Image Focus

Chris Schmid | Golden Eden

Dust from the furious running was thick in the air and the light was amazing. I had been following a herd of wildebeest during the great migration next to the Mara River in the Serengeti, Tanzania. Whilst I was waiting for them to cross the river they suddenly changed direction and started to move west.

This behaviour was sudden, but not unexpected. Wildebeest run following the rain in order to find greener pasture. They just run and run without showing any sign of fatigue; they are one of the natural wonders of the world.

I quickly turned and positioned the car so that I could shoot the image backlit. Before I even press the shutter I know exactly the image I want to produce. I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the dust, the light and the heat. It is very important for me to give a sense of place in my images. I wanted something dramatic, secretive, but also warm to show the unique African atmosphere. Sometimes it can be quite tricky to shoot the migration due to enormity, so I decided to use the trees on each side of my image to close the frame, with the wildebeest running in between.

herd of wildebeest in the serengeti bathed in orange light

© Chris Schmid | Sony α7R IV + FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS + 1.4x converter | 1/400s @ f/5.0, ISO 250

When you know the shot that you want to take it allows you to correctly set up your camera. For this shot I was using the Sony Alpha 7R IV with the FE 400mm f/2.8 lens with the TC 1.4x. This gave me a 560mm focal length so that I could really compress the image and give a sense of depth.

I love to shoot backlight. I like to elevate my images to be something special. Shooting with the light behind the subject requires a sensor with a very good dynamic range in order to retain all the details in shadows and highlights. That is why I shoot with the Sony Alpha 7R IV. The dynamic range is just phenomenal, and it allows me to show scenes I’ve just witnessed in the best possible way.

When you are shooting wildlife things only happen once, so I need to make sure that I will get the shot that I want. The autofocus system of the Sony Alpha 7R IV is essential for this, even when shooting in tricky backlit conditions. I also use the electronic viewfinder so that I can check exposure and colour in real time. I can see very close to what I want in the final photo live through the viewfinder, which means I can spend more time shooting and less time going back and checking images.

I love the unique atmosphere of the photo and the feelings it evokes. It gives the sensation of a lost paradise. The image is peaceful, but at the same time it has a chaotic atmosphere with all this dust and the wildebeest’s silhouette. I’m so happy I was able to capture this in one image, but really the wildebeest migration is something that everybody should witness once in their lifetime.

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Chris Schmid

Chris Schmid | Switzerland

"Imagery is powerful. A single shot can capture an emotion or trigger a feeling within"

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