Ithumba Elephant, Ithumba, Tsavo National Park, Kenya, 2023 Showcase First Runner-up, Altered Reality © Lois Hild
First Runner-Up: Altered Reality
Why is this photo special?
I consider myself a conservationist and this photo is representative of that. This was taken at a mud bath where young orphaned elephants are learning the skills they will need in order to survive when they return to the wild. Wild elephants like the bull in this photo are an integral part of that process as they intermingle with the young elephants teaching them language and behaviors of wild elephants before the young elephants return to the safety of the stockades at night with their keepers. They begin to spend more and more time with the wild elephants until the day they feel ready to join them permanently. It has been a privilege to be able to witness this process over the years.
What is extraordinary about this is how close you can safely get to wild elephants. Though many of the elephants, like this one, have never been under the care of humans, they see you as no threat when you are in the company of the keepers they see frequently and know to be friendly. I was on foot and about 75 feet from the bull with him looking directly at me. When I learned masking and texturing techniques I knew I had to revisit this image and use those techniques to isolate my subject to convey emotion of that moment. The orange-red dust-like texture was perfect to simulate the red dust that is typical of the Tsavo area.
The technical stuff
This was shot at 200mm with a Nikkor 200 – 400mm lens mounted on a Nikon D4S. Initial post-processing was done in Adobe Lightroom with minimal cropping. Textures and masking were done in Adobe Photoshop. This was the first photo I used to learn this technique, but is still my favorite.
I recently moved to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I travel to Kenya a few times a year to lead safaris with an emphasis on wildlife conservation and photography. I am passionate about introducing people to the Kenyan wildlife and people. My safaris have included beginners shooting with their point and shoot camera up to professionals wanting to fill out their portfolios with African wildlife. I enjoy helping, and learning from, photographers of all levels.
I started taking blurry wildlife photos with my Kodak Duoflex while my dad was producing beautiful landscape images with his Hasselblad. We traveled to most of the National Parks in the Western US and I later upgraded to a Voigtlander. My photography took a backseat while I was in veterinary school and then in practice and raising a family. I became really involved in photography again, shooting equestrian sports with a series of Nikon Dx cameras, good practice ground for returning to wildlife photography. In 2011 I went on my first safari to Kenya, and my passion for wildlife photography was rekindled. I knew that I had to keep returning.
I have been a NANPA member for about five years, but this was the first Showcase I entered an image in, and I only entered this one. I was surprised, pleased, and honored to be recognized among such an illustrious group of nature photographers. I am proud to be a member of an organization that emphasizes the role of photographers in protecting and preserving our natural world.
It is difficult to pinpoint one memorable moment when I have been privileged to experience so many: being surrounded by 100 elephants while on foot and all being at peace with my presence; having cheetah cubs chasing each other back and forth under my safari vehicle while we sat and had breakfast, mom looking on completely relaxed; the experience of being part of the natural world that thrills me over and over again. Photography is the conduit to that world for me.
See all of the Top 26 winning images from NANPA’s 2023 Showcase nature photography competition.