Tanzania – 2020
The annual migration in East Africa is a challenge to photograph to be able to do justice to its enormity. One single photograph is unlikely to have an expansive enough narrative and often film footage is a more effective medium. Strong artists such as Nick Brandt have taken some evocative stills, but much of the work I see, including my own, has left me unmoved.
The river crossings in normal years attract huge numbers of jeeps laden with cameras and a rather undignified dash for pole position accompanies the start of each crossing. I have not enjoyed these experiences over the years as I find it something of a chaotic scrum. The quiet serenity of the Serengeti is interrupted by the noise of 500 camera motor drives each being operated with the finger pressed firmly down on the shutter release. It’s akin to the paparazzi greeting a celebrity exiting a night club.
But it’s all rather different in 2020 as traffic numbers are down 90% and there is room to be on your own and avoid others. Last week my guide gambled on a likely crossing point and at first light, we crawled down the bank to the river’s edge with a view to shooting at 90 degrees to the crossing, not the 180 so often chosen. I knew it could be a long wait and I even took a book with me to kill time. That was a little naive given crocs and hippos hang out in the same area – this was clearly no library. I never turned a page.
But after a couple of hours, I had my moment. There is even a semblance of order to what is normally the most chaotic scene imaginable and the Olympic leap from the lead wildebeest certainly made the assignment successful. Not perhaps before time.