Ask most people what they know about Botswana, and it's likely you'll be met either with a shrug or vague suggestion that it's a safari destination in Africa. Though true, there's so much more to the Southern African gem. Home to some of Africa's most varied landscapes, most diverse animals, and most friendly people, it's a must-visit – so much so that VIVA named it one of their 10 hottest destinations for 2017.
For a glimpse into the magic of Botswana, look no further than the talented photography of Mike Taylor. Born in England and based in Canada, his passion for photography and the outdoors shines through his work. Check out our Q&A with him and be captivated by his shots while on safari.
So, where in Botswana were these shots taken?
We were based out of two camps in the Chobe National Park and one camp in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. This allowed us to take in the diversity of Botswana's landscape, which ranges from salt flats, deserts and grasslands to the Okavango Delta, one of Africa's top safari areas. We were there at the beginning of the dry season, which was strategically advantageous because the animals had begun to concentrate near the different bodies of water.
How did you find traveling in the country?
Traveling was generally a bit on the rugged side, but it was easy enough and the people are tremendously friendly. During our trip we used a combination of small bush planes, 4x4 jeeps, and small boats to get around.
Do you have any spots that visitors must check out?
If you get the opportunity I would definitely suggest going on a mokoro tour through the Okavango Delta itself. Mokoros are basically wobbly wooden canoes, and using one of them to track down a pod of hippos in thick 7-foot tall marshland grass with limited-to-no visibility is an exhilarating and humbling experience.
What was the most challenging aspect of capturing the photos, from a technical perspective?
With unpredictable wildlife as your subject you really have to remember to prioritize your technical discipline. You are constantly balancing the need to be patient while simultaneously being ready to go and having your finger on the shutter release. It's easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment (especially with some of the more elusive animals), but don't forget to constantly evaluate the light and contrast values in your compositions.
What photography tips would you give to those wanting to take equally stunning safari shots?
Its very easy to get distracted with trying to get the perfect shot of the big iconic animals Africa is known for, but don't forget about the smaller creatures that call it home as well. In particular, the river banks in the Okvango Delta are home to some world-class bird life that can be easily overlooked if you are not paying close attention. Sometimes the photos that tell the best stories come from the least expected sources.
What's your favorite photo, and why?
I really like the tension in the photo of the fox surrounded by the vultures. Early that morning a pride of lions killed a wildebeest and had left behind a carcass after having their share of it. By the evening the carcass had attracted dozens of bickering vultures, as well as various other scavengers. The moment when the fox showed up on the scene there was this very intense and dramatic stand-off between him and the wake of vultures. After a brief scuffle to determine nature's pecking order, the vultures yielded and allowed the fox to claim his share of the meal in peace.
Where do you plan on traveling next? What'd be your dream destination to visit as a photographer?
No concrete plans yet, but I am hoping to make my way over to Iceland soon. Its supposed to be a visually stunning and otherworldly landscape that I am very keen to explore photographically. The graphic combination of natural textures over there could make for a very striking photo series.