This black and white photograph is above my bed.
A beautiful sand dune highlighted in light and shadow. It is resplendent in it’s starkness. No life is growing there. It’s shape curves through the whole picture. One’s eye travels down the curve to rest in the bottom right hand corner on a small tree. The tree seems to be saying: I insist upon growing here. You can take your sand, dust and dryness and ………..! I WILL GROW!!!
The whole photograph while being incredibly beautiful in it’s line, light and shadow, holds something of great importance to me. It speaks to me of a determined hope.
The photographer’s name – Peter Delaney.
My favourite place to go for a cup of hot chocolate in George, is Beans About Coffee. Other people rave about their coffee but it is their hot chocolate that has stolen my heart. I often sit at ‘my’ table in the corner, a book in front of me sipping my delicious brew. Directly opposite my table is a photograph that beguiles me. The photograph is of a Baobab tree. It is the colours in the photo that entrance me: the orange Baobab, the pink hue of the sky, the differing browns of the vegetation and the vibrant greys of the rocks. I never seem to tire of what the artist saw when he created that photograph. The last time I was there, for some reason, the photographer’s name leapt out of the photo and stopped me in my tracks – Peter Delaney. This was the same name I looked at each day in my bedroom. For goodness sakes, Gaynor, wake up!
I got home and discovered his website. Incredibly he lived in the same city as me!
Serendipitous or what?
I wanted to discover more about this enigmatic Irishman. I invited him to coffee at – where else but – Beans about Coffee – and discovered that this too was his regular watering hole. His blue eyes smiled at me as we shook hands. They were piercing and seemed to envelope me. I discovered that he had not always been a photographer. Although he had done a part-time course in photography and fine art printing, he actually started out in life as a high flying money broker in London.
During his lunch breaks, he would often visit Waterstones bookshop and peruse books on photography. He came across a black and white photograph by Don McCullin. It was of a homeless Irish man. He too was Irish and far from home. The photograph resonated deeply within him. It conveyed so much.
“The mood, reverence and tonal contrast of this print captured me. Deep blacks to white. I found it so evocative.”
It was this photograph that led to his abiding attachment to black and white photography.
By 2001, Peter had been re-located to Tokyo. Despite being incredibly successful in this lucrative adrenaline charged environment, he decided to ‘throw in the towel’ and follow what had by now become his passion – photography. He could have returned to Ireland and photographed rabbits and badgers in the countryside. Instead, being adrenaline addicted, he took himself to Africa, bought a Land Cruiser and began to follow his dream.
Africa became the new chapter in his life. The complete size and dimensions of this continent was impressive and awe inspiring to him. He travelled among the forests of Bwindi. He mounted the peaks of Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. He explored the shores of Lake Malawi and the red dunes of the Kalahari. With the dawn of the digital age and the solitude he found in the wilderness of Africa, naturally he focused on – wildlife and landscape. This ‘new’ fine arts photographer began working and perfecting the various skills of his craft.
My old friend, Bob Martin, was the best theatre photographer of his time in South Africa. He used to carry around with him this camera with enormous lenses which he would switch from one to the other, to get the most eye catching shots. I expected the same thing with Peter. I was amazed to learn that he now longer carted around a huge ‘rucksack’ camera bag filled with traditional Nikon or Canon apparatus. In typical trailblazing, maverick style, Delaney is a FujiFilm camera X-Photographer. He has recently been testing the new XT-2. FujiFilm mirror-less technology means that not only are camera bodies much smaller but so are the lenses. Having only an electronic viewfinder also means that (WYSWYG) what you see is what you get. And he ‘gets’ the most startling wildlife photos !
Peter says: “Wildlife and landscape photography is my escape mechanism from a world in turmoil. It may only offer a temporary respite but it’s enough to keep me sane. When I am alone in the wilds of the African landscape with my camera, nothing matters except what I am photographing. Every thought or worry I may have had, melts away as I zone to the task at hand. I enter a Zen-like state. My mind concentrates on the technicalities while my heart composes. I make photographs because something tugs at my heart strings and I am beset by an overpowering urge to lift my camera and capture that moment.
It all expresses what I feel rather than reproducing what I see. Maybe that is why I have a preference for black and white photography. Monochrome has more latitude than colour to express my creativity.
I am blessed to have Africa as my backyard. I believe it is this ‘bond’ between us that helps me to create a photograph that has the essence of Africa at its core.”
I find myself gasping with wonder at Peter’s photographs. Africa seems to have caused his creative juices to flow with abandon. These are some of the ones that have caught my eye……
Peter Delaney won the Wildlife Black and White Photographer of the Year 2011 award with this picture.
I love how this photograph was created. Delaney was stuck in a hide having forgotten his wide angle lens. He was only able to shoot close ups of the elephants playing in a pool nearby. And he took this stunning shot of an elephant’s foot. I love the way that restriction puts no limits on creativity. It will come out no matter the circumstances!
I think I’m going to get a print of this for my room. Then the chimpanzee and I can dream together…….
How did Peter take this magnificent shot? A herd of elephants coming towards him. He must have been in a hide, armed with a long lens. I find elephants intelligent, wise animals. I was fortunate enough to spend time at Francoise Anthony’s game reserve, Thula Thula. There I was surrounded by elephants who were almost human in the characteristics they displayed!
Crouching, about to leap forward, the White-backed Vulture had arrived. He commanded respect from the other animals. Indeed they ceased their tussling over the carcass, while this vulture staked his claim. Once he had begun to start tearing his portion, the melee began once more. Only there was a respectful distance between this King of the vultures and the other rabble!
All this is conveyed in this masterful photograph that won Delaney the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Award in 2013. This is considered the benchmark in the Wildlife Photographic industry.
I look at this photograph and marvel!
Peter took this photograph in Etosha. He refers to this majestic creature as ‘The Godfather’.
“He stands still before me in all his magnificence, raising his trunk filled with the red Kalahari dust. In one fluid movement he sprays his forehead and for one brief moment he is covered in the magic of dust and light”
Hippos in the Mist
I love this photograph. It’s as if the hippos are coming up to suss out what is going on.
“Oh, it’s that dude taking pics again. Okay everybody submerge and disappear!”
The Last Stand
I find this a strangely moving prophetic photograph. Black Rhino and elephant under a sky with dark clouds forming. It says a lot about the predicament of these magnificent creatures at the moment. Will these precious animals survive?
Dune on Fire
This is a colour photograph of the same dune that adorns my bedroom. Only the tree is recognisable. This photograph was taken under completely different conditions. There was a wild sandstorm occurring which transfigured the dune completely. If you look at the tree’s background it appears to be alive and moving . Which indeed it was!
Zebras on Fire
This photograph totally captured me. The fire of sunrise or sunset and zebras ambling their way through it. It has an other worldly sense to it.
I have given you a taste of Peter’s creative world. Visit his website to sample more of his photographic delights. They make you so aware of this eye catching world we live in. It is a world which we must preserve. Rhino, elephant, hippo, chimpanzee and lion must be saved, so future generations also have an opportunity to photograph them!
As we got up to pay, I pointed out the photograph of the Baobab that had led to our meeting. Peter laughed.
“You like it? It’s yours!”
He unhooked it from the wall and gave it to me. I was aghast.
“You can’t do that. It’s Stefan’s!” Stefan is the owner of Beans About Coffee.
“No, it’s mine. Stefan is merely exhibiting it for me.”
Today that Baobab flourishes on the wall in my lounge. This is another thing we must preserve.
Peter is kindly offering international ‘ear ‘ear! blog readers a discount of 20% off all his brilliant prints. Enter promo code ‘ear ‘ear ! here.
South African readers click here to visit his special online store.