African Mammals, African Wildlife, Wildlife
Comments 6

Steenbok – Just Magic

Steenbok Kruger Park South Africa

Welcome back to the second post of the 5 Day Black-and-White Challenge. Today I’ve chosen to feature a photo of a tiny Steenbok we encountered near the boulders of Masorini in Kruger National Park, a cute little antelope that always tries to look pretty on photographs. But that’s not the only reason why I decided to share it with you – the other reason is the emotion behind the photograph. Let me try to explain this.

Being outdoors, hearing the sounds of the animals, smelling the bush, see and feel the wild, all of that evokes a sense of freedom and authenticity in me, a sense of being part of a much bigger scheme of things. Apart from being outdoors myself, I’ve always enjoyed the work from people who possess the gift of perfectly capturing those emotions into images or words. Artists as Peter Beard, Karen Blixen or Laurens van der Post still provide me with ample inspiration, as does the work from contemporary writers, photographers and fellow-bloggers – they all share the same passion to capture the essence nature.

When I found this Steenbok photo it immediately reminded me of an anecdote written by Van der Post. It’s about the magical escape of a Steenbok he encountered when shooting food for a party of bushmen. The hunters continuously miss the target and the Steenbok manages to escape from being killed. When a puzzled Van der Post asks his guide why he is laughing at the scene of a seemingly untroubled buck standing amidst blasting guns, the little Bushman simply replies that the Steenbuck is protected by great magic and is very difficult to kill. As with my photograph the essence of the story is not that spectacular, but when reading Van der Post’s apt description of this little buck it all gets a different meaning to me:

“When the noise of our vehicles finally woke a little steenbuck from his sleep and he rose out of the bed he makes more neatly and snugly perhaps than any other quadruped in Africa, I felt I had to shoot. Yet I hated doing it. For me the Steenbuck had always been the loveliest and most lovable of African buck. It and the Klipspringer are part of my own childhood world of magic, and this little steenbuck was a superb example of his kind. He stood at the end of a bare patch of crimson sand about twenty yards away, beside the purple shade of the bush behind which he had made his bed, and there he fed the precise little flame of his vivid self to the rising conflagration of another desert day. He stood as still as fine drawn as an Etruscan statuette of himself. His delicate ears were pointed in my direction, his great purple eyes wide open, utterly without fear and shining only with the wonder of seeing so strange a sight at the remote back door of life.”

The description of the buck is so accurate to me that I now appreciate my own photo a bit better. It might still not be best shot of a Steenbok – you will find better specimens in any stock collection – but for me it perfectly reflects its seemingly untouchable and magical appearance. To end my ramblings, the above anecdote enhanced my understanding and interpretation of the subject and allowed me to see it through completely different eyes than before. The conversion into black and white highlights this even more. Please let me know what you think.

Last but not least I would like to ask another US blogger to join the Black and White fun. This time I invite Terry at Montana Outdoors to feature some of his work in B&W. Living in bear country I guess there are some incredible stories to be heard!

6 Comments

  1. The conversion to black-and-white accentuates the little steenbok’s delicate nature perfectly!

    And the back-story was simply lovely, just shows that you have a way with words too and not only the camera 😉

    Well done Maurice, I really enjoyed this!

  2. Love the photograph and the wonderful post that describes the emotions behind the picture. You have captured this fragile animal with all it’s shy charm. The black and white treatment lets us see it so simply without distraction. Lovely! 🙂

  3. scrapydotwo says

    Perfect photo and lovely explanation. The steenbuck, duiker and klipspringer are precious little animals

  4. Your story is an excellent introduction to your photo of the little Steenbok. I’ve never seen one myself, but in the world of nature there are just some things that are the same in any part of the world. That little antelope is very different from anything that we have here, but he is obviously completely at home in his natural habitat and fits perfectly into his surroundings in the same way that I’ve seen thousands of our native species fit into their habitats here. In my opinion that’s the very best that a wildlife photo can be.

    I’m not much good at participating in challenges, but I do have a photo of a scene from here that is amazingly similar in its essence from the scene in your photo, and I will post it soon.

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