Swimming with Giants: A Wildlife Photographer’s Unforgettable Encounter with Wild Elephants

British wildlife photographer, Chris Weston, took his craft to new heights – or rather depths – when he joined a herd of wild elephants for a swim in a river delta of Zimbabwe.

Cleverly concealing a flotation device underneath his apparel, Weston shared the same aquatic space with these gentle giants, seizing the opportunity to take breath-taking shots that most in his profession only dream of.

Despite the risks involved in such an endeavor, the 44-year-old Weymouth native’s five-week-long efforts to familiarize himself with the elephants in the Ngamo Game Reserve paid off. The elephants grew accustomed to his presence, no longer considering him a threat.

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“There’s always a danger in working with animals, especially of this size. But, it’s crucial to understand their body language and mode of communication,” explained Weston.

Up Close And Personal: This Elephant Turns To The Photographer, Who Is In The Water With The Herd
Up close and personal: This elephant turns to the photographer in the water with the herd.

Known for his unique approach to wildlife photography, Weston’s primary objective is to bring out the personality of his subjects, akin to a portrait artist depicting human characters.

He highlighted the importance of proximity to the subjects in achieving this. “I aim to show things as we perceive them through the standard lens of 50mm, which necessitates being relatively close.

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The ultimate goal is to portray each animal’s unique personality, much like you would in a human portrait. You can’t achieve that from half a mile away using a long lens.”

Eye-To-Eye: Mr Weston Takes A Picture Of One Of His Animal Friends, Who Watches Playfully
Eye-to-eye: Mr. Weston takes a picture of one of his animal friends, who watches playfully.

With 11 years of professional photography, Weston is no stranger to the need for patience in developing a rapport with his subjects. He has visited this particular herd five times over four years.

“Elephants possess remarkable memories,” he commented, “Their reaction upon seeing you again clearly indicates that they remember you.

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Despite their size advantage, elephants are not threatened by us humans. I believe they possess more understanding and reasoning than other animals, like lions.”

Say Cheese! The Brit Is Shown In Between Two Elephants, Who Are Used To His Presence
Say cheese! The Brit is shown in between two elephants, who are used to his presence.

In his quest for the perfect shots, Weston used a vehicle to track the herd but plunged into the waters when the elephants began their river crossing.

“They emerged from the forest and started crossing the river. With my concealed flotation device, I could get extraordinarily close to them. This helps people appreciate elephants in their natural surroundings better.

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Thirsty Work: One Of Mr Weston'S Subjects Is Shown Taking In A Good Gulp Of Water
Thirsty work: One of Mr. Weston’s subjects is shown taking in a good gulp of water.
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