NGTI Raw File: Storm Troopers | Nat Geo Traveller India

NGTI Raw File: Storm Troopers

Acclaimed wildlife photographer Anup Shah harks back to an iconic photograph of an elephant family in the Mara.  
NGTI Raw File: Storm Troopers
A family of elephants huddle together with an impending storm. Photo by: Anup Shah

“I felt a primeval sense of being, a connection to a distant past.”

In the third instalment of NGTI Raw File, we train our lens on the veteran wildlife photographer Anup Shah. Shah is the winner of several prestigious photography awards, including the Nature Conservancy 2021 Photo Contest. He also has several photography books to his name, and is 14-time Wildlife Photographer of the Year (Natural History Museum).

NGTI Raw File, National Geographic Traveller India’s monthly is a celebration of travel photography in all its glory. We spotlight the craft of photographers, who bring us all those wallpaper-worthy shots. Every month, an accomplished photographer will share a signature photo with us, and give us a rare peek into a special story behind that picture.

IN FOCUS: Anup Shah has spent the past three decades photographing the wildlife of Africa and Asia. Raised in Kenya, the acclaimed photographer is famous for his evocative black-and-white portraits of elephants, wildebeests, cheetahs and other denizens of the wild.

The above photograph of elephants huddled together against an impending storm, titled Steadfast, features on the back cover of Shah’s book The Mara. The project was conceived in the Kenyan savannah on a Sunday a few years ago. “I was in my jeep in the midst of elephants and within touching distance of a couple of them,” recalls Shah, who started out as a wildlife photographer in the early 1990s after an epiphanic encounter with a tiger in Ranthambore National Park.

“I felt a primeval sense of being, a connection to a distant past. After the peacefully grazing family had moved on, I wondered if I could translate that feeling into photographs, if I could imprint on a long photographic series how I felt being with the wild animals. That was the seed.”

SIGNATURE SHOT: The shot fulfilled Shah’s expectation of a moment locked and framed in its own unique time and place.

“It was late December in Maasai Mara, Kenya. I had been concentrating on photographing elephants within a wet season setting for the book for about a month now. Although elephants travel long distances, they broadly follow the same routes, setting out and returning. Thus, I had become familiar with a few families. One family, led by a calm matriarch, was quite relaxed around me and I sometimes experienced them around me sitting in my 4×4 sipping tea. Today, I had been waiting for a few hours, lost in daydreams.”


NGTI Raw File: Storm Troopers 2


“It was a good day for an atmospheric photograph but I lacked a subject. Just as I was thinking of packing up, the elephant family emerged from the riverine forest and on to the adjoining plain. The elephants went about their daily task of feeding, alert to the signals from the matriarch. But she was not bothered in the least. I set up the shot at a dusty patch, anticipating that the family would come there. I hoped that the resulting photograph would speak of both raw nature and tranquility emanating from the elephants set against the impending, menacing storm.”


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  • prannay pathak dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.

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