in the vicinity...

The attractive woman sitting next to me in the boat has an old Nikkormat film camera. I try to build up enough courage to strike up a conversation, but her attention is fixed on other larger mammals in the vicinity. The competition is fierce out here.

The guy across from me has not one, but two whiz-bang, top-dollar Canon digital SLRs slung from his neck, each racked with a massive and expensive telephoto zoom lens. He is dressed the part, with matching beige safari slacks and vest. His wife is wardrobed similarly for their safari. She is neatly, tightly coiffed, a helmet of hair. Her long fingernails are very precisely cut and painted red, ready for the kill.

We have all seen the fantastic wildlife photographs in National Geographic and elsewhere, and imagine the abundance of stealth, skill, and hardship that must be required to make them. Days of trekking, a small platoon of porters, hacking the way with machete, foot by foot through a dense and hostile jungle. Surely you need a Halliburton case filled with cameras and lenses worth thousands of dollars to play this game, for even a chance to bag that once-in-a-lifetime photographic opportunity.

The photograph shown here suggests another reality. In the game reserves of southern Africa, you simply motor up to within a few feet of the animals and click away. They are used to the attention. They pose and strut and preen right in front of you, like table dancers at a strip club.

Nothing to it really. Snap a photo, drink some beer, relax at the lodge.

Chobe River, Botswana, April 2008.

Rolleiflex T, Neopan 400.