While he stands knee deep in the waterhole his eyes are closed as he dozes off. Now and again this giant will swish his tail or fill his trunk to spray his massive frame with the cool grey liquid. He is big – 4 meters tall and over 4 ton in weight, he is the “Godfather” as I affectionately call this giant elephant. It‚s two in the afternoon and the heat is relentless; over 30 degrees Celsius and no shade.
It’s been the same routine for weeks now. The Godfather and his two shadow bulls arrives early afternoon and commandeer the waterhole. This is the only water for 20 sq kms and the animals have travelled all day to drink this life saving water. But this “Trinity” will not give way or tolerate any other animal to drink in their presence.
A multitude of animals,springbok,gemsbok,zebra,ostrich,giraffe,even lion have waited hours for the elephants departure so that they may quench their thirst. From a photographer‚s point of view watching this action is like manna from the heavens‚ as there are attempted lion kills, sporadic jostles between herd males vying for dominance and occasional visits from black rhino that appear like spectres as the sun fades below the horizon.
When the elephants do eventually leave my heart skips a beat as I prepare for the shot that has eluded me for so long. In my mind’s eye I have visualized this scene many times. But in order for this to happen I need them to walk towards me. But each day I groan inwardly and at another missed opportunity as the trinity head off to dust bath in the opposite direction .
Today however will be different as that morning I had seen the three bulls feeding from a camel thorn tree away from their usual feeding place. Soon it will be time for them to depart. I leave, anticipating their route, and wait silently for them to come in to view. I have checked and rechecked my equipment and decided upon the camera and lens combination. I now relax and control my breathing as they come in to view.
The next ten minutes are a bliss of forgetfulness as I zone in to the task at hand; only one moment stands out.
He stands still before me in all his magnificence, raising his trunk filled with the red Kalahari dust. In one fluid movement he sprays his forehead and for one brief moment he is covered in the magic of dust and light.