Photo of the Week: I Lost my Elephant Virginity

I remember the first time I ever saw an elephant.  It was in the Calgary Zoo, and it was the middle of winter.  The enclosure for the elephant was massive, and almost seemed like it’s own little world.  But still, there was something wrong with an animal the size of a bus tucked away in a garage, you couldn’t help but feel for the animal.  I think that by my recent post about the National Geographic Photo Contest, you know how I feel about zoos.  No matter how big the enclosure may be, zoos are just not wild nor nature.

This week, I managed to finally lose my wild elephant v-card.  In a park in the south of Burkina Faso, I managed to spot a small herd of elephants after having stuck out on several other elephant excursions so far in Africa.  Little did I know I would eventually see a total of 27 elephants in 3 separate herds on this day.  I also saw baboons, 3 species of antelope, warthogs, and a number of crocodiles.  It really was an exciting experience and if you ever make it to Burkina Faso, I highly recommend the Nazinga Ranch.  I’ll have an article on my experience in the ranch either tomorrow or the next day with a lot of photos, so stay tuned.

For now, here’s a picture shot of an elephant an a little elephant calf.

Elephant Nazinga

How I Got this Shot

Normally when I shot you wildlife photos I tell you the usual photography stuff: shoot from eye level, focus on the eyes, etc.  The truth is, this photo isn’t all too different aside from the fact I had to get on top of a vehicle to shoot at the elephant’s eye level.  The tricky aspect of shooting animals this big that travel in herds is composing an image.  To be honest, I struggled mightily with this on this short shoot.  But, since it was my first ever elephant sighting, I spent most of the time enjoying the incredible moment rather than worrying about getting a shot anyways.  Still, as a learning experience I think I’ll know to focus on other things for the next time.  I should be focusing more on the small picture rather than getting everything into the frame, and I should also not forget about light, even though it’s much more difficult to control when the animals are so active. Anyways, I think it’s pretty obvious, but photography is something you need to work on all the time, and each time you finish shooting you need to think back and critique yourself on how it could be done better.  Self-evaluation is one of the most important aspects to learning any skill.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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5 Comments

  1. wahh too cute haha I can’t wait to see my first elephant in the wild, too!

    p.s. – typo in the title? hehe

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    • no typo Ms. Dredge… I literary made love to an elephant.

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  2. That’s so cool. I have a love hate relationship with Zoos. I understand the conservation work they now do is vital in cleaning up some of our mess but it must be hell for some of the animals who have to be in those conditions.

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    • Yeah, sometimes it’s tricky. I just visited a “conservation project” from my home city zoo and I have to say that I was a little disappointed. It almost seemed as if cash was tossed their way just so they could say legitimize themselves. However, there are some really great projects out there.

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