Moments of Magic
Andreas Hemb is an award-winning wildlife photographer from Sweden who, in February 2017, saw his work ‘Buffaloes and Stars’ finish top-8 in the Sony World Photography Award’s ‘Wildlife’ category. A month later, he took home ‘Best Swedish Photo’ in the Swedish National Awards. He is a passionate conservationist who talks us through where his passion comes from, and what he works towards.
By Andreas Hemb
In 1998 I spent a year in the beautiful Scottish landscapes – I’ve been hooked in the wonderful world of photography ever since. My photography interests have, over the years, evolved into a small side business which acts as a perfect artistic complement to the analytical nature of my day job.
Last year I visited Africa for the first time and immediately fell in love with the landscape and fantastic creatures that live there. Here, I will share images from some of my favorite encounters during my time in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.
Lion in the night:
In the pitch black African night, my guide and I came across four young lions inhabiting the reserve. Backlit from spotlight, I took this portrait at the point when one of the lions stood up and walked past our car.
Just as the sun had set we saw two young lions on their way up on a dam wall. We positioned ourselves below against the after-glow at dusk, and then we waited. We were lucky and one lion came up in the perfect position for a silhouette shot.
To slowly become one with nature in order to share and observe the subjects’ lives without disturbing them is a wonderful feeling. I get rewarded with so much more than just the images I take with me! An image can contain so much more than just a reflection of our surroundings. I strive to move past the documentary aspect of photography, as an image should provide feelings. In my images, I hope to be able to project the beauty of the nature that surrounds us and the living friends we share our world with. To enable the observer to become one with the scene, and get them to share the feeling I felt whilst experiencing these moments of magic in person, is what makes a truly successful photo.
Wild Dog Mess:
Wild dog pups playing in the red dust during the late afternoon. Wild dogs are very social and a true joy to observe as they go about their daily lives.
Wild dog pups resting in the shade in the late afternoon obediently waiting for the adults to come back from the hunt. Fantastic experience to lay down next to them, sharing this relaxing time.
To get images that really touch the observer, you need patience. As a photographer you need to take the time to observe and understand the animals’ behavior. To rush between places in a strive to see as much as possible seldom rewards you with images that really stand out. It’s when you have taken the time to really submerge into the scene that you are able to capture those special moments of magic.
Cape Buffalo Encounter:
Sitting in a hide in the pitch-black African night. All of a sudden a herd of cape buffaloes comes into the water hole to get a drink. Amidst the commotion, one buffalo stepped out into the water to stand just one or two meters away from my position. Going as wide as I could I managed to just get him into the frame with the 24mm lens. A branch in the top-right corner of the background has been digitally removed.
Buffaloes and Stars:
Same setting as above. The camera has multiple exposures creating one raw file. Taken on a tripod with first exposure lit for buffaloes, and without changing camera position second exposure without light, I focused on the stars instead of the buffaloes. This image was Shortlisted in the ‘Wildlife’ category and was Winner of ‘Best Swedish Image of the Year 2017’ in SWPA.
Many times I have spent several hours in one location/hide for the possibility of one special image. Shooting wildlife also adds a level of never knowing exactly what to expect. These animals have their own will, and regardless of how well a shoot is planned they can decide not to cooperate at all. After 48 hours in a hide without a single visit of the expected subject, it can feel a bit tough, but you get it back tenfold during those times that everything comes together!
At long range we saw the herd approaching and positioned the car to the side. After all the other elephants had passed, this elephant bull slowly walked up to to mark that this was his land.
Eye of the Beholder:
An elephant lady that stopped to observe us before gently continuing her walk. The texture and fine details of these giants are captivating.
Another key aspect to wildlife photography is to work with the fullest respect for nature and the animals within it. You are the outsider in their environment and should not do anything that puts them at risk.
Sadly, many species and areas are threatened by how we treat the world. An alarming decrease has been seen over the last few decades which saddens me. Poaching and habitat loss have a disastrous effect for many of these magnificent animals. A report by the IUCN conservation group put Africa’s total elephant population at around 415,000: a decline of around 111,000 over the past decade driven by an alarming increase in poaching. In another report IUCN showed that lion populations have dropped by 42% over the last 21 years, making them Critically Endangered in the west part of Africa.
Wildebeest in Golden Dust:
Wildebeest herd moving across the extremely dry winter landscape. Backlit by the last rays of the evening, the red dust that is drawn up created a golden back-drop for these beautiful creatures.
Rhino with Young:
Rhino with a young one moving across the dry african landscape at sunset. Backlit in the same fashion as the wildebeest above. To improve chances of survival and to be able to avoid poachers, the rangers of the reserve have been forced to remove their horns. This is a cruel reality of the human impact on their lives.
I hope that through sharing moments of magic in nature, I can make a small contribution in raising awareness and respect for the creatures we share the world with. We need to work together to ensure the diverse beauty remains for generations to come.