June 14

Top Photography Tips from Thorsten Hanewald

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June 14, 2021

Africa’s Photographer of the Year is well underway and into our second category, “Colourful Africa”. Before we enter the closing stages of that category we thought we’d share some inspiration and photography tips from Thorsten Hanewald, the winner of our previous category “New Beginnings”. Thorsten’s heartwarming image of a mother giraffe grooming her baby took top honours and we caught up with him to learn a little more.

In his own words:

Thorsten is a 50-year-old wildlife photographer from Rülzheim in Germany. Driven by his passion for African wildlife and photography, he travels to Africa at least once a year. Thorsten is most regularly a visitor to Kenya and has been so for a number of years. When we caught up with him, Thorsten was just beginning to plan his next African adventure!

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Africa’s Photographer of the Year, New Beginnings Category winner, by Thorsten Hanewald.

Where was the photograph taken?

When we decided to do this trip COVID-19 was still present and we didn’t know what to expect when travelling both to and in Kenya. Some good friends of ours in Kenya encouraged us to come to visit them in October 2020 and we decided to go ahead. During our trip, we spent time at Mara Bush Camp in the Maasai Mara, where I was lucky to get the opportunity to take the winning photograph. We felt very safe for the duration of our stay in Kenya and we would happily make the decision to travel over and over again.

Describe how you planned or anticipated the shot?

On the day that I took the image, it was a bit cloudy and the light was soft, which set us up very well to take this kind of photo. We spotted a group of giraffes and we decided to get closer to them. As we reached the group we saw another separated giraffe a short distance from the rest of the herd. When we took a closer look with the binoculars to see what that giraffe was doing there, we spotted a calf on the ground. The calf had just been born, it was still waiting to stand and all wet.

We approached the scene and stopped at a safe distance ensuring that we didn’t disturb the new family. The calf began to try taking its first steps and was still wobbly on its
thin legs. The mother giraffe bent down and started licking the young one.

I had an image in my head that would frame the mother’s neck descending in an arc as she licks her calf’s head. As we weren’t able to move the vehicle and did not want to risk disturbing the mother and calf, we had to wait patiently for them to come into the perfect position. Luckily for me, they did!

What makes this photograph unique and special to you?

To me, there are a few factors. Firstly I feel that I was really lucky to catch this moment because the calf was always moving and struggling not to fall over. Secondly, the intimacy and tenderness of the moment that the bond between mother and calf is strengthened are so beautiful to me. Finally, given the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 and taking the chance to travel made this moment even more significant.

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Another example of the spectacular timing and patience that is required for the perfect image. Photo Credit: Thorsten Hanewald

What photography tips would you give a photographer entering Africa’s Photographer of the Year?

It is important to remember that It doesn’t always have to be hunting scenes or big cats to take a spectacular, emotional photo. Taking time to observe the animals and get to know their behaviour is really important. This way you can plan your photography in advance and ensure you are in the right position when the opportunity arrives. It is also equally important that the animals are not disturbed in their natural behaviour or pressured just to get a photo.

That’s why time and patience as well as respect for nature are the most important points when setting out to take great wildlife photographs. Of course, it is important to remember that there are many failures on any shoot. That’s a part of photography that never changes, but making sure you always learn something is the best way to approach these failures.

What is your favourite African photography destination?

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The Maasai Mara in Kenya has an abundance of wildlife making it ideal for photographers. Photo Credit: Thorsten Hanewald

I am a big fan of East Africa and Kenya in particular holds a very special place in my heart. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of wandering the African savannah and observing animals. I love the Maasai Mara because of its high animal density. Even outside of the great migration, it just never gets boring. Regions like Samburu or Tsavo also have their unique charms for me. The great thing about Kenya is that you can experience many different habitats on a visit to this single country.

Well, there you have it, some insights and expertise into what makes an Africa’s Photographer of the Year Category winner tick! Now that you’ve got the inside scoop from an expert, get out and about taking some photographs of your own. Enter the results into Africa’s Photographer of the Year and you could be dishing out some photography tips of your own! Better yet, you and a partner could be off on a 14-day African safari worth over $40 000!

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About the author 

Brad Mitchell

With a deep-set love of the outdoors and making moments count in all aspects of life, nothing makes Brad happier than taking in sunrises and sunsets. He can often be found either running, surfing or playing sports somewhere in Cape Town. Having grown up a stone's throw from Kruger, Brad jumped at the chance to live in the Cape and has never looked back since! With a background in all things Marketing, he is driven by creativity and turning crazy ideas into real-life actions!

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