by Jennifer Southwell
on July 13, 2017
7 min read

The Big 5. The true African celebrities. Everyone searches for them on safari, clutching their binoculars tightly, scanning the bushveld in the hopes of ticking them off their checklist. The anticipation leads up to the moment, and when you capture it, there it remains, static for a lifetime.

This is why photography is such a beautiful medium. It allows you to capture your memories and transport viewers to that moment in time, with no words, but through an image packed with emotion. Our Big 5 category submissions have given us the opportunity to be transported ourselves, to the same moment our entrants had.

Despite the exceptional selection of photographs submitted, there was one image that did this the best. It captures two rhinos, a mother, and calf, kicking up dust, with the ambient glow of afternoon sun as the backdrop, framed by distant acacia trees. The savannah’s colours coupled with the sunshine’s haze silhouetted the rhinos so perfectly, that it created an energy so deeply African.

Drumroll, please… The winner of the Africa’s Photographer of the Year, Big 5 category, is Anna-Mart Kruger from Walvisbay, Namibia with this incredible image titled ‘Dusty Sunset’.

Winner of Africa's Photographer of the Year Big 5 category

Tell us a bit about yourself and your travels in Africa:

I was born in Namibia 1978 and spent 13 years of my life in South Africa. I’m a qualified animal and human physiotherapist by profession and I’m an adventurous person with a passion for life.

I regularly go to Zimanga Private Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa where they have 4 different kinds of special wild and birdlife photography hides as well as magnificent game drives (this is where the Rhino image was taken). Here I capture the Big 5, birds and animals from a few meters away. I also witnessed my first wild dog hunt, here from beginning to end. The wild dogs and cheetah are habituated so one can safely get down from the safari car to get those beautiful low angle shots.

Anna-Mart Kruger winner of africas photyographer of the year big 5 category

Can you tell us a bit more about your winning photo?

Camera Settings:
Nikon D750mm | F6.3 | ISO 320 | Sigma 150-500 | 550mm | -1stop exposure compensation

I was out on a game drive at Zimanga Private Game Reserve and saw a white rhino mother and calf at dusk. We decided to approach them slowly by foot (with the safari vehicle close by), to position ourselves in such a way that the sun was positioned behind them, and to get a nice low angle shot.
I decreased my exposure compensation by one full stop, to get a more dramatic effect. As they were moving the dust was raised, giving a beautiful backlit image. Thus the name ‘Dusty Sunset’.

flower photography Anna-Mart Kruger

How long have you been doing photography? Do you do it professionally?

I’ve always loved photography as a hobby. I completed my first beginner’s course in 2012. The rest was self-taught; I did a workshop with international photographers and read, practiced, and experimented. I do have a full-time job so I guess since photography is not my main income I’m more an amateur in the sense of the word.

Helene Wiggett and I started HAWK Photography and we are fortunate to have published a large number of articles in local and international magazines that includes work for Wildlife Photographic Magazine, Africa Geographic, Getaway and, Weg Magazine to mention a few. We enjoy doing commercial work for a great number of prestigious companies and lodges throughout Africa (which also includes aerial photography and video productions), we also give courses and photography workshops which have gained great popularity.Ann-Mart Kruger impala drinking reflection

Do you have any tips for capturing the perfect Big 5 moment?

I have three tips to improve your photography, which works especially well for capturing the ‘Big 5’:
-Experience is the most important thing when it comes to wildlife photography
Get out there, and practice! Learn as much as you can about your subjects and, of course, be patient.
-Tell a story with your photos
Capturing the soul of an animal in a photograph isn’t easy, but for me, that’s what makes a great photo. An attempt at capturing a moment that cannot be recreated by another.
-Be considerate of the animals
The topic of flashes is highly debatable, however, used correctly they can be effective. This is done with offset brackets and cables to trigger the flash so that it does not flash directly into the subject’s eyes. I do however disagree wholeheartedly on using pop-up flashes. The other big issue for me is ethics, for example, don’t antagonize the wildlife to get a reaction from the animals you are photographing.

Namibian night sky stars galaxies tree quiver tree

What destinations would you recommend to photographers for Photo Safaris?

1. Kenya
Africa is home to the most diverse, impressive and charismatic animals on earth and Kenya is a jewel in that crown. Photograph one of nature’s greatest spectacles – ‘the great migration’ where over a million wildebeest gathering in the famous Masai Mara, shadowed by the biggest pride of lions in Africa. A true photography bucket list goal is ‘The Crossing’ as the wildebeest traverse croc-infested rivers. Kenya is ideal for photographers because of the diversity of landscapes and animals. With off-road photo permits to get you closer to the action and hopefully tick off the ‘Big 5’ !

2. Namibia
Namibia, the thirstland wilderness, offers a selection of the finest photographic opportunities. This land of contrast and beauty is suited to professional and amateur alike. Whether the passion is for images of people, nature or landscapes, Namibia has it all and more. Namibia is a paradise for photography, with endless vistas blending into the deep blue sky, contrasting hues and crisp, dry air imbuing a purity of light, revealing a southern night sky among the clearest anywhere. The “Big 5” are easy to spot and capture due to the flat plains.

3. Zimanga Private Game Reserve in Natal, South Africa
Zimanga is the first reserve in Africa to be designed specifically to satisfy the needs of today’s wildlife photography enthusiasts as well as safari clients who have a deeper appreciation for the bush, both of whom crave an unhurried and exclusive experience. Spread over 6000 hectares of pristine bushveld, fever tree forests and rolling hills, Zimanga is bisected by the Mkuze River and home to a huge variety of animals and birds. From leopards to wild dogs and elephants to cheetah, nearly every sought-after sighting is accounted for. There are over 400 bird species recorded at the reserve. They have traditional game drives and their hides are unique in their design and execution in Africa and are already producing potentially award-winning photographs.

4. Kruger National Park Photography
The Kruger National Park is legendary, known throughout the world for its diversity of species and dramatic landscapes, the park has been depicted in many photographic coffee table books and image collections. With easy access to the park and a vast selection of accommodation options and regions to choose from the Kruger Park is a photographers dream. The diversity of habitats in the park, from open savannahs to lush riverine forests, allows photographers the benefit of selecting preferred landscapes for their photographs. The animals in the park have adapted to the presence of vehicles which gives photographers many opportunities to get that special shot.

5. Mana Pools
Experience one of the last true wild destinations left in Africa; Mana Pools offers the adventurous wildlife and landscape photographer unequaled opportunity to photograph and capture animals in a spectacular natural unspoiled environment. You can photograph animals and landscapes from vehicles as well as on foot and from the river. This opportunity for wildlife photographers to photograph on foot is what sets Mana Pools part from all the other major national parks in Africa. It gives you the freedom to push your creativity to new heights and challenges your artistic inner artist – what more can a wildlife and landscape photographer ask for.