Joe Hanly's Winning Image in "Wilderness Moments" 2018 Photo Competition


Kate MacWilliam


Linkwasha Manager Joe Hanly is the overall staff winner in our 2018 Wilderness Moments Photographic Competition. We recently caught up with him to find out more about the winning image, his photography, and what he hopes to do with his safari prize…


Hwange’s winter season is all about the waterhole activity. Most afternoons, queues of elephant make their way to their regular waterhole to cool off – this day was no different. We have recently added an underground bunker at Wilderness Linkwasha, which is right in front of the main area. When there is a lull in camp activity, I will often spend an hour or so, photographing any action that might be around the pan. Some days, it is quiet, but you just have to be a bit patient. The day this picture was taken, was just like that; deadly quiet, but with a burst of action at sunset. There had been a fire outside of the park, in the forestry area, and a strong breeze from the east had carried the smoke into the park, filtering the harsh sun and giving the sunset quite a unique colour. The elephant mostly arrive from the west, so you quite often need to shoot into the sun. Thankfully they have bulky frames that can block the intense light, especially when they loom towards you, as was the case here. The unique perspective displays the sheer scale of these animals, while the close proximity allows for an intimate portrait.


Joe's winning image


This is my fourth season as Linkwasha Manager, and I am very fortunate to work where I do! The plains around camp are a constant distraction though, and I always have my camera on hand as it is impossible to tell what might happen next. While at university in South Africa, I would often cover sports events for a local publication, and this is where I first developed some interest in photography. At that stage, I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to explore photography further in my career, so I have been very fortunate to nurture this hobby at Linkwasha.


WS: How did you set up for this shot?


I was using the Olympus OMD EM Mark II, with the 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens. With all wildlife photography, you never know when an excellent opportunity might crop up, so it’s important to be ready, waiting and watching. The light direction has a huge influence in how you shoot, so observing the light is as important as observing the behaviour you are wanting to capture. Saying that, capturing wildlife has so many variables that it often comes down to a little bit of luck. On this occasion, there were elephant everywhere, but I was watching a herd approach from the side, hoping they might venture past me. They all knew I was there, but this one got closer, all the while keeping a cautious eye on me. It really is exhilarating when you lock eyes with an elephant from that low angle.


With a Canon background, I had initially thought it would be quite difficult adapting to the Olympus setup. However, it hasn’t taken me long to realise that it can be completely customised to suit my specific preferences. It’s a much smaller camera than my DSLR, and also a lot lighter to carry, which is handy as I lug my kit around wherever I go. It has a super snappy autofocus, which is ideal for shooting wildlife. I often shoot at each end of the day, when the ambient light might require a slower shutter speed. The Olympus has a really nifty image stabiliser, meaning you can hand-hold in low light without worrying too much about camera shake. It also has an articulated LCD, which I find I use quite often, especially when shooting from a lower angle, as it allows me to get shots from interesting perspectives that I previously would have struggled to get. Lastly, the high frame rate is really impressive and of huge value to any wildlife photographer, allowing me to capture high speed action with very little buffer time – so you never miss a shot!


WS: Tell us about your favourite spots at Linkwasha


The Linkwasha Concession in Hwange is renowned as one of the most productive in the country, year-round. Whether it’s the dust and drama around the waterholes in the dry season, or the vibrant landscapes and new life in the rainy months, you are guaranteed some incredible photographic opportunities. The Ngamo Plains in summer are a haven for all sorts of life, but Scott’s Pan has a vast number of visitors in the dry season, with unrelenting herds of elephant making their way to drink there in the afternoon. With ilala palms scattered all over the Backpans vlei, you can be assured of a glorious sunset and some awesome silhouettes. A little further off the beaten track, west past the airstrip, is Mandundumela. Surrounded by a camelthorn forest, and with rocky ridges lining the edge, you really get a sense that you are completely remote and that something amazing might happen!


WS:Which country would you like to visit with your safari prize? (The prize includes five nights for two people sharing at our Wilderness camps in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia or Zimbabwe)


That is a tough decision! There are so many wonderful camps to choose from, with such diversity in what they offer, but all so uniquely different! I have always wanted to visit Shumba in the Kafue, but am also interested in visiting some of the Botswana properties as they will contrast nicely with my experiences in Hwange. Then, there is Namibia as well, which is its own beast altogether. It is such a wonderful chance to experience more of the wilderness, so I am very grateful for that opportunity, wherever I end up going.


A few more pictures below taken by Joe:






"With all wildlife photography, you never know when an excellent opportunity might crop up, so it’s important to be ready, waiting and watching. "

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