I first became acquainted with Ross Sayers’ excellent photography on Facebook – his posts on Friends of Mana Pools celebrate the unique beauty and legendary light of one of Zimbabwe’s most famous resort areas. Frequent visitors to this page understand how Ross’ pictures make one yearn to visit Mana Pools, just to feel the essence of the place.
Born and raised in Gweru, Ross was educated at Chaplin High School. He spent a lot of time in the bush, developing a passion for wildlife and nature. In August 2000, Ross moved to Perth Australia. After his first visit to Mana Pools in 2013, Ross took up photography.
“Having no clue how to use my very first DSLR camera, I returned to Australia, very confused as to what I wanted to do with my photography as wildlife was my passion. Sadly the wildlife in Australia was not my liking, so the camera was packed away for nearly a year… until the day I decided to purchase a photography landscape magazine. I fell in love with landscape photography and progressed into that field.
“Wildlife photography has remained within my focus, and I frequently return to my beloved Zimbabwe whenever possible, mostly around Hwange National Park and Mana Pools National Park , Matobo Hills and the Victoria Falls areas. I freelance, and have toured much of Cape Town, Karoo and Namibia.
“My biggest passion is water and seascape photography; being a Pisces I have always been a water baby! At the moment I am a semi-professional photographer, and sell my images world-wide but not on a large-scale. So, at present, my photography is my passion. I do it because I love it, so currently it is still just my hobby.”
One of Ross’ favourite places is Mana Pools, and he recently spent a couple of weeks there during his latest visit to Zimbabwe in September. We selected some of our favourites from his Mana album, and asked Ross to tell us a bit about them.
The image of this male lion was taken at sunset in September 2016 with the soft golden light shining on his face. He was relaxed in my company; I remember that well. His face was probably the most handsome of the lions I have photographed in Zimbabwe. I was on foot and I took this photo was because the light and his mood was perfect. Something very difficult to find in the wild is a male lion lying down, displaying his pride and awesome presence exactly like a king. Defiant but tolerant of my presence.
“Back to Back.” Something I have always done as a photographer is name my images where possible… give it a title as it deserves a title for the story you portray with a photograph. Here on the banks of the Zambezi River near Mucheni 1 & 2 was Boswell on the right, with his follower – another large bull elephant – on the left. They were feeding on the river’s edge, digging up roots with their feet. The day I took this photograph I had spent nearly six hours on foot, walking around with Boswell who is the most popular of all the elephants at Mana Pools. As a wildlife photographer I am always watching of their body language, ready and waiting to capture something unique. I have learnt to study their behaviour over the years; on this occasion they stood at times for minutes, having restful sleep periods where their trunks lying limp downwards. One must be patient when wanting to be a wildlife photographer and not only photograph these animals but study also them in order to understand them and appreciate them to respect them .
“Mana Mouth.” This image was taken in September of 2016 along the area called “Mana mouth”, a narrow part of the Zambezi River which flows away from the main source itself. Sunsets at this location are, at times, magical to witness, especially if there are cloud formations around. As a landscape photographer as well as a wildlife photographer we chase after the light when it is at its most pure… always in search of something special. Clouds are the most desired element of landscape photography, providing an interest while filtering the harsh lights which complement the overhaul image. I am always in search of something different; a foreground is the anchor to the image – from there the eyes search for the remaining image. Simplicity is the key to a successful photo, be it wildlife or landscape.
This image was shot on the same river front as “Back to Back “ was near BBC camp. Here, Boswell is doing what he does best as a big bull elephant: he places his head against the large Albida trees and shakes them with all his might to drop the ripe and ready pods off the branches he cannot reach up to in order to feed. This is the one reason Boswell has a few followers that shadow his presence around the park during the times where the pods are ready for harvest from August through to November. Here you can clearly see the pods dropping from the branches to the floor, where he will feed at his leisure .
This image is of a mature female waterbuck standing in soft light. Their fluffy coats and gentle, pretty faces are always inviting to photograph. Here the leaf from a wild pear tree sits on her head. Again I made use of Mana’s soft afternoon light.
To capture this Astro image of the Milky Way I had to obtain special permission from the park’s warden at Mana Pools. This area was near “Long Pool”. Not a common request, but under the watchful eye of a ranger I took this image around 8.30 pm in order to capture the Milky Way. I was facing due south, the directions from which the Milky Way rises. Astro is a demanding aspect of photography is astro; it is hard on your equipment and requires patience and late nights. It’s usually best to shoot in winter nights where the air is thin and pure. Astro photography is extremely difficult to master, which is probably the reason many shy away from this form of photography.
This image was taken in the mid-morning at “Chitake Spring.“ Due south from the gorge from where the water spring runs is a ridge of hills where you will find around 15 or so very large, very old baobab trees on a hill. This being my first visit to this location, I was too late to capture the sunrise, but the sunburst and shadows is what makes this image special. Even through a lack of clouds, it still emphasises the trees and their boldness standing under the harsh sun – defiant, ugly yet beautiful all at once .
“Zambezi on Fire”, September 2016 – this is another astro shot of the milky way, taken between Hippo Lodge and Umvee Lodge at around 9pm. The bright orange light is actually a bush fire on the Zambian side of the escarpment – not exactly what I had in mind, but night after night these fires burned.. Something I did notice was a group of six female lions walking directly behind me while I was photographing this image! I figured I was not in their dinner plate as they were not at all phased by my presence. I found them the following morning just 300 meters away, resting up after killing and feeding off a water buck… clearly man is not a threat to them around Mana Pools!
This image was taken in September 2016. Late afternoon while on foot, spooked by my presence the buffalo ran off into thicker bush, creating this magical dust cloud. This is what caught my eye: the dust, drama and action. Creating life from a still image is the hardest part of wildlife photograph; to portray a story from a still image is not easy. Paying attention is vital to your surroundings, and remember – always be ready for the element of surprise.
This image was a total surprise! Late afternoon, driving back to the lodge, I came across this baby elephant… sleeping soundly while its mother stood over it, waiting patiently for it to have its sleep and wake up. This is a rare sighting, and I have only ever seen this once during my many years of being in the bush. The mother was not concerned at all by my presence and I was obviously not a threat. This was a “must capture” shot as it tells its own powerful story.
To order Ross’ photographs contact him through Ross Sayers Photography on Facebook. All his images are for sale and ready for print onto what ever material is required: canvas , acrylic, metal or various papers.