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  • A place close to my heart: David Yarrow profiles the colossal elephants and people that call Kenya home

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    It is with great pleasure that we introduce David Yarrow as one of our Nikon Europe Ambassadors. The Nikon Europe Ambassador programme works with some of the best image makers in the world to

    showcase their unique style, technical approach and outstanding portfolio. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Fine Art photographer, David Yarrow, took up photography at an early age and as a 20-year-old, began

    his career photographing the World Cup Final in Mexico City. On this career changing day David took the famous picture of Diego Maradona holding the World Cup, and as a result of this photograph he was

    asked to cover the Olympics and other renowned sporting events around the world . Years later, David then found his true comfort zone in documenting the natural world, photographing everything from

    elephants in the wild to great white sharks. His evocative and immerse photography of life on earth has earned him an ever-growing following among art collectors.  As part of this role as a Nikon Europe

    Ambassador, David recently embarked on a Special Project exploring the animals and people that call Kenya home. Here, we cover the result of his work. 

     

    As part of this role as a Nikon Europe Ambassador, David recently embarked on a Special Project exploring the animals and people that call Kenya home.
    As part of this role as a Nikon Europe Ambassador, David recently embarked on a Special Project exploring the animals and people that call Kenya home.

     

    David’s Special Project: something different 

    When it came to planning his Special Project, David was especially keen to return to Kenya. A place he has visited several times throughout his career thanks to its unique landscape, wildlife and people.

    With the D850 and a range of prime NIKKOR lenses in hand, David used this trip to capture something different to his usual work – a juxtaposition of Amboseli’s colossal elephants or ‘Big Tuskers’ with the gang culture prevalent in the country’s bustling capital, Nairobi.

    The contrasting images show the two sides of life in this remarkable country.

     

    The Walk of Life - Nikon D850 | 1/1600 sec. | f/5 400mm | ISO 160 | AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR
    The Walk of Life – Nikon D850 | 1/1600 sec. | f/5 400mm | ISO 160 | AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR

     

    A place very close to my heart

    “I wanted to come to Kenya because I know it well, especially Amboseli where I have spent a lot of time throughout my career. Working somewhere you feel comfortable and confident really helps streamline the planning and logistics process of a project like this – even before you pick up your camera.

    “Of course, so much of what I had planned was weather-dependent, and I’ll be the first to admit that when we got to Kenya, I was unprepared for the unexpectedly high levels of rainfall. The terrain in Amboseli was soaked and access became difficult (in fact, we got stuck a couple of times!), which is why I wanted to capture a number of different settings in East Africa.”

     

    The Big Tuskers of Amboseli

    “Amboseli is my favourite place in the world to photograph elephants. It’s a raw, elemental amphitheatre, and with 2,000 elephants present there’s no doubt I’ve taken some of my favourite images here.

    “As well as playing home to these magnificent elephant herds, this part of Kenya is also home to a handful of the largest and most endangered elephants in the world, otherwise known as ‘big tuskers’. I had seen the Big Tuskers – whose tusks are so long they reach the ground – a few times before. For this project, however, I wanted to capture their magnificence from the ground, pushing boundaries and going closer than any photographer has gone before.”

    Colossus - Nikon D850 | 1/1250 sec. | f/8 200mm | ISO 200 | AF-S NIKKOR 200mm F2G ED VR II
    Colossus – Nikon D850 | 1/1250 sec. | f/8 200mm | ISO 200 | AF-S NIKKOR 200mm F2G ED VR II

     

    David followed the movements of one elephant in particular – Tim – one of the park’s largest and most famous Big Tuskers.

    “Experience meant I knew I had a good chance of seeing Tim again. That moment you see him, you know you’ll never photograph anything like it. On the ground, we had to be careful not to irritate him in his natural environment, which came from knowledge of animal behaviour and invaluable help from the game keepers. We had to respect that we are merely voyeurs of his life, rather than being coercive or altering his daily routine.

    David used the Nikon D850 with the AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR and AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f2G ED VR II lenses to intimately profile Tim and his family.

    “I wanted to photograph Tim just being Tim, not necessarily charging around, but just quietly going about his business. This meant I didn’t need a high number of frames per second, but a super-crisp resolution. The Nikon D850 with my favourite, razor-sharp prime lenses rose to the task effortlessly.

    “The resulting photo is a front-on look at Tim in all his glory, with the high-quality lens revealing every texture of his skin, the ambition and intelligence in his eyes, and the beautiful tusks he carries with pride. I am, and will always be, in awe of these creatures’ power, size, and that human-like intelligence they hold so clearly.”

    Using the AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED lens helped David achieve that all-important, edge-to-edge sharpness needed – especially in the following landscape image of the elephant herd walking into the distance.

     

    Garden of Eden - Nikon D850 | 1/500 sec| f/7.1 105mm | ISO 250 | AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED
    Garden of Eden – Nikon D850 | 1/500 sec| f/7.1 105mm | ISO 250 | AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED

     

    “Profiling these creatures is exactly what I came out to do. It breaks my heart that there are only 22 Big Tuskers left in the wild, and I hope these images help give them the stage they deserve in order to increase awareness of the issue, and ultimately help people fight for their protection.”

     

    A look at Dandora’s street life

    For the second part of his trip David travelled to Dandora, an eastern suburb of Nairobi perhaps best known for its large rubbish dump, which sprawls over 3,000 acres. This offered a different subject for David – no less wild than Amboseli’s National Park – but a bustling, urban city where gang culture and environmental difficulties co-exist.

    “The Dandoran suburb of Nairobi was a world away from Amboseli, but equally challenging and fascinating to photograph. The rubbish dump was of a different scale to anything I had ever seen and was rife with chemical waste.

    Like Amboseli, David wanted to photograph a scene far removed from the Western world. Having made contact in advance with members of a local gang who agreed to be subjects, he positioned them in contrast to their surroundings, each wearing a smart black suit.

    “With this unusual location, I wanted to create something biblical. This is not about taking a portrait of an individual against a rundown area of Nairobi – it’s about showing something thought-provoking. To achieve this scale, we built and used a ladder to elevate the shot. This image is the epitome of a visual disconnect – the juxtaposition of very smart, fit men in their black suits against the backdrop of the rubbish dump.

    Dandora - Nikon D850 | 1/2000 sec. | f/10 105mm | ISO 500 | AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4 G
    Dandora – Nikon D850 | 1/2000 sec. | f/10 105mm | ISO 500 | AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4 G

     

    Juxtaposing staged portraits with the most natural of subjects, David’s images demonstrate how different photography techniques can be used to capture a cohesive, powerful series.

    “With wildlife photography you need to ensure you are in the perfect position to capture that authoritative, emotive shot…but you are not in control. If an animal doesn’t allow you to photograph it, there is nothing you can do. On the other end of the spectrum, staged photography allows you to follow a linear journey, from preconception right through to conception. It’s a real test of your ability as a photographer to see if you can capture that perfect moment you had planned. Both styles are hugely important to me, as was profiling these two vastly different areas of Kenya, connecting the humans and wild animals that call this place home.

     

    The Debt Collector - Nikon D850 | 1/200 sec. | f/3.5 35mm | ISO 500 | AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
    The Debt Collector – Nikon D850 | 1/200 sec. | f/3.5 35mm | ISO 500 | AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G

     

    “Every project has a place in my heart, but this one in particular is symbolic of my close relationship with Nikon and its cameras and lenses which I look through almost every day. Using this equipment has allowed me to take remarkable career-defining shots over the years and I’m eager to bring on the next challenge!”

     


     

     

    To find out more about David Yarrow’s Nikon Special Project, please visit the Nikon website here.

    You can also follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or visit his website.