It's hard enough to make original pictures, but with some subjects it simply borders the impossible.

When I was at Victoria Falls last year, I thought about the billions of photographs that must have been taken there, and I almost decided to just visit the place without my camera. That was until I spoke with some of the local people, who told me that they had seen a bull elephant crossing the Zambezi river the day before. During my research I had not seen any images of the falls with an elephant in it, so I decided to stay a few extra days and try my luck.

The course of the Zambezi is dotted with numerous tree-covered islands, which increase in number as the river approaches the falls. As the dry season takes effect, the islets on the crest become wider and more numerous, and with the water level of the Zambezi dropping, once submerged walkways and fresh foraging possibilities present themselves. This elephant was apparently aware of this.

On the third day I left very early with a small boat to reach my location. On my way to the edge I suddenly saw the lone bull wading through shallow parts of the river, but it was far away and light levels were low, so I decided to continue to the falls. I took some sunrise shots and half an hour later I saw the elephant approaching the falls. I quickly collected my gear and moved carefully towards the edge where the water plummeted into a 360ft chasm - not particularly nice when you're afraid of heights... I set everything up in order to include as much as possible of the falls and made a composition. Luckily the elephant was aware of my preference to shoot into the light, so his position couldn't be better.

After I took the shots, I knew I had just witnessed and captured something very special. Later that day local people confirmed this by telling me that they had never seen an elephant so close to the edge of the falls before - exactly what I wanted to hear!

This image was featured as a double page spread in National Geographic.

©2009 Marsel van Oosten, All Rights Reserved. This image is not available for use on websites, blogs or other media without the explicit written permission of the photographer.

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