A few days ago I was in a game reserve in Eastern part of South Africa, together with my friend Paula Morisson. She lives here. Her house is in iSimangaliso World Heritage Site, right in the middle of the reserve. Joining us in the car were also Sal from Australia and Samir from Portugal. We had been looking for an elephant herd for a week, a herd that is renowned for attacking 3 cars. It is the group of elephants that Paula said she can communicate with. She claims she’s got a special relationship with the dominant female. I did believe her although I wasn’t able to imagine how it worked.
A week passed and we started to doubt that we will meet the elephants. The following day I was gonna set off to Romania. It was 14.30 and we were heading towards Santa Lucia were I was gonna rent a car for the next day. The car rental company was closing at 16.00. The road crosses the reserve from East to West. It seemed like there were more animals than ever: zebras, giraffes, antelopes and pigs. The only day that I wasn’t carrying my camera with me.
We stopped to admire the giraffes. There were quite a lot of them and they had cubs. A zebra was running wildly between the giraffes. Seemed like it had some kind of social disorder. Nothing is certain these days with the global warming and all.
On the horizon we see a herd that crosses the field. They seem to be antelopes. I ask Paula for her camera so I can have a better look through. In the same time I hear Paula:
– It’s the elephants!
Heart beat racing. Finally! How can we get closer to them? There is no road in that direction. Even though we’re driving a 4×4 vehicle, we’re not allowed to go wherever we feel like. After all, there are rules even in the wild.Paula remembers there is another road behind the trees. We do a u-turn and we set out at full speed to find a shortcut to that road. After 1 km, we find some tire tracks that lead to our target. We take a left, some holes, luckily we’re buckled up. The car jumps, shakes, the adrenaline makes us forget about the squeaks of the vehicle. I hope it is tough enough.
We managed to get on the other side of the trees. It is quiet. Unfortunately we cannot see the elephants. We have no idea where they will come from. The tension is rising. We don’t really want to be in their way so we decide to go back a little. There is a clearing and we could see them a bit sooner.
Everyone in the car is quiet and listening carefully.
A few cracking branches, some leaves moved and…
Here they are. They are coming.
Paula gives me her camera and she says it would be unforgivable for me to miss such and opportunity. She will take care of the car. It seems that they didn’t see us. They continue their feeding, 50 m away from us. They will pass right in front of us, exactly through the spot that we stopped the first time.
– Here come the cubs!
The camera clicks. I cannot afford to stop. Focus, framing and click.
The tension is going up. I hear Paula saying:
– Here she is!
The dominant female, she has spotted us and she is coming right towards us. She seems calm, she just wants to see who we are and what do we want. She is coming closer.
Right now she is about 10 m away from us and she stands in the middle of the road. She knows that we have no other way out. Paula put the car in reverse gear. I keep on taking shots although the wind shield is full of dust. I cannot stop. The entire group is now in front of us. Even the little ones stopped.
It is the moment when the dominant female raises a foot. Obviously we are too close. She’s coming towards us!
Paula backs up the car about 5 m.
– Hello girl! Good girl! Don’t worry!
The female stops. I look at Paula. She is fascinated. Almost hypnotized. Now I am sure. She does communicate with elephants.
I tried to look at the dominant female directly, not through the camera. She is coming towards us again! This time she spread her ears.
I am scared. I decided to hide behind the camera lens again. I feel much safer. Paula reverses the car another few meters again.
– Good girl! Don’t worry!
The female stops again. I am fascinated by the force that it breathes even though the softness of its eyes means something else. It is now about 7 meters from us.
I take out the camera through the window. Click!
This is the picture I have been dreaming of! An elephant eye! My hands are shaking. Adrenaline continues to flow through my body.
The elephants are going back. They seem to understand that I got what I wanted. Paula is calm. She is very happy that we met her friends.
We look at the watch and it is 3.40, we’ve got only 20 minutes left until the car rental shop closes. We have to go.
All this has happened a few days ago.
Wednesday the 20th of May you can see the elephant eye at the Cinema Studio in Bucharest starting at 6.30 PM
I am joining a group photo exhibition of cameramen and D.O.P.’s from the Romanian Television.
You’re more than welcome!