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Legendary Photos: The Stories Behind 7 of Art Wolfe’s Iconic Images

Nature photographer discusses his classic shots

Photo of tribesmen by Art Wolfe

Milky Way and San tribesmen, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Ngamiland, Botswana

Makgadikgadi Pans has been on my radar for the last twenty years. It’s remote and remarkable in other ways than the typical wildlife viewing safari. I usually give myself about three or four days in any location, prepping beforehand for a successful outcome. I feel the time constraint heightens my awareness and focuses my attention. The pressure is a good thing.

This is a vast desert with a few tiny rocky outcrops. It is a place of minimalism and striking beauty. One of the places we were able to visit is called The Altar, a place of haunting beauty and history. It is an outcrop of huge granite boulders sitting on the edge of a white salt pan. This is the site where San bushmen historically would pass from boyhood into manhood.

I photographed the San in the 1990s for my book with Sierra Club called Endangered Peoples, and here in Makgadikgadi I was able to photograph them again. They are the oldest peoples of southern Africa and in a few small pockets they are still living and practicing a traditional way of life. Their belief system is directly connected to the heavens, and I felt privileged to be able to photograph them at dusk and into the night under the vastness of the Milky Way.

Shot with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and 20mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art 015 lens at f/3.2 for 20 seconds, ISO 4000.


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