Twilight African elephants
One of Frans’s most celebrated images,
Twilight of the Giants was made in the Chobe National Park in northern Botswana in 1989. Frans captured the shot during a year-long assignment to document life in the Okavango Delta, and this image became the cover for his book, Okavango: Africa’s Last Eden.
“What you see is a gathering of bull elephants at a waterhole at twilight,” explains Frans. “The colour in the image is caused by a dusty sunset. It’s the end of the dry season and all the dust creates the kind of atmospherics that turn the sky a pinkpurple, which the water reflects as well.
“What makes it really magical to me is that there’s a full moon rising. I’d worked that waterhole for a while, so I’d seen these elephants coming and going every day, and I knew the moon was going to rise, so I positioned myself in the right place ahead of time. I set my camera up with a wide-angle lens rather than a telephoto, and in order to equalize the light values on sky and water, I slipped a graduated neutral density filter on to the lens.
“When I look back at the images I took before and after, it’s clear that there was only one perfect frame. Because, of course, the elephants were moving all the time. So there was lots of planning and preparation, but ultimately it’s serendipity, and that’s what I like – to be at the intersection where preparation pays off and I know I’m in the zone, but then there are amazing moments that are unanticipated.”