Amboseli, Kenya 2014
This is a hard-earned and timeless photograph – It has soul and a sense of place to it and I am proud to be responsible for its creation. There are many quiet days or weeks in the field, where there is nothing magical to capture and no transcending images with which to return. In my own crusade, this single image makes up for a great many of such days.
‘Heaven Can Wait’ has a biblical countenance – it is also primal and raw. The dramatic sky appears to be in communication with the only sign of life on the flat dustpan below. Indeed there is diagonal connectivity across the whole image as the dust tracks of the giraffe lead the eye to the animal, which then takes the eye to the talkative sky. The image conveys the arid and elemental habitat that is Lake Amboseli at the end of the dry season and the implicit contradiction of life on its inhospitable canvas.
To take this image, I employed three of my key rules for filming in East Africa but then broke a fourth. The first two rules of working against the light and then employing a wide angle rather than telephoto lens were instinctive, but the third rule of working as close to the ground as possible was practically challenging in that we following behind briefly before he ran away. The trick was to shoot blind from an outstretched hand leaning downwards to the ground from the jeep. This was – I knew – a low-percentage shot.
We encountered the isolated giraffe late one afternoon on the dry lake, and it immediately seemed core to the prevailing mood to emphasise the dust being licked up by the giraffe’s hoofs. Amboseli is about dust and its capture should make the picture, not be ancillary to it. This meant not only shooting into the late light but also shooting from behind the giraffe. This was at odds with a fairly standard rule of mine to be positioned ahead or at least parallel to a moving subject – but given all the other factors involved; it appeared that breaking this rule would be the most effective way to tell the story. We are in the wild, not a studio, and it is often better to just go with the flow, think spontaneously and break rules.