Sunsets on water

There is something magical about reflected sunlight on water, particularly in the late afternoon or early evening. This photograph of a pelican was taken in the flooded Makgadikgadi salt pans in Botswana.  The late afternoon sun was very very bright and shining directly at me, but by keeping the sun out of the photograph, and heavily underexposing the reflected sunlight in the water it was possible to create this striking image. This composition is helped by the fact that a pelican has such a distinctive silhouette. Photographs like this aren’t dependent on latitude; I have similar images of the UK coast, although obviously without the pelicans!

This image is similar, with the sun out of the frame and the light reflected by the water.  The elephant was walking down to the Chobe river in Botswana for a drink at the end of a long hot dusty day.  I like this composition, although, as a professional wildlife photographer once pointed out to me, the elephant’s two front legs are together, giving the appearance of being a three legged elephant.  Because of how elephants stand, it is actually quite challenging to get all four legs distinctly visible, as I will talk about further when I write about elephants.

The other way of dealing with a very bright sun is to hide it behind a passing cloud.  This is a moody image of the DRC seen across lake Kivu from Rwanda as a storm is passing.  The DRC looks forbidding, and the small boat heading away from Rwanda looks fragile and insignificant.

Lake Kariba on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe is the world’s largest man-made lake, created in the 1960s by damming the Zambezi river at Kariba gorge. The lake is full of fish and wildlife.  This image is from the Zimbabwean shore looking towards Zambia, and showing one of the many small fishing boats that fish at night using floodlights to attract the small kapenta fish. A hippo is swimming lazily along, and a flock of cormorants have retreated to the shore for the night.  The sun has just set and the whole scene is bathed in a hazy golden glow.

This is a classical sunset composition in Botswana, with the sun is just on the horizon lighting up the clouds, which are then in turn reflected in the water.  In the Okavango Delta in the flood season, great sheets of shallow water provide the best light for this double reflection sunset imagery.  This photo was taken from a boat on the way back to camp.  The main challenge here was that the guide was keen to get back to camp before nightfall, so there was little time for careful composition; it was a case of keep the camera ready and grab the moment when it occurred.

Here is a similar reflection image, taken at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.  Whenever I see an image like this I am taken back to the sounds of Africa at sunset, when the lions, and hyenas start calling in anticipation of a night’s hunting in the bush.

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