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One Picture


Photographer: Marsel van Oosten (
Subject: Bull elephant at Victoria Falls, Zambia
Camera: Nikon D2X digital SLR
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 28-70mm f.2.8
Exposure: 1/160th of a second @ f/13, ISO 200

Falls Guy
Here are the historical facts: Victoria Falls, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia in Central Africa, was “discovered” in November 1855 by the Scottish-born explorer David Livingston. He had sailed down the untamed Zambezi River in a canoe “with men well acquainted with the rapids” to see for himself a phenomenon native people called “the smoke that thunders.” That is, the columns of spray that tower sky-high over the falls, especially during the flood season. Livingston landed on an island at the lip of the falls, a curtain of water 5,500 feet wide that plunges to a maximum of 355 feet, and he would write that “I believe that no one could perceive where the vast body of water went; it seemed to lose itself in the earth.”

Here is another good story. “When I was shooting for a photo book in Zambia, one of the locations I visited was Victoria Falls,” says Marsel van Oosten, a professional nature photographer from Amsterdam whose work has been featured in galleries and museums, used worldwide in advertising and popular magazines, and won top awards. “When I thought of the billions of pictures that must have been taken there, I almost decided to go without my camera. That was until I spoke with some of the local people, who told me they had seen a bull elephant crossing the river the day before. So I decided to stay a few extra days and try my luck.”

The course of the Zambezi, he explains, is dotted with tree-covered islands, which increase in number as the river approaches the falls. In the dry season, when the river is low, the islets on the crest become wider and more numerous with exposed paths between them that open up fresh foraging opportunities for wild animals. “On the third day,” van Oosten recounts, “I left very early with a small boat to reach my location on Livingston Island, where I suddenly saw the lone bull approaching the falls. I collected my gear and moved carefully toward the edge, where the water plummets into a chasm—not a great place to be when you’re afraid of heights. I set everything up to include as much as possible of the falls in the composition. And I knew I had just witnessed and captured something very special.

“Later, the local people told me they had never seen an elephant so close to the edge of the falls—exactly what I wanted to hear!”—Les Line

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