But also I don’t want to waste the precious moment and just be completely focused and living the moment. I really like your blog.

  10. Love the pictures! I’m on my way to Africa in July and your questions..”where is he going? Where are the other elephants? How long has that path been there? Are there elephants walking it now?” will definitely play back in my head when I’m there.

  11. Love both pictures! The first picture taken by Mark really outstanding, the background – clouds gathering above the big hills. And, the composure of the elephant; so fierce and calm. AND yours are perfect!

    • Aww.. that’s very kind of you. I like my photo but it doesn’t have half the umph of Drury’s. But that’s ok. I got to see that magnificent animal in person. That’s really the priority. 🙂

  12. In your picture it seems that you took the elephant after an effort or long journey. He looks more real to me, in the other picture he looks like a perfect elephant that just had a shower !

    • In my image, he’d just excited a swamp which explains the darker lower legs and the bit of water at his back end. The lighting on the day I shot him was very flat and Frey, unfortunately. Drury had the benefit of side light, perhaps late in the day or early morning.

  13. I love the photos, especially the last one which is so thoughtful and intuitive- please don’t laugh but I am an alum of the university of Alabama …mascot is the Elephant so I’ve seen many many elephant photos and videos through the years, I wish the powers that be could see these!

  14. There is a feeling on sitting there in the wild nature, an amazing and very huge elephant just coming closer and closer to me. The image composition is perfect, the elephant just in a frontal view with the shadow on the left, beautiful clouds at the sky and the small path were the big grey is just coming closer to me to say hello. I also like the perspective from a lower point of view which emphasized the height of this beautiful elephant.

  15. As always your posts are awesome! Everytime I see a picture like that I wish I could be there.
    And I love both pictures. They both have their own atmosphere and are (in my eyes) perfect!
    Hope to see tons more of your pics 😉

  16. I absolutely love elephants too. Photos may capture the beauty of them but when standing in front of one in real life, is just breathtaking. I would love to visit Africa but I’m pretty sure it’s not something I can achieve this life time!

  17. Everything about Paul Drury’s image is perfect. It is am image literally bursting with emotion. As you have mentioned. The path, the history of elephants who had walked that path, a big tusker who has escaped the ravages of poachers. Then there is the composition and luck of the day. The clouds almost replicating the ears thereby giving more mass to this massive animal. And, the pattern on the path in front of him balances the clouds. Oh, and his position on the path, just having come from the turn–I love how you can see the serpentine path going back so far and you think “why do these huge animals who can do anything they want, want to stay on the path of their forefathers”. Lastly, you can tell the time of day from his shadow,which serves the purpose of pulling you even more into the story. Thanks for posting this–it is a true treat. And, I believe your elephant is indeed the same one, and a truly fabulous image in its own right.

      • Susan, not only is your work exquisite, your appreciation of other photographers’ work is so refreshing and educational for those who follow you. Keep it up. I learn a lot from your “I wish” series and I know it will make me a better photographer (and I don’t know why I was posted as “clipparoo” above–an old blog business blog) Clipparoo=Patricia if it happens again. : )

  18. That really is a magnificent photo. You are right about the path being the final element that ties it all together and gives it real punch. What it suggests about trails and traditions, past, present, and future, imbues the image with meaning beyond it being a glorious portrait. Happily, it also adds strength to the composition. The other element that I think works really well in this image is the heaviness of the sky and the way that connects to the heaviness of the elephant.

  19. I don’t know a ton about photography, despite a college class, but I do know about Amboseli, having lived in Kenya. To be so close to an elephant is an amazing thing, even with a telephoto. It is a constant grief to know that elephants are slaughtered constantly there. I now live in Europe, a place that used to have elephants, but that killed them off. I think of elephants in terms of banging pans and lighting fires so they don’t eat all the vegetable gardens, but certainly nobody was poaching them. That is another league, like drug dealers, people with no regard for life or future.
    The light just before sunset in Kenya is other-worldly. Talk about golden hour. Just beware: sunset arrives fast, like a light switch going off. I was with a friend, hiking back from a spot near Mount Kenya to our hotel. I was in a hurry, almost panicking, hoping to catch a ride. My friend, on her first trip, couldn’t understand my state. I said, “It will be dark soon! We have to get to town!” Plus, I didn’t tell her, there were lions in the nature reserve adjacent to our hotel. Not a place for coming back on foot after dark. All ended well, because a pickup truck full of sheep bounced by and gave us a lift (and we were in the back, with the sheep).
    B&W adds a lot of drama.

  20. I very much like your detailed descriptions! By looking at beautiful photos (for example in calendars or coffee table books!) I always ask myself, why do I like it so much? What makes it special? This way I’ve improved my photography a lot, and still continue to learn. Not that I could compare mine to yours…:-) Since I’m on a tight budget neither my kit nor my travels are in any way special (two highlights in my life have been a trip to Vietnam a friend had invited me to and one to British Columbia to visit my daughter’s in-laws). And I’m sure everybody asks you about your kit more often than about your ability to SEE!? The latter is more important than the kit, don’t you agree? Even simple kit can produce very nice or even great results in the right hands and guided by an open artist’s eye. And the best kit is worthless without the ability to SEE. Now, when both come together, that’s revelation! Of course, then there are patience, persistence and, more often than not, luck… Thanks for sharing your photos and experiences!

  21. What a handsome photo– both pictures. I enjoyed reading your blog, and I hope to one day travel to Africa and see elephants lose up. The new Jungle Book movie has some beautifully animated elephants.

    • Yay! I’m glad you enjoy the blog. That means so much to me. I hope you go to Africa too. It’s a wonderful place.

      I haven’t seen the Jungle Book film yet but I’ve heard great things about it.

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