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Posted December 16, 2011
Dispatch #12
The Art of Waiting

This is one in a series of email dispatches from Africa written this fall by photographer Michael Nichols to his picture editor, Kathy Moran.

Photo: Wildebeest plunge into the river
“We finally got an intimate wide angle view of the migration crossing using a hidden camera triggered by radio signal.”

Dear Kathy,

Yesterday and the day before we had furious nonstop action, but unfortunately all in bad light. Really bad light and really bad position rear-views of the animals—no eyes, no desperate wildebeest emotion. I shot more than 2,000 bad pictures. We learned something each time but the exhaustion of 16-hour days has gotten to me. Last night I was so tired I could not sleep. We have installed two remote cameras at crossing points that are used frequently with the hope that wide-angle intimacy will counter the detachment of telephoto wildlife photography.

Today we waited since dawn. The weather has changed and the gnu have lost the mad resolve to cross.

In midmorning we had a short burst of them running through one of the remote cameras, and at 2 p.m. they gathered frantically in a huge mass near the most promising camera. It is attached to a fever tree and gives us a direct close-up view of the slot where they jump into the river.

We wait with high hopes, and the light gets better as the day passes, but when the heat goes down, chances of a crossing are gone.

We are all getting the needed rest as we sit. Finally at 4 p.m. they busted out by the thousands in a rain and dust storm that marred the clarity of the lens, but made the image more painterly.

We got what we were waiting for.

Previous Next dispatch: “The Poetry of Giraffes”

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