Text and images by Peter Delaney

Etosha Pan, scarred with cracks, glistens through a heat haze. The remnants of vegetation act like a vignette along its edges. I can taste the sand in the air. My eyes watering from the berg wind carrying desert sand and fine calcrete dust which turns the sky to middle grey. A beautiful S-shape outline of the water as it meanders slowly into the surface of the pan. There are shapes of distant animals seen through the heat haze, warily making their way to the edge of the pan to the life-saving water. I decided to treat this location as a street photographer would and wait for an opportunistic moment when the right subject passes by. My senses go into overdrive, thinking of how I could compose a photograph.

Peter Delaney Fine Art Photography

Two giraffes along the edge of the Etosha Salt Pan in Namibia.

@ Peter Delaney

Hours earlier, and some 50 km away, I noticed two giraffes striding along the edge of the pan. I thought this strange as there were no trees or bushes in the direction they were travelling. Little did I realise that these giraffes would be heading to the same destination as me, and would complete my vision of creating a photograph far exceeding my expectations.

After hours of waiting, with scores of animals that have come and gone quenching their thirst, I had still not taken a photo with my Fujifilm GFX-100. Soon after my heart skipped a beat when I noticed the two giraffes in the distance. I was astounded by the range they had covered to drink from the spring in front of me.

This waterhole on the edge of Etosha Pan is a lion ambush haven. The surface covered with the sun-withered remains of animals who had succumbed to these ferocious predators. The giraffes are aware of the dangers of drinking from this waterhole. One giraffe walked to the top of the stream and faced west, the other giraffe went to the middle and looked east. They took turns to be on the lookout while the other drank.

Now waiting for the moment when they both stood upright; I calmed myself as I peered through the GFX-100’s electronic viewfinder. (It felt like I was watching the events unfold on an IMAX screen.) The scene in front of me was quite a distance away, even with my Fujifilm GF 250mm f/4 lens attached.

I was worried about the heat haze and harsh sun that was somewhat diffused by a heavy-laden grey sky filled with dust and sand. I didn’t expect to get a sharp or detailed image. I knew from experience with my smaller sensor cameras that it was near impossible. Can the large format Fujifilm GFX-100 Medium-Format Mirrorless Camera deal with it?

Where before scores of animals were walking to and fro, all of a sudden it was just my two giraffes. The ghost-like silhouette of gemsbok in the background and a male ostrich completed and balanced my composition. I composed the image leaving lots of negative space, keeping the horizon on the thirds, and left the dune grass on the edge of the pan to anchor the composition. The male giraffe turned, walked and stopped, creating the symmetry needed. I pressed the shutter, capturing the moment. Within seconds the giraffes had turned and started their long trek back in the search of food.