As high as an elephant's eye

The story behind a photo of a young elephant in South Africa.

A friend of mine in Oregon, Michael Wilhelm, is a nature photographer, and he once told me, "I don't want to just take pictures of animals, I want to capture their behavior."

His words rang in my head when I was recently in South Africa and encountered a young elephant and his family. I think elephants are amazing and shot plenty of "pretty" pictures of this animal and of the herd as they were walking.

When this elephant started feeding on nearby trees, I caught an initial fleeting glimpse of his eye as he was looking at the tasty vegetation. That got my attention. But I hadn't captured the behavior on film. When he next swiped his trunk into the tree limbs, I pushed the shutter and was able to capture an intimate look at his eye-trunk coordination as he stripped the leaves from the tree.

The photograph gave me greater insight into the elephant's powers of concentration as it ate. Capturing this moment on film, I believe, fulfilled my friend's directive. It's all about behavior.

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