Welcome to Incredible Photographs, a series of short interviews on South Africa’s very best nature photography. We ask the photographers a set list of questions to gain insight into the previsualization, planning, capture, editing and reflection of their best photographs.
Where was this image taken?
Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
Did you plan this image or would you consider it a stroke of luck?
Each day as the tide recedes across the sand shoals, sea grass meadows and islands of the Bazaruto Marine Reserve incredible oceanscapes are revealed never to be repeated again. We planned this image in that we were up in the air at low tide; but the particular flow of the sand shoals beneath the water and the arrangement of the dhows above them are pure luck and never to be repeated again.
Was this image inspired by another photographer’s work or a specific image?
As a young photographer I was inspired by Yaan Arthus Bertrand and later by Michael Poliza. Paul van Schalkwyk was also a legend with his exploration of colour and shape with his images of the Namib landscape
If planned, how many times did you visit this location?
This image strangely enough was taken on the first flight ever over the Bazaruto Archipelago in 2010. Talk about beginners’ luck! Since then we have spent countless hours photographing the length of the Mozambique coastline.
Did you use an ephemeris or AR planning app like Photopills or TPE?
Do you have any images of failed shoots to provide some background on what goes into an image like this?
I have many examples of failed shoots, especially when I was first starting out in aerial photography. As I have primarily worked out of a fixed wing aircraft it takes some experience to understand the angle, distance and height one has to be at to get the shot. This requires working closely with the pilot. The scene is passing beneath you at an average of 100mph, so you need to be able to converse with the pilot and make split-second decisions if you see something interesting you want to photograph. Also, weather conditions and time of day play a huge role in getting the shot or not. Aerial photography is the only genre of photography where you move through and around light, so in those early days I really needed to learn my camera to use the appropriate settings to compensate for all possible scenarios.
Our most spectacular failed shoot happened in Mozambique when we crashed our aircraft on Matemo island in the north and had to sail our aircraft back to Pemba on a dhow.
Is the location physically challenging to access or is it a brief walk from a parking lot? Also, would you consider the location safe to go shooting on your own or should one be cautious?
To reach Vilanculos, a small village on mainland Mozambique and the launch pad the Bazaruto Archipelago it is a strenuous two-day drive from Johannesburg, or a two-hour commercial flight from Johannesburg or a five hour flight from Kruger International in our small fixed wing aircraft. Once in Vilanculos the islands are accessible by dhow and non-photographic scenic flights are available in a locally based Eurocopter. Photographic flights in fixed wing aircraft are not available unless privately organised.
Did you go out on a whim or was this shoot carefully planned in consideration of weather forecasts?
Aerial photography always requires planning; flight clearances, landing permits, aviation fuel availability and careful consideration of the weather. On this particular shoot we were based in Vilanculos for a week photographing the coastline and the archipelago.
How did you feel when you saw the screen light up with that result?
This image was taken on our first flight over the Bazaruto Archipelago in 2010. Flying over the low tide shoals was so surreal and so incredibly beautiful that it felt like we had entered another universe. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and photographing and when I saw these three dhows on the turquoise ocean I just new that this would be one of my most favourite images ever.
Let’s discuss the technicalities –shutterspeed, ISO, aperture, anything else?
F10, 1/1640, ISO 25
Body and Lens used?
Canon EOS 7D, Lens Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
Did you edit it the moment you got home or did you leave it in the photo cellar to mature?
I most definitely edited it the moment I got home! Not a chance that I was leaving these shots to mature in the photo cellar!
Let’s talk about enhancements made in editing
Basic adjustments made in Adobe Photoshop with further pro contrast enhancements with Nik Software Colour Efex Pro. Aerial photography in Namibia can be challenging with the amount of dust and haze in the air so one does need to work on sharpness and vibrance.
Do you think this image is one of your all-time top 10 photos?
For sure, one of my favorites of all time, not just because of the image but because of the experience of seeing the Bazaruto from above.
Do you feel you’ve done the location justice and you can move on now?
I don’t feel I can ever give the Bazaruto justice as it is an ever-changing place. Each and every time we fly this magical part of the world we are presented with new palettes of colour and texture; marine life in abundance and changing light conditions.
Any advice for someone wanting to capture an image like this?
To take aerial images of the Bazaruto needs to be arranged privately with air operator or pilot. It is not an activity generally offered in this part of the world. I would suggest contacting an aerial photographic guide to help plan your trip so as to make the most of your flying time.
Is this image for sale as a print?
Find available prints on this link
A big thank you to Jay Roode for taking the time to answer our questions and her willingness to share the journey of creation behind the image. Below are the details to all her social media – please give them a like and a follow to show your appreciation. If you’d like to learn from her, check out their workshops and most of all, if you absolutely love this photograph, consider buying a print to support the artists.